Greg Mattison and Al Washington, Ex-Wolverines

Greg Mattison and Al Washington, Ex-Wolverines


January 8, 2019

Greg Mattison

Defensive line coach Greg Mattison and linebackers coach Al Washington have both fled to Columbus, Ohio. Mattison had been Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke from 2011-2014, and he was demoted to defensive line since 2015, working under defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin that first year and then Don Brown the past three seasons.

Hit the jump for more.

Mattison will be Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator, along with former San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. Mattison has twice left Michigan in order to work for rivals, first for Notre Dame back in the mid-1990s and now to the most hated of rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Business is business, and coaches float from place to place, but I don’t like this move from Mattison. He apparently had the option of renewing his contract at Michigan to continue as the defensive line coach. It’s an odd move because OSU already has defensive line coach Larry Johnson in place, who is quite possibly the best defensive line coach in college football. Mattison previously coached outside linebackers at Michigan when Mark Smith was the inside linebackers coach under Hoke, so maybe he and Washington will tag-team the linebacker position.

Meanwhile, Washington’s father played at Ohio State, and Al himself coached with new head coach Ryan Day at Boston College. Washington is a front seven guy, so with Mattison and Johnson on that staff – and defensive backs guy Hafley coming on board – it would seem to make sense that Washington is headed for the linebacker position in some form. Washington was a one-year rental for the 2018 season only, after having worked with Brown at Boston College. He was considered to be an integral part of recruiting the State of Ohio, and Michigan may have to consider that recruiting area when hiring replacements for Mattison and Washington. I don’t mind losing Washington, because his ties to Michigan were loose outside of Don Brown.

Some obvious names have been bandied about for the open positions:

  • Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, who was fired this past season as the Carolina Panthers’ defensive line coach.
  • Former Michigan linebackers/cornerbacks coach Roy Manning, who has spent the last three seasons at UCLA.
  • Current Michigan staffer Devin Bush, Sr., who joined the staff briefly last winter to finish out the 2018 recruiting cycle.

In my opinion, Bush is the most likely guy to move to a coaching position. He was an excellent college safety and played in the NFL. Current safeties coach Chris Partridge had previously coached linebackers, so it’s possible that Bush could coach the safeties and send Partridge back to the linebacker position. Manning was not retained by Harbaugh, and Hoke would be an odd fit working under the head coach who replaced him. If Bush isn’t one of the additions, then I expect two new faces on the staff.

16 comments

  1. Comments: 105
    Joined: 10/22/2015
    SinCityBlue
    Jan 08, 2019 at 12:34 PM

    Thunder are you worried about the state of our union? It seems like there is dysfunction internally amongst the program in general with the transfers of both players and coaches. i understand that it’s standard stuff for alot of successful programs which I think we are despite what others may think, but this seems a bit….volatile.

  2. Comments: 19
    Joined: 10/16/2015
    Vienna Jack
    Jan 08, 2019 at 12:36 PM

    Do you have any insight as to why Mattison would want to leave? It just seems very strange that he would leave the Ann Arbor area, where my recollection is that he was close to other family, to move to Columbus when he is only a year or two from retirement.

    JH may well want to bring in a younger coach to replace GM (or young coaches, with Washington also leaving) who can be groomed to replace DB when he is ready to retire, so this may all work out for the best. It just strikes me as very odd that GM would want to leave Ann Arbor at this stage in his life.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 4063
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 08, 2019 at 12:53 PM

      It’s surprising that he would burn bridges in Ann Arbor this way after his stated love for Michigan.* BUT – this is probably his last coaching gig. You can’t really fault him for choosing to be a DC at a national-title contender over trying to rebuild a Michigan DL that is losing most of its talent. One last hurrah as a DC and a chance to mentor the 49ers guy vs loyalty to a program that is pretty cut-throat, like most others.

      *- not likely he was going to retire in AA or anything

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4063
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jan 08, 2019 at 2:15 PM

        @Roanman

        I’m saying you can’t really fault him for it and agree with most of what you wrote. But if you’re questioning how or why the Harbaugh’s and AA would be mad it should be obvious.

        Mattison had plenty of options all along – NFL DL coach, college DC, he’s an elite hire in those roles for almost anyone and has been all along. He CHOSE not to pursue those opportunities. Why? He claimed it was for love of Michigan and the Harbaughs.

        Michigan and the Harbaugh are on the cusp of championships and playoff berths if they can just beat OSU. Mattison was on their side, battling with them to do that. Now he’s on the other side.

        That’s a burned bridge. Anywhere else, even MSU, wouldn’t be. I don’t think there will be much love lost between the Harbaughs and Mattison from here on.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 4063
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jan 08, 2019 at 2:18 PM

          There’s also the question of timing and how things developed with Zach Harrison. Mattison and Washington were critical pieces in his recruitment. When did Day start wooing and when did they start talking?

          Michigan’s season ended in late November.
          Harrison committed in mid December.
          Mattison/Washington officially hired in early January.

