Miami hires Josh Gattis: Hurricanes poach Michigan offensive coordinator to fill pivotal vacancy

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Miami hired Mario Cristobal as coach after abruptly firing Manny Diaz on Dec. 6. Two months to the day later, Cristobal finally has his offensive coordinator. The Hurricanes will hire Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to fill the same role with the program, the 2021 Broyles Award winner confirmed on Sunday. Gattis has been Michigan’s offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach since the 2019 season. 

“It had to be something special to get me to leave something special, and this was it, man,” Gattis told The Athletic. “This place is it. I am so excited about coming to The U.”

Gattis is coming off a strong season with Michigan, helping lead the Wolverines to the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff. The Michigan offense finished 16th nationally in points per game and 22nd in yards per play. In more advanced metrics, the Michigan offense was eighth nationally in offensive success rate, 12th in points per drive and 12th in expected points added (EPA). Gattis takes over a Miami offense that was 34th, 40th and 39th respectively in those last three categories.

After spending four seasons with Penn State as the passing game coordinator and receivers coach, where he worked under former Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, Gattis spent the 2018 season with Alabama as the co-offensive coordinator. Although he did not cross paths with Cristobal while there, the Alabama and Moorhead connections — Cristobal spent four seasons with Alabama before leaving for Oregon — likely played a role in bringing them together in Miami.

Excellent hire, even if it took a while

They say good things come to those who wait, and while this is probably more a case of “good things come to those who reportedly miss out on a bunch of other targets,” it’s still a destination Cristobal and Miami can be happy with. Gattis is only 38 years old but won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach this season. He led an excellent Michigan offense that is similar stylistically to what Cristobal seems to prefer.

Michigan was a run-heavy team under Gattis in 2021. The Wolverines ran the ball on 57.8% of their plays, which ranked 24th nationally. Cristobal’s Oregon team, meanwhile, ran the ball 54% of the time (48th). Last season, Miami ran the ball only 43.3% of the time (115th), so Hurricanes fans should expect a change in approach.

That said, that doesn’t mean Gattis can’t put together a solid passing attack. While the Wolverines weren’t throwing the ball all over the place, they finished 48th in passing efficiency and 41st in yards per completion, a few spots behind Miami. Where things will look different is the approach, as Miami’s passing attack was more vertical than Michigan’s. The Canes averaged 9.22 air yards per pass last season, while Michigan was at 8.54. What remains to be seen is whether that’s a philosophical approach to passing or a result of Michigan’s personnel (losing deep threat Ronnie Bell early in the season was a big blow).

It was essential to get this done now

While spring practice doesn’t begin until next month, it’s critical to get this hire done so players can prepare for the spring and familiarize themselves with the playbook and concepts. Plus, with the 2022 recruiting class wrapped up, it’s important to have Gattis in place as the 2023 recruiting cycle begins in full — not just because it gives recruits an idea of who they’ll be playing for, but because Gattis has been an excellent recruiting during his coaching career as well.

Michigan is having a terrible offseason

Jim Harbaugh’s open flirtation with the NFL might not have impacted Michigan’s recruiting class much (it finished ninth nationally despite Harbaugh interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings on National Signing Day), but it seems to have had a negative impact on his coaching staff.

Harbaugh had already lost defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald to the Baltimore Ravens a year after taking him from the Ravens, and now he’s lost his offensive coordinator, too. Both MacDonald and Gattis played significant roles in Michigan’s turnaround from a terrible 2020 season and helped lead them to the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff.

Now Harbaugh will be in the market for new coordinators, and it’s hard to imagine the job will be appealing to top names — not because Michigan isn’t a great place to coach, but because it’s hard to know what the future holds for Harbaugh. Who’s to say he doesn’t get the NFL itch again next winter?

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