Last November Lloyd Carr stood in a steel-gray Michigan Stadium to eulogize his mentor and friend Bo Schembechler. This is who Carr is when not beset by irritants on all sides; it stands as a tribute to both men.
Michigan is not going to replace this.
In many ways, Carr was an accidental coach. But not in all ways.
Parsing. Michigan Sports Center has helpfully provided a transcript of the Carr press conference. Notes of interest:
"Before I take any questions I do want to address one issue of the timing of this announcement. My timing is based on one thing: What's best for Michigan. What's best for Michigan football. There are no other motives. This announcement is made at a time when the recruiting process can be handled in a way that this program can go forward. To do it any later, to do it after a bowl game, would've been absolutely ridiculous. I did it for this program, as I've tried to make all of the decisions that I've made since I've come here. So, any of those rumors about anything else... This is much to big to be about me or somebody that's gonna coach here, and I want to make that clear."
This is obviously a direct response to the irresponsible speculation going on in the mainstream media about what the timing of Carr's announcement says about his relationship with Les Miles; Carr later pointed out the precise rationale behind the "this is for recruiting" claim:
"Rather than me go out and waste visits - a head coach only gets one visit when he goes in to a recruit's home or in to his high school - this timing will enable, when that coach is named, [him to] immediately go and visit those kids and secure those commitments. Plus, we have 7 or 8 left that we wanted. It's about holding on to a recruiting class. Because if this recruiting class falls apart, 4 years from now there's a hole in Michigan football. The only important thing here is this program. It's not about me. It'd be easier for me to wait, because I wouldn't have to be here today. It's about this recruiting [class]."
If Carr were to stay on he'd either have to waste those visits or inexplicably not take them. Carr was asked directly about Miles:
"When it gets to discussing any potential candidates, I defer to Bill Martin. This process will be developed and executed by Bill, so I'm not going to get into all of the things that are his job.
I can say that there's a lot of things happening along the recruiting trail. It's a very competitive business. Those are things that you put to rest. For some of those rumors that are out there, I'm not going to answer all of them. I'm not going to talk about candidates, because that's not my job. I do want to make it clear that I'm not here to name the coach and all of that baloney that some of you have written."
This is as close as we'll ever get to an admission from Carr that he was pissed off by some of his head-to-head battles with Miles over certain recruits, most prominently cornerback Jai Eugene, who decommitted from Michigan to attend LSU late in the year. So, yeah, Carr would probably prefer someone else, but he's also made it clear that it's not his call. Also, irresponsible speculation is again bashed. For shame. Hang thy heads low, ink-stained wretches, hang thy heads low.
Carr said two things about the program going forward: Miles is not my favorite; I won't interfere if he's the choice. Given the widespread support for Miles amongst other important players (both literally and financially), that should be a small hurdle.
Meanwhile... Bill Martin also did his share of media-talking, taking what looks like a direct shot at the man in Palo Alto:
"I want to know how many driving-under-the-influence (citations) a potential coach has had," he said. "I want to know if he's a deadbeat in terms of paying his bills. I want to know anything that is a pattern in terms of past behavior that could be an embarrassment to Michigan."
That number is "one" for Harbaugh, two less than his count in the all-important "public outbursts that accuse the program of impropriety" category. Next.
The NYT delves into this issue more specifically:
"It was very disappointing to me," Martin said of those comments. "It clearly did not reflect Michigan and I think if you were to talk to his teammates from that era, they would think the same."
When asked if that would hurt Harbaugh's candidacy, Martin said with a sarcastic laugh, "Brilliant Brilliant."
(Have we signed a secret marketing agreement with Guinness?) Not that this is news, but Michigan isn't going to hire a guy who's won three games in I-A.
Mas. Also from Martin:
Martin said he hoped to have a new coach by the end of the year.
"That would be great," Martin said.
... "I want to find a former high school history teacher," he said, "because that's what Lloyd is." Martin said he probably could find coaches who would equal Carr's winning percentage of .752. "But will they represent the university in all the ways Lloyd has?" Martin said. "That is going to be tough." ...
