ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan has simply and flat out not been good enough in 2014.
Now 5-6 and needing a miracle victory at Ohio State (10-1) Saturday at noon, the Wolverines bowl hopes appear to be out the door with an entire coaching staff likely soon to follow.
Losing to Maryland 23-16 at home on senior day Saturday, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was noticeably frustrated at his weekly news conference Monday. Mattison’s defense played well at times, but once again couldn’t make winning plays in key spots.
Uproar within the fan base and alumni, not to mention the rumors of a coaching change coming at the end of the season soaring from murmurs to loud, merciless screams, Mattison doesn’t believe all of the criticism of Brady Hoke is fair.
“I talk to my wife about it and I talk to other people about it and I’m not so sure it’s not today’s society,” Mattison said. “I’m not so sure that that isn’t everywhere. You know it used to be that some people, people are never totally happy with what you do, I understand that, it’s coaching. I don’t really care about that.
“All I know is Brady and our staff go in there everyday and say I’m going to make you a better player. I’m going to do everything I can to make you a better football player today, and we do that.”
Mattison continued, “Now, it hasn’t all come together yet and the thing about football when scores are tight and games are really close, the margin of error is very small and it makes it a little hard to be able to say yeah go ahead; but it’s close. It’s very close.”
But close is not good enough.
Off the field, Mattison praised the job Hoke has done with the 115 student-athletes in the program, noting what he believes to be the main focus outside of winning football games.
“First of all because the way he put together these players, that’s the most important thing,” Mattison said. “Graduation rate, I guess, they tell me, is the most important thing, yes; I think it is, isn’t it? We’re a college; we’re not in the NFL. I believe our seniors are 100-percent graduation rate.
“Now, I’m not being sarcastic, that’s what they told me when I came from the NFL back to college that that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. In a lot of ways you can go out on the street and get some guys that maybe are a little bit better, maybe and I don’t think you’d want that.”
On the field, Michigan has regressed in every season since Hoke’s arrival back in 2011.
In Hoke’s first season in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines put together an 11-2 record culminating in a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
In 2012, Michigan finished 8-5 as senior quarterback Denard Robinson injured his throwing arm midseason.
2013 (7-6) and 2014 (5-6) can essentially be lumped together molding turnovers, inconsistent play, and poor coaching all into one.
When Mattison was asked why Hoke should have the opportunity to be at Michigan in 2015, the long time defensive coordinator pointed to one area above all else.
“If you don’t believe anything I’ve ever said, just look at what’s coming back,” Mattison said. “I mean look at what we came in with and look at what’s coming back. My goodness, I mean I remember Chris Wormley, sitting in his living room when he was a 280-pound basketball player, now he’s a 300-pound man.
“Willie Henry, it was Pittsburgh or us; Willie Henry is going to be a top draft choice. I could go on and on and these are all the young kids that you say, why do you get excited about coaching? Because these are young kids that we saw as young puppies, we’ve seen them as young little guys that have taken there bumps and bruises.”
Mattison also added NFL scouts are already asking him about several other players on his defense.
But at the end of the day, coaches are judged on wins and losses and Hoke’s record at Michigan nearly four years in is just 31-19.
“When it all comes down to it, why should he be here you say?” Mattison asked. “Because he’s a winner. He’s won everywhere he’s been; the guys a winner.”