A Michigan Man

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lloyd Carr might be one of the easiest punching bags in the college football world. After all, there are always 3 "L's" in Lloyd. His Michigan teams are like opossums (after all, they play dead at home and get killed on the road). And he pretty much perfected the Wolverine Cookie recipe; put them in a big bowl and beat for three hours. It's easy to make fun of Lloyd. But you'd be hard-pressed to find many coaches with a better track record.

His football credentials are solid. He coached for 13 seasons, and had 13 winning seasons. I can think of a lot of schools who would love to be able to say that (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and the University of Miami come to mind). With a 121-40 record, he took the highest all-time winning percentage in college football and IMPROVED it. A National Championship, multiple Big Ten titles, multiple Rose Bowls. And he ended his tenure with 11 straight wins over Penn State and 6 straight over Michigan State.

The knock on Lloyd was always that he was too "old school". He didn't adapt well to the evolution of the spread offense on either side of the ball. His defenses couldn't stop it, and his offenses couldn't run it (and never tried to adopt elements of it). He ran more draw plays on 2nd-and-10 than the rest of the Big Ten combined. And he was always content to try to win a game 13-10 in an era when 33-30 was more likely. Vince Young, Appalachian State, and the Man in the Sweatervest made that more and more obvious as the years went on.

But there is another side to the "old school" moniker. He came from an era where a successful program was not a springboard for the Next Big Thing (Nick Saban, I'm looking in your direction). It was never about Lloyd; it was always about the program. He hated interviews and the media. He was loyal to his assistants and his players (almost to a fault), and never threw them under the bus. That's probably why he was such an easy target; he never ducked.

In 13 years, Michigan's program was beyond clean. It was virtually spotless. There have been no Maurice Clarett incidents. No Reggie Bush scandals. No Florida State University (i.e. Free Shoes University) happenings. Not to pick on my Sparty brethren, but two MSU players are still starting while under indictment for armed robbery. Oklahoma seems to have a weekly appointment with the NCAA infractions committee. Even Penn State and Notre Dame, with their reputation as "above the fray" programs, have had their incidents. But Michigan remains nearly unblemished.

That was the legacy of Bo. And I have a feeling that it will be the legacy of Lloyd. Consistency, excellence, and above all, integrity.

So now the search for a replacement begins (although it has actually been underway for several weeks). Les Miles, LSU's coach, is the logical replacement. He played for Bo, and served as an Assistant at Michigan many years ago. Those of you who don't follow Michigan may not be aware of the obsession with finding a Michigan Man. It doesn't necessarily mean someone who went to Michigan (though that helps). A Michigan Man is one who puts the program first. He honors the building that Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost built, and the program that Bo revived. The list is short. Jim Harbaugh was on that list until earlier this year. But he violated that trust by putting himself by badmouthing the program to score cheap points. That's something that a Michigan Man doesn't do.

So thank you, Lloyd. And the first time Les Miles runs a 5-wide receiver set onto the field, I'll remember the times when "Mike Hart behind Jake Long" played like a broken record, and I'll be thankful again.

8 comments:

Smitty 4:26 PM  

but two MSU players are still starting while under indictment

I thought Dantonio benched them. I have a contact within the football program conforming that for me, but I am pretty sure those two are benched.

Typical U of M elitist pig spreading hate and misinformation about Sparty.

Lllloyd's problem was that he was okay with being good when U of M wants dominant. I feel sort of like he suffers a bit of the same fate that whats-his-name who coached the Chargers suffered. "You went 13-3 this year, you slimeball! You're fired!"

Good is never good enough. Shame.

B Mac 9:33 PM  

I think Schottenheimer was canned because he lost in the playoffs. I tend to think that the number of players who CHOKED might have something to do with that, but I could be wrong.

The problem is that at the beginning of the year, there are at least 15 schools whose fans feel they should win a national title. Michigan is one of those schools (although I feel better about Michigan's chances in the next 4 years than, say, Notre Dame).

However, I think I'm right about the Sparty issues. SirDarean Adams (who does have a sweet name, by the way) was indicted in October, and played that weekend against Iowa. He picked off two passes last weekend against Purdue. Heck of a player, but one with what I would call a "checkered past". I've also heard from reliable sources that Kellen Davis is a bit of a thug who tends to beat the shit out of people and their cars.