"After an emotional loss, what do they say? How do they look?" Martin said. "Those are the important things." ...
"It's far more than just winning on Saturday," he said. "These positions aren't jobs. They are a way of life."
The "coach by the end of the year" thing is mildly alarming. More later. Now, bitchy copyediting snark opp:
He said he would consider paying the next coach $2-3 million a year, commiserate with the top salaries in the game.
And one last article highlights an area certain rumored candidates are deficient in:
Head coaching experience: "You've got to have experience to come here. This is the winningest college football program in history. Lloyd has pushed that percentage rate up. To me that's the benchmark. This is not time to experiment (with coaches). This has to be a very careful, considered process."
This would eliminate Mike Trgovac, not that he seemed a serious candidate to begin with.
Back to the now. The idea that Michigan will press Miles for a departure soon after the SEC Championship Game is beginning to take hold in certain places, including some insider mutterings (insider mutterings that, I would like to make clear, in no way constitute anything remotely solid) that are beginning to make their way across the internets.
Miles' most recent press conference, the one in which he steadfastly refused to answer questions about his coaching future, had an interesting interlude related to this:
"It's unfair to Michigan to say that they should. It's unfair to me and my team. I promise you this, what I'm doing is what you should do â€” let it rest. I'm playing football for LSU. I love this team."
Miles teared up and paused for 15 seconds before composing himself. "And I'll not do anything to hurt it," he said as his voice broke. "Any questions?"
Miles finds himself in a difficult position. The job he's always coveted has come open for the first time in 40 years; this is his only opportunity to ever
be head coach at Michigan. Remarkably, he is kinda sorta busy leading his current team to a potential national title.
I don't like the idea of Michigan pressing Miles to leave LSU while the national title remains in play. If the Tigers lose before bowl season, sure, pick him off and move on, but a national title is too rare an opportunity to trifle with. Miles is clearly broken up about potentially screwing this up for his players and LSU in general; if we're serious about maintaining the integrity Martin lauds as a key component of the Carr era and the program going forward we should acquire Miles in a fashion that does the least damage possible to our new coach's current set of kids. Get a commitment from him, then let him finish the year.
Besides, hiring the coach of the reigning national champions would be a PR coup that would offset whatever disadvantages there are to hiring a coach January 8th instead of in mid-December. There's a two-week recruiting dead period at the end of the year, so the functional difference there is two or three weeks at most. Michigan should wait it out.
"To give you an analogy: You always know you're going to die one day,'' punter Zoltan Mesko said. "But it's a different feeling when that day is actually here.''
Haven't you self-scouted, son? Oh, Notre Dame fans, you are so deeply hilarious at all times:
After 13 years in Ann Arbor, Llloyd Carr is withdrawing early and running like hell.
Lots of talk will circulate, as it already has, about Les Miles taking Llloyd's place, but frankly we at HLS can't imagine why anyone would want to take this job, in the middle of such a nightmare scenario. As Llloyd Carr has proven over the course of 13 years, you can't do much more than kinda, sorta win half a national title and a few conference titles in an extremely mediocre conference.
Indeed. Michigan in the Carr era: 121-40, one national championship, two BCS bowl wins, five conference titles, five bowl wins, no losing seasons. Notre Dame over that same span of time: 94-62, no national championships, no bowl wins, four losing seasons. Michigan's "nightmare scenario" -- 8-4 -- is better than Notre Dame has done 6 of the past 11 years.
Also hilarious. College Football News has fallen off the radar around these parts recently, but it used to be a regular target of derision for a simple reason: it regularly publishes the dumbest stuff you can think of about college football. Pete Fiutak on the Michigan job search:
For all you LSU fans worrying about the distractions with the Michigan head coaching job opening up, let me help you sleep well tonight.
Les Miles absolutely, positively will NOT be the next head football coach at the University of Michigan.
Wow, he must have some super secret inside sources and a really good reason for saying this...
