When Brady Hoke was hired at Michigan, one of the common selling points used to justify the selection of a coach with a lifetime under-.500 record was that his longtime ties to the school and record of success under Lloyd Carr would unite a fanbase and program divided by Rich Rodriguez's outsider status.
How much that unity might pay off on the field remains to be seen. But there seems to be little question that Hoke has, at least, created the unity his hire promised. For evidence, look no further than the contrasting reactions of Braylon Edwards, the Wolverine All-American receiver whose exploits helped make the No. 1 jersey a status symbol for Michigan wideouts.
Edwards had this to say in the Detroit News on Hoke and his handling of the No. 1 (emphasis added):
"He was asking me about the number," Edwards said of Hoke. "I said, 'You know, coach, for the No. 1 jersey, everyone looks to me, but at the end of the day, it's on you. You feel like someone deserves to wear the number, you feel comfortable, you have my blessing to give it to whoever you want.' "
Hoke replaced Rich Rodriguez, who was fired after three seasons.
"I had a great time," Edwards said of his visit to Schembechler Hall last weekend. "It was like home again. Brady's door was open, he was on the phone, told the person he'd call him back and he gave me a big hug."
This would be less-than-noteworthy, run-of-the-mill daily beat fodder if not for Edwards' reaction to Rodriguez's decisions with the No. 1. Rodriguez casually gave the number to an incoming freshman defensive back, prompting Edwards to say he'd "have a talk" with RichRod and claiming "Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan" as his alma mater during Sunday Night Football introductions. Clearly, Rodriguez did not have Edwards' blessing to do whatever he wished with the jersey.
It would be easy to see Edwards' bellyaching over a tradition he didn't start himself (as he admits) as childish, his open lack of support for Rodriguez as sour grapes. But it's also worth noting that Hoke began the conversation by asking Edwards his thoughts on the matter; whether that's necessary or not, it's the right move from the public relations standpoint. Rodriguez's approach might not have been wrong, per se, but there's also no doubting it was needlessly clumsy, one of many minor missteps he could have avoided that piled up into major missteps.
Again, for Hoke to succeed where Rodriguez failed, he's going to have to do a lot more than simply be a better politician. But being a better politician is a start, and as Edwards' example shows, Hoke is off to a good one in that department.