[Brian Fuller]

Greg Mattison is Leaving for Ohio State Comment Count

Seth January 7th, 2019 at 2:33 PM

For the second time in his career, Greg Mattison is departing Michigan with a giant middle finger, and leaving a giant hole.

After the 1996 season, Mattison, then Michigan's defensive coordinator, left to join Bob Davie in the same position at Notre Dame. Michigan's 1997 defense, which owed much to Mattison's recruiting and eye for talent, then won a national championship without him.

When he returned to Ann Arbor in 2011 Mattison was more heralded—justifiably so—than head coach and friend Brady Hoke. Greg inherited the worst defense perhaps in the history of the program, gave them an identity, and recruited the bulk of a unit that was, by 2015, once again among the nation's elite (except in the one game that matters).

That wasn't the last coaching transition Mattison helped to rescue here. Mattison planned to leave when Brady Hoke was fired—even boxing up his office. However Mattison had deep connections with the Harbaughs, earning his first coordinator job from Jack at Western Michigan in the mid-1980s, and serving as John's defensive coordinator for two years with the Baltimore Ravens. As he had when Davie was replaced with Tyrone Willingham in 2002, Mattison—still under contract—accepted a demotion to defensive line coach, keeping his room intact under Jim Harbaugh. For another four seasons, Mattison remained one of the top assistants in the nation in recruiting while producing elite defensive linemen, whether they came that way (Rashan) or had to be stolen back from the fullback room (Winovich).

At 70 with his contract expired, Mattison was expected to remain or retire as a Wolverine. While no official statement has confirmed it so far, it appears that new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day offered Mattison a chance to be defensive coordinator again. It was reported shortly after the Mattison news that current OSU DC Greg Schiano won't be retained, and Pete Thamel just reported that 49ers DB coach Jeff Hafley will be accepting a "co-" defensive coordinator role there. Hafley, like myself, is 39 and has never been a DC.

Impact: So, it's not a good look, either for Michigan nor Mattison, whose reputation shifts immediately from Septuagenarian of Swag to college football's worst Benedict Arnold. Losing an accomplished and well-known assistant to the very fine people in Columbus will be press released as exactly the kind of deep blow its orchestrators intended it to be. Superficially swiping your rival's 70-year-old assistant, however, creates as many questions about longevity tomorrow as petty high-fives today. Mattison's defensive line expertise is superfluous at Ohio State, who poached top DL coach Larry Johnson Sr. from Penn State when Franklin took over, so at best this is a temporary move for Ohio State while they groom Hafley.

Michigan could also be fine. Rising star OLB coach Al Washington would have been tough to retain this offseason; Washington, like Mattison, is a strong recruiter with deep Ohio ties and in fact was previously the Michigan coach rumored to be considering an OSU job. Mattison's departure instead should clear the way for Michigan to promote Washington up the assistant chain while returning him to his most natural coaching position; Washington was Don Brown's defensive line coach at Boston College and at most of his other stops.

That all of course depends on whether Brown himself stays with Michigan or accepts the Temple head coaching job that Manny Diaz just bounced from. Harbaugh will have to wait a few more tense weeks to have a good idea of who's going to be coaching with him in 2019.



January 7th, 2019 at 5:27 PM ^

Mass blue, please stop coming on here being thoughtful, reasonable, respectful- 

EVERYBODY knows the whole purpose of this & every Michigan related media site is to come in blazing, calling longtime Michigan men fat old biiiiitches!

My thought instantly upon hearing this was that GMatt had been TOLD Washington was being made DLine coach, in order to keep HIM from bolting for Cbus. 

Who knows? Pretty sure Mattison has canceled his subscription to Mgoblog now, so say whatever I guess...


January 7th, 2019 at 5:22 PM ^

Its obvious a position to hand hold and groom their next DC. I understand where UM was probably hesitant to offer another contract to a 70 year old DL coach especially with Washington here. I really don’t think it’s a huge blow as this was going to be his last year here anyways. Washington will do just as good of a job with the DL

Blue in Paradise

January 7th, 2019 at 2:56 PM ^

Agreed - very strange.  And isn't this a giant slap in the face of Larry Johnson?  LJ and Matty have very similar profiles - veteran DL coaches with technical and recruiting chops along with a primo reputation.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to make LJ a co-DC / DL coach to help groom Hafley rather than hiring a guy with a similar profile to be his new boss?