We're talking about IBM here. We're talking about North Carolina basketball. We're talking about a football program that's the equivalent of a dish of vanilla ice cream topped off with a vanilla wafer while being cheered on by 111,941 fans about as boisterous as a glass of warm milk. Miles would be a double dose of rainbow sprinkles, and that's not Michigan football.
...or he could just be making stuff up so he can deploy his awesome rainbow sprinkles analogy. This isn't nearly as bad as Matt Zemek's column/novella on the Georgia-Florida game, which I believe to be the worst single item ever written about sports, (it's apparently disappeared from CFN, or at least the link has changed, so the previous is a message board C&P) but it's pretty mindbogglingly stupid.
(HT: The Diag.)
Argh, stupid. The All Big Ten teams are fairly remarkable. Would you believe Chad Henne is the coaches' pick for All Big Ten? O rly? Ya rly. The media went with Boeckman; Kellen Lewis was second-team to both. I'm not about to comb through old All Big Ten teams, but this has to be the first time the teams have different first-team QBs who don't appear on the other team even in second place.
Also, this is a yearly complaint but whatever: the defensive teams are so frustrating. The media's first team All Big Ten defense has four defensive ends, three middle linebackers, and four cornerbacks. The coaches managed to get Iowa DT Mitch King on the first team but succumb to all corners and all MLBs, too. I could maybe see the argument that all linebackers are basically the same and the really good ones tend to get shoved into the all-important middle linebacker spot, but DEs != DTs and CBs != safeties. In the bowl interregnum I'll put together a second annual MGoBlog All Big Ten, and it will acknowledge the existence of, you know, reality.
11/17/2007 - Michigan 3, Ohio State 14 - 8-4, 6-2 Big Ten
Saturday was wet and cold and miserable and had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Though other games have been more painful or less competitive, November 17th, 2007, stands alone in terms of sheer miserable boredom.
Michigan's best and most frequently deployed offensive player was the punter. There was one event of significance in the entire game, that being Chris Wells' game-sealing 62 yard touchdown run; once Tressel got his 11 point lead he decided he was done for the day. Ohio State threw two second-half passes, neither of which landed within ten yards of an eligible receiver. Even the flyover was canceled due to the weather, a particularly nasty near-freezing drizzle that crept into your bones by halftime.
These were the impairments to enjoyment inflicted on the viewing public at large. A couple insults were added to injury in my section. Invading Buckeye fans took to standing on the wet, rickety bleachers, providing the interested observer with the choice of getting up on the bench yourself, thus drawing the ire of everyone behind you, or peering through a thicket of heads to see the "action." (Scare quotes smarmy but 100% required.) Behind us two solid rows of central Ohio's finest truck drivers and forklift operators hooted constantly, literally saying "ain't nuttin' wrong with that" after every four yard Wells run. A good time was not had by all.
And so. And so what do you do with that?
One. In the aftermath I was -- am -- angry at Carr for hanging on too long, for bringing in a minimally qualified friend to coordinate the offense, for allowing his charges to put out an undisciplined, lackadaisical show time and again this year. This year is going to end in some rinky-dink December bowl. Michigan put up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State and lost for the fourth straight year. All of that's on Carr. Jake Long and Chad Henne and Mike Hart deserved better than what they got.
Carr was stubborn, arrogant, and loyal to a fault. There is no Carr coaching tree because the program is inbred.
Two. Carr was a curmudgeon in the best possible way. When it comes to calling out the hypocritical power structure of college football, he stands entirely alone. No other coach has called out the NCAA for adding a twelfth game while simultaneously protesting that a playoff is infeasible. No other coach has directly called for the players to get paid. He was a tireless advocate for his players and his program. Last November I sat in Michigan Stadium and listened to him eulogize Bo and wanted no one else to coach Michigan.
People unfamiliar with the program bash him for a lack of class because of post-game handshakes and halftime interviews gone awry as if "class" means putting a good face for stupid questions and meaningless gestures. No, he didn't like the media. But do you like the media? Carr was the best argument college football is about something other than violence and money the sport had.
And he won. Not lately, but he won.
There is an obvious split here. The first section is about Carr the coach; the second about Carr the man. I'll miss him sometimes, but mostly on Monday, not Saturday.