      • Comments: 47
        Joined: 9/18/2016
        Chowman
        Jan 08, 2019 at 6:52 PM

        Jim has a reputation of being a bit of a prickly pear, and tends to wear out his welcome where ever he’s been. Do you think this is just the 1st signs of that here in AA.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 4063
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 08, 2019 at 12:40 PM

    Is this concern IRT Don Brown leaving for Temple? Washington has close ties to Brown and is making a lateral move away.

    • Comments: 1152
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Roanman
      Jan 08, 2019 at 1:55 PM

      With whom did he burn bridges?

      The Harbaugh’s are all professional football coaches in the sense that they earn their livelihoods coaching. They understand at the most personal level that you are hired as a football coach knowing beyond certainty that you will be fired. There is absolutely no loyalty from your employer gonna be extended to you, and moving around for a better opportunity is part of the job.

      The fan base for all big time sports teams has demonstrated itself to be an unseemly combination of fickle, mean spirited and ignorant. Why on this earth would Mattison give a rat’s ass about the fans’ feelings on any issue. The people that love him and that he loves will continue to love him.

      He received a DC offer with DC money and took it. That’s what professional football coaches do. I hear people arguing that he doesn’t need the money. How the hell does anyone know? You haven’t had a look inside his wallet, and have nothing beyond some very perfunctory information about his family.

      I don’t know how you … the universal you, not you … can get mad about it.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 4063
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 08, 2019 at 12:43 PM

    When you lose your inner Donlon, find your Yaklich outside.

    This ancient Chinese proverb was passed on to be from the best basketball coach in college basketball.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 4063
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 08, 2019 at 4:30 PM

    Recruiting needs to be the emphasis for the defensive replacements.

    I’m sure Hoke is a very good DL coach but it would be an awkward fit back on the recruiting trail (if not in coach’s meetings). Washington and Mattison are both known as excellent recruiters so that will be missed most. Hamilton is also generally well regarded as a recruiter so if he’s on the way out (as speculated, perhaps dubiously).

    Michigan seems to having plenty of Xs-Os expertise in Harbaugh, Warriner, and Brown. Zordich and McDaniels too – you don’t hear a ton about them in the recruiting front. As far as assets go: Partridge has done very well and Moore has gotten raves so far. Jay Harbaugh gets a smattering of mentions for his work, but compared to RB coaches like Jackson and Wheatley who played huge recruiting roles he is not making a big impact.

    So who is an ace recruiter? They tried to get the TE coach from Kentucky and whiffed. They lost (Senior) Citizen Swag and may be poised to lose a Mom-pleaser in Hamilton. I hope to see a young charismatic up-and-comer join Brown’s staff.

    A name out of left field:

    https://gobulldogs.com/coaches.aspx?rc=869&path=football

    Fresno State’s had a rapid rise on defense and Cain seems to have had success at multiple levels. No real local ties beyond a stint coaching in Ohio though…

  6. Comments: 36
    Joined: 1/2/2016
    peterfumo
    Jan 08, 2019 at 4:30 PM

    Any chance they could poach Larry Johnson?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2718
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 08, 2019 at 9:07 PM

      I don’t think Larry Johnson would leave for anything less than a defensive coordinator job at this point.

      P.S. I love Larry Johnson as a football coach. I’ve been to a bunch of clinics, watched a lot of coaching DVDs/videos, etc., and he’s the most impressive TEACHER of the game that I have come across.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4063
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jan 09, 2019 at 1:01 PM

        I missed this before. You might be right but then again money talks. Plus OSU already has 2 well-qualified DL coaches.

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 4063
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 09, 2019 at 11:28 AM

    After all the emotions die down there is one big impact. Michigan had an overqualified DL coach at a discount. This gave them a competitive advantage over almost every school in the country. That’s gone and there aren’t many things left for M to hang their hat on compared to the other powerhouses.

    Mattison was an excellent coach and recruiter, though there are position coaches on par with him and recruiters better than him. What puts him above even elite DL coaches like Johnson @ OSU is his DC experience at all levels. He was able to function as an DC-advisor and quality control for coaching across all defensive positions.

    That package won’t be replaced. Michigan will have to hope that recruiting excellence can make up for some it. Don Brown will have a tougher job without Mattison beside him, no matter who the DL coach is.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2718
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 09, 2019 at 12:39 PM

      Maybe. And maybe not. I don’t know what the dynamics were behind closed doors, but if there is/was friction between Mattison and Brown, then this could be for the better. Mattison was passed over multiple times for the DC gig at Michigan (Durkin was hired, then Brown), even though he has considerable experience in that position. If he and Harbaugh/Brown didn’t quite see eye to eye (and again, I have no proof that’s the case), then someone coming in who “knows his place” might make it a wash.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 4063
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jan 09, 2019 at 1:00 PM

        That’s possible. But if those situations were going on, you’d think some of that would have leaked out by now. I haven’t heard about any friction with Brown (or more likely perhaps, the notoriously prickly Harbaugh)

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