Blue in Paradise

January 7th, 2019 at 4:25 PM ^

Associate head coach is not a promotion - that is just a junk title that you give somebody so they don't lose face when pass them over.  Sort of like Running Game Coordinator for your RB coach when you hire an OC over their head.

I bet that 99% of the folks on this board (including me) could not name 3 Associate HCs in the country and I would even allow LJ at OSU and Michigan (I don't know who holds that title) as two of the answers.



January 7th, 2019 at 2:58 PM ^

Agree. Strange. I wonder whether one would want Alex Grinch as DC or Mattison/Hafley as co-DCs. I don't know much about Hafley but Grinch seemed worthy and if they knew they were going to force out Schiano then it seems that they chose Mattison/Hafley over Grinch.


January 7th, 2019 at 3:07 PM ^

I just took a glance at 11W to see what "Buckeye Nation" thought about this hire.  Let's just say they are not thrilled.  Some are even denying the fact that he is actually coming in as the DC even though it has been confirmed he is coming in as the DC.


January 7th, 2019 at 3:13 PM ^

If you consider the relative position of OSU and Michigan (elite versus something less than elite) and flip this story around for Michigan/Harbaugh you would have us poaching a 70-year-old DL coach and former, but never very great, DC from a school like... I don't even know, but probably worse than Iowa/NU/Wisconsin... and then making him our DC. 

People would lose their shit if Brown left and then Harbaugh did that. It's just a crazy hire from OSU's perspective.  


January 7th, 2019 at 7:23 PM ^

You can't really flip the story, though. Brown's fielded four straight top-ten dFEI defenses with as you say less, and in one case far less, talent. Schiano took elite talent and turned it into UAB or MTSU and they showed him the door.

We'd be unhappy if Brown left, OSU wanted Schiano gone. That's pretty much the end of the comparison. Maybe a better one would be if we'd parted company with Greg Robinson after 2010 and brought in somebody from Maryland?


January 7th, 2019 at 3:18 PM ^

I saw that too.   Lots of negative comments.   Lots of people know him as Brady Hoke's D coordinator and don't think that is a good move.   A few others know of Mattison's recruiting prowess but question his ability to do it at 69.   Others think 69 is funny.  Cuz... cooler poopers.

I remember Mattison leaving for ND.   Thought he was a jerk then, but sort of bought the story about his daughter not going there and Michigan not paying him and subsequently loved him when he came back.  Mike Martin, Mo Hurst, Chase, Taco, Wormley, etc. 

...but this is a dick move.  Hope he's lost a step and submarines OSU.


January 7th, 2019 at 7:33 PM ^

Dude spent four years with us as DL coach after being DC.  Give him a break.

Maybe he's just a competitor that wants to test his mettle against others as a DC again.  Can't blame him for that.  To be honest, if Mattison stayed at Michigan forever as a DL coach, that would suggest to me that he's lost that competitive fire in his heart and is a different kind of problem entirely...

SC Wolverine

January 8th, 2019 at 2:55 PM ^

I absolutely can blame him.  How can you sell passion for your school to your players and then jump to their arch-rival who has been beating them every year?  Let's just say that I wouldn't want to end my career with such a move that shows no loyalty to your team and its players.  These coaches are making a fortune off of fan commitment.  And, yes, they can be and are often fired.  But a guy like Mattison is different.  He has had a great career.  He could at least run it out without showing total contempt to his team, players, and fan base.  His name will not be worth much to Michigan loyalists.  I know that he doesn't care, but that's the point.  He should care.


January 8th, 2019 at 9:23 AM ^

Random sidebar, as a Columbus MGoResident (and apologies if this has already been covered here and I've missed it): the Boren brothers run a dumpster company now and the picture on the dumpsters is whichever Boren it was (Zach?) that played LB standing over Devin Gardner after a sack with the tagline "Taking Out The Trash" next to it. But, you can clearly see Gardner's jersey nameplate. If I was Devin, I would sue for using my name and likeness in a disparaging way, but I'm also technically not an MGoLawyer so I don't know if that has any standing.

Their website looks like a first year student in a 100-level web programming class made it for a project. It's hideous.


January 8th, 2019 at 4:24 PM ^

The best part is the "About" page. Justin Boren's transfer from UM to OSU is described as "historic" and Zach mentions that he works on partnership development when the NFL's not in season.

Which is hilarious since he's only ever made a practice squad in the NFL, and even that was for a cup of coffee before he got cut.