Lloyd Carr, the third-winningest coach in Michigan football history, will announce his retirement after 12-plus seasons as the Wolverines' head coach, players confirmed today.
The official announcement will likely come Monday morning at a 10 a.m. press conference held at the Junge Champions Center.
Carr told his players of his decision at a team meeting this afternoon.
"He's not going to be here any longer, but he enjoyed the moments that he had to spend with us," senior linebacker Chris Graham said. "It's a sad thing to hear, but I enjoyed every moment of being here with him. He's a great coach to me. He's like another father figure. Just having him here is the whole reason why I came."
Three separate sources indicate that Carr has made his decision to retire official and people around the athletic department are being told. The formal announcement will come after the Ohio State game, possibly at the Monday press conference, possibly a day or two later.
Guest post, this from FOB Nick Mahanic.
(I really need to give massive credit to Vijay from iBlog For Cookies, who pulled all of the data that I have here out of James Howell's database. Any Hot Blog Groupies who get turned on by this should send gratitude his way.)
There's a strain of conventional wisdom which suggests that Lloyd Carr is a very good coach against top teams but struggles against mediocre ones. I wanted to cut to the core of it: how good is Lloyd against top teams, and how bad is he against weaker ones?
To solve this problem, I decided to break out the statistics. I took a look at Lloyd Carr's record against teams in different ranking groups based on the final AP poll. The record often cited by announcers is his record against teams in the top ten when Michigan plays them. There's nothing wrong with this, but not all rankings are equal. Rankings early in the year reflect more speculation and less information based on actual performance; does beating #9 Colorado in 1997 when they wound up 5-6 (or 0-11 counting those pesky forfeits) really count as beating a top team? Maybe Carr's stats were propped up by running into an above average number of overrated teams.
The problem with these numbers is that there isn't a well-known basis for comparison. Everyone knows that a .300 batting average, a 2.00 ERA, and rushing for 150 yards in a game are pretty good because they see these stats used all the time. But you rarely see a stat showing that Coach Sobchak is 4-7 against teams ranked 11-25 in final AP polls.
The best way to figure assess this information was to compare Carr's records to those of his coaching peers. To simplify, I compared him to coaches who are either approximately as good as him (say, Mack Brown) or better, specifically coaches that we can all agree are excellent (Steve Spurrier, Lou Holtz, Tom Osborne). Then I threw in some random people like Mark Richt and John Cooper.
Here's the data. A couple of things to note. First, the records are based on tenure for one team. This would be the most successful of a given coach's career: Florida for Spurrier, Notre Dame for Holtz, Texas for Mack Brown. You get the idea. Also, the AP only ranked the Top 20 until 1989, when it began to rank 25 teams. This explains why Tom Osborne only has 3 games against teams in that range despite coaching for many years. This oddity also affects Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. Lastly, I'd really like to do this with some more coaches (Beamer, Fulmer) and with the Sagarin rankings.
Versus Teams Ranked 1-5:
Lloyd Carr is in impressive company here. Paired with Steve Spurrier, Mack Brown, and Pete Carroll (albeit over a very small sample), and below only Lou Holtz and Bob Stoops. If you think about it, 4-8 is pretty good against Top 5 teams. The Top 5 in any given year is going to have unbeaten teams, 1 loss teams, and maybe 1 or 2 2-loss teams. To beat a team that finishes in the Top 5 is to likely give it its only loss. No one should be able to do this over half the time. Note Tom Osborne at the bottom.
Versus Teams Ranked 6-10:
Mark Richt's ranking is flimsy given the puny sample size. I'd be surprised if Stoops' level is sustainable too but we're never going to get a big sample here, and he is pretty close to Osborne, who coached for a long time. Carr is still faring very well here. He's ahead of Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. Being behind the people he is behind is no loss; remember, these are some legendary coaches. Notice Paterno and Cooper again near the bottom. More on that later.
Versus Teams Ranked 11-15:
| Tom Osborne <|
Ugh. Now we get to it. Lloyd is woefully behind everyone here. At this point I wish I had thrown in a few coaches with obviously mediocre records (not Weis-like, but maybe Joe Tiller) to see who he sits with. But the point is clear: this is bad.