But that falls under the category of "some kids will do stupid stuff". That happens at every school, Michigan included. It only becomes a knock on the program when coaches and athletic department folks cover for them and put victories before principles.

steves 7:32 AM  

HBO had a documentary that I was able to catch on Saturday before the U of M/OSU game on that rivalry. I don't have loyalty to either of those teams, but I couldn't help but feel some of what that game has meant over the years. I can't help but wonder if Carr's 6-7 record versus them didn't bother some.

"Lllloyd's problem was that he was okay with being good when U of M wants dominant."

I kind of got the same feeling.

Smitty 9:17 AM  

I stand corrected. I called one of my buddies who works with the football team. The indicted ones indeed played.

B Mac 9:28 AM  

I should clarify my thoughts about the Sparties. I don't think they run a "dirty" program. Quite the opposite; I like what Dantonio is doing (though his verbal tiff with Mike Hart lost him some points in my book: the coach is supposed to be above that level). He's a stand-up guy who will run the right kind of program.

I think the Spartans are on the right track, and they will be a force to be dealt with in the near future. Hopefully not too soon though...

B Mac 9:29 AM  

It was in part because of the 6-7 record. But it was probably more about the fact that at one point, Lloyd was 5-1 against them, and lost 6 of his last 7. Having an average record against the Buckeyes is not in and of itself a deal-breaker. After all, they are a good program (a part of me just died saying that). But a losing streak like that is unacceptable.

I haven't seen that HBO special yet, though I want to. If you haven't been to a Michigan-Ohio State game, it's hard to describe the animosity between the two schools. I don't think "hate" is too strong a word.

And if you're wondering how big a deal that one game is, I offer you exhibit A: John Cooper. The guy was 111-43-4 at Ohio State (70-30 in the Big Ten), with a few Big Ten titles and plenty of top-10 finishes. But he was 2-10-1 against Michigan. Guess how he is remembered.

Joel,  4:36 PM  

The thing that kills me is that under Lloyd Carr the Michigan offense, at times, was an absolute scoring machine, and as balanced of an attack as you could imagine. Which is what all of the "top programs" strive for. I'm talking the Oklahoma's and the USC's, not the West Virginia's and Louisville's of the world. It wasn't every year obviously, the talent on hand has a lot to do with that, but when Lloyd had the talent, he let it fly. How you knock a guy for that is beyond me.

There's more to a great offense than five wide sets and direct snaps to the tailback. I remember the Henson lead offense that regularly posted 35+ pts, or the offense that featured Braylon Edwards Hene's freshman year that was unstoppable at times... sure Michigan did a lot of ball control too, but Lloyd cranked up the offense to a point that had never happened previously, save Grbac to Howard with Wheatley running the ball. And anyone who thinks that a Texas Tech offense would work over an entire season in the Big Ten only need look at Purdue. They've been a scoring machine for years, and its gotten them no closer to the top. It didn't do much for MSU either for that matter, that's why Dantonio went back to "power" football, whatever that means.

Lloyd ran exactly the kind of offense that produces results over the long term, and exactly the kind of offense that top flight talent wants to play for, hence top recruiting classes year in and year out, hence every QB since Grbac has been drafted and a slew of Michigan wide recievers are in the NFL.

And if winning 3 of every 4 games you coached isn't "dominant" someone's going to have to redifine the word for me. No one that I've ever heard of has done it much better than that. Sure, some have a .768 win percentage over Lloyd's .756 or whatever, but that's nit picking. There is no coach in the modern era, who has at least 10 years under his belt, whose won at a substantially better clip than Lloyd Carr. If that's not "dominant" than "dominance" is an illusion.

He didn't "dominate" OSU, but you're not supposed to "dominate" a true rival, that's what makes it a rivalry. It cracks me up that if Lloyd's 6-7 record against OSU had simply been spread out more evenly, as opposed to dominating the start and getting dominated at the finish, that mark would be more than acceptable. Cooper is Exhibit A to the importance of the game, but 2-10-1 isn't even CLOSE to 6-7. Now granted,Tressel is doing well now, but then, so did Lloyd at first, going 5-1. That can change in the blink of an eye (or in the time it takes to hire a new coach!) Lloyd did dominate MSU, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa and pretty much everyone else on the slate. He also bitch slapped Notre Dame 3 of the last 4 years.

13 straight bowl games, 5 conference titles, 17-9 against top ten teams, a national title, and don't forget that there was a time when he took four straight bowl games from the "unstoppable" SEC (Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama and Florida respectively)... when you look at it as a whole its pretty fuckin' "dominant" if you ask me.

Smitty 10:16 PM  

Jesus, Joel. It's like you went there and kinda worked for him or something.

Oh...wait...

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