Greg Mattison's contract with Michigan football team, Jim Harbaugh talks at NFL Combine and Steven Threet walks away
On the day he fired Rich Rodriguez, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon worked quickly to change the perception that his department paid its head coaches, shall we say, frugally.
“We have traditionally kind of been in the middle of the pack,” he said. “That’s kind of been our tradition, and I don’t necessarily believe that that’s been appropriate.”
At the time, it was thought Brandon’s statement was a signal, perhaps to Jim Harbaugh or others, the Wolverines would pay top dollar for their services. In retrospect, the statement was even more sweeping.
That became apparent earlier this week when the Associated Press reported that new Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will receive a base salary of $750,000 with incentives that could push his annual compensation to $900,000.
This isn’t your father’s Michigan athletic department, in which the Wolverines expected to attract top candidates on reputation alone. The deal for Mattison, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, ranks among the most lucrative for assistant coaches in the nation.
By comparison, Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will make $795,000 in 2011, $865.000 in 2012 and 2013, according to USA Today.
Michigan has yet to release financial figures on Brady Hoke’s head-coaching contract, but Mattison’s deal shows that Brandon is backing up the ambition outlined in early January.
And if Mattison can fix the defensive mess he inherits, he’ll be worth every penny.
SPEAKING OF JIM HARBAUGH
The Stanford coach-turned-49ers savior attended the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis and revisited his high-profile job search.
Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press that he spoke with Brandon about the then-vacant Michigan coaching job, but declined to say whether the Wolverines officially offered him the position.
“I’m not going into anything like that,” he told the Freep.
Which brings up a lingering question: Was an official offer ever extended to Harbaugh? Was a serious offer ever made by Michigan? Or was Hoke the first choice all along?
Since neither Brandon nor Harbaugh are saying, there may never be answers. But they’re intriguing questions.
STEVEN THREET HANGS IT UP
Former Michigan quarterback Steven Threet is accustomed to making tough decisions about his football future.
He spent his freshman season at Georgia Tech, sat out a year to transfer to Michigan, played a single season for the Wolverines, transferred again to Arizona State, where he won a three-way competition to be the Sun Devil's starting QB.
He flourished in that one season, completing 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,534 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior last season.
But last week he made the toughest choice of all, and walked away from the team.
Threet suffered two concussions last season and still suffers medical symptoms -- so much so that he had not yet been cleared for spring practices.
“I saw a lot of doctors and tried out some medications to see what they could do with certain symptoms,” Threet told The Arizona Republic. “It just got to the point where I had to make a decision.”
You can’t go three weeks -- heck, three days -- anymore without finding more former football players suffering long-term consequences of concussions, of playing the game.
Former Bears safety Dave Duerson implored doctors to study his brain before committing suicide last week, and GQ profiled former Vikings linebacker Fred McNeill, whose life has been destroyed by post-concussion health problems.
In Threet’s case, he may have traded one year of football for a lifetime of better health -- or at least less-severe concussion complications.
It may be tough to walk away now, but in one year, three years, five years, his decision will look smarter and smarter.