Versus Teams Ranked 16-20:
Lloyd's actually pretty good this time around, right in the middle of the pack. Better than Bowden and Carroll. The most significant thing here is that Steve Spurrier at Florida was damned good. If you doubted this somehow, it's about to become even clearer.
Versus Teams Ranked 21-25:
And back to the cellar for Lloyd. His record here (and in the 11-15) is actually worse than his record at 6-10 and 1-5 (technically 1-5/11-15 are equal). This is probably a sample size issue, since it is almost impossible that whatever strategic flaws he has, he's actually more likely to win against (much) better teams. Nevertheless, the point is that while the man can do a great job against top opponents, he leaves something to be desired against weaker opponents.
Versus Unranked Teams:
Yeah, Lloyd's numbers are all well and good here (better than Carroll, actually), but be honest: you stopped at Spurrier. There was a man who didn't fool around and took care of business. Kind of shocking that he only won one title at Florida (and that with a loss). Or was it? More on that soon.
First, though, another grouping:
So the conventional wisdom is right. Carr is terrific against elite teams but poor against mediocre ones, and fine against really bad ones. One fun fact: if Carr can beat OSU this year (and OSU finishes in the Top Ten) he will have as many wins against Top Ten teams as JoePa, except in five hundred million fewer years. Joe Paterno does not look particularly good relative to this group, which ordinarily would be no shame, but if you are in a race against death with Bobby Bowden for the most wins ever, you'd take this as a disappointment. Also, John Cooper sucks (at least relative to this group, which should be no surprise). Note, though, that Bowden, Osborne, and Paterno's "Unranked" records should be upped a bit to compensate for the fact that at least some of the teams they faced might otherwise have fallen into the 21-25 group in a different era (all else being equal, their unranked group is tougher than everyone else's, at least a little bit).
One more chart (last one, I swear).
|Games||% of schedule|
This chart shows the breakdown of games played for each coach, both in raw numbers (the left) and by percentage (the right). While this doesn't say much about anyone's performance within a group, it does tell us how that is reflected in their overall record.
For example, remember when I mentioned how great Spurrier's numbers were, but how he only won 1 national title? Looking at this, it's no wonder he didn't win more. 44% of his games were against ranked teams. 23% were against teams that finished in the Top Ten. That's an average of almost 3 top ten opponents a season! A good part of this is because his tenure overlapped with FSU's glory years, and the rest probably due to the SEC being strong (as well as Florida making a lot of SEC title games and good bowl games). In this respect, he's very similar to Lou Holtz: excellent numbers but very daunting schedules.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have our good friends in the Big Twelve, Bob Stoops and Mack Brown. Stoops has played the smallest percentage of Top Ten teams; Brown barely plays more than 1 team ranked 11-25 in a season. This isn't necessarily their fault: the Big Twelve hasn't had much of a middle from the looks of things, and their foes in the North have been struggling to put together any elite team for a few years now. Still, it makes their accomplishments slightly less shiny when you consider the road they've traveled.
And finally, Lloyd Carr is on the higher end of all categories but not at the top of any. He's certainly earned the achievements he's won.
So what does this all mean? In a sense, this confirms one of the more common adjectives to describe a Lloyd Carr-coached team: maddening. Take an athlete with decent speed but not enough to be an elite runner. You understand why he can beat bad runners but can never beat the best. You understand it and can live with it. If Carr could handle weak teams but came up short against the top teams we could come to a conclusion that makes sense: Lloyd is decent but not up to par with the top coaches in the game.
Yet this evidence suggests he can coach his team well when he "needs" to. But he does something when playing weaker teams that really hurts Michigan's record. A decent job against those teams means 4 or 5 more wins over his tenure. That's a couple more Big Ten titles, a couple more BCS bowl berths, and, if they happened at the right time, another shot at a national title.
I cannot answer the "why", but suffice it to say that Carr is what he is. Let's hope he has at least one more big win in him.