Borges firing was necessary for Michigan

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
6:10
PM ET
In his very brief official statement about the firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges on Wednesday afternoon, Michigan coach Brady Hoke first mentioned that decisions like that "are never easy."

[+] EnlargeAl Borges
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIOffensive coordinator Al Borges has been on Brady Hoke's staff since 2009 when the two coached at San Diego State.
This must have been a particularly gut-wrenching call for Hoke, a loyal guy who has had Borges by his side since 2009 when the two were at San Diego State. But this is a decision Hoke simply had to make, both for the future of the Wolverines and for himself.

Borges is a very likable guy who has had success at many stops in his long career. But Michigan's offense was trending in the wrong direction under his watch. In 2011, with Denard Robinson running the show, the Wolverines finished third in the Big Ten in total offense and second in rushing as they won the Sugar Bowl. In 2012, Michigan finished eighth in total offense and fifth in rushing in the conference. This past season, the rankings were 10th in total offense and 11th in rushing. The 2013 offense was mostly a train wreck, except for a few notable exceptions (the Notre Dame, Indiana and Ohio State games).

What is truly odd about Borges' tenure is that his results got worse the closer he got to running the type of offense he and Hoke truly wanted. They inherited Robinson and so reluctantly went with the spread attack early on while saying their goal was to field more of a true pro-style offense. But Michigan could not run the ball between the tackles with any authority the past two seasons, which greatly limited its options. The offense was at its best this season when Devin Gardner was allowed to make plays on the move.

There's no reason that a program with the Wolverines' talent should finish 97th nationally in total offense, as the team did this season (and that was inflated by three great performances). Even with a month of bowl practices, Michigan showed very little improvement on offense in the 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State, though Borges did have to make due with first-time starting quarterback Shane Morris.

Hoke has to demand more from his offense, and Borges wasn't cutting it. Hoke himself is on a much shorter lease now after going just 15-11 the past two seasons. The easiest way to placate a grumbling fan base was to get rid of his increasingly unpopular playcaller and go in a new direction on offense.

It will now be fascinating to see where Hoke turns for his next offensive coordinator. Borges was one of the nation's highest-paid coordinators at $709,000 per year, and Michigan pays defensive coordinator Greg Mattison $851,000. The resources are there. Could the Wolverines become the first Big Ten school to employ a $1 million per year coordinator, a la Clemson's Chad Morris or Alabama's Kirby Smart? How eager will a big-name assistant be to come to Ann Arbor with Hoke on potentially shaky ground going forward?

This is a hire Michigan can't afford to mess up. Just as Hoke couldn't afford to keep Borges.

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