Now that Lloyd Carr is spending his days golfing and his nights at manga conventions, it's time to go over this career. First we play nice, assembling the Carr Era dream team. First up: the offense.
Rules: each season is judged independently. It makes no sense to compare one year of Drew Henson with four years of Chad Henne. Each player can only appear once: no receiving corps of Braylon, Braylon, and Braylon.
This will be a hellacious battle. The candidates:
Navarre has the most yards, touchdwns, and interceptions but he also has the most attempts by over 100. His YPA was a healthy 7.3, but Brady (7.6), Henne (7.6), and Henson (9.0!) exceed it. He's out. Griese goes, too, as the pilot of an efficient-ish but by no means dominant 1997 attack. His YPA also falls short. Mallett... uh.
We're left with Brady, Henne, and Henson. You know all about Chad Henne, whose senior season might have dusted everyone on the list if he had, you know, got to play it. Brady is the god-king of New England, currently siring a litter of future foot-bots with supermodels. Drew Henson is nothing, a failure at both football and baseball, the man who subjected all of us to John Navarre's 2001 season.
And... he's the guy. 9.0 YPA is ridiculous. 18 touchdowns against 4 interceptions is ridiculous. Completing over 60 percent of your passes for almost 15 yards per is ridiculous. Doing all this despite missing Michigan's opening tomato can games against Bowling Green and Rice is even more ridiculous. Michigan's 2000 offense scored 30 or more points in nine of twelve games, lit up Penn State, Ohio State, and Auburn to close out the year, and averaged 34 points per game. Henson benefited from a host of weapons, a killer offensive line, and that year's nightmare secondary (which forced Michigan to keep the pedal to the metal at all times), but... Jesus, the numbers don't lie. Damn you, Steinbrenner.
Tom Brady 1999. I spent the first half of the Orange Bowl screaming, writhing, pounding the floor, begging them to "throw it to Terrell." They did, eventually, but only after finding themselves in a 14 point hole.
Chad Henne 2006. Sigh.
Note: two of the best three seasons from a quarterback under Carr were from juniors whose senior seasons more or less didn't happen. How much different does Carr's legacy look if "Henson 2001" and "Henne 2007" are two of the top three?
And now for the least surprising selection ever ever...
Braylon's 2003 season is a close runner-up, but two things put his 2004 over the top: sheer production (12 additional catches and about 200 more yards) and the single most dominating performance by a Michigan wide receiver in the last six minutes of an embarrassing loss turned ridiculous victory ever:
Yeah, a winrar is he. Now we're left deciding between these gentlemen:
(Toomer isn't eligible since he left right before Carr's first season (1995), but I just wanted to throw out his stats so I can ask this question: how in the hell did Amani Toomer average over twenty yards a catch and only have six touchdowns?)
There's not much to choose from, but some context: Manningham managed to haul in all those passes despite being saddled with Ryan Mallet a third of the year and a broken Chad Henne for another third. Walker was the lone threat on Michigan's dire 2001 offense helmed by a not ready for primetime John Navarre. TE Bill Seymour was next on Michigan's receiving charts with 27 catches. The year before, Terrell had Walker as a competent sidekick and Drew Henson throwing to him.
Could it be that Mario Manningham's 2007 season, which virtually every Michigan fan was disappointed with, was
the second-best in the Carr era? Maybe. But I remember David Terrell as an all-around threat who could beat you deep or catch a slant, and though he flamed out in the NFL he was the #8 pick in his draft year. I
Walker 2001 and Manningham 2007 are significantly better than their challengers...
Jason Avant in a nutshell:
I will accept my stoning at noon tomorrow: it's not Mike Hart. It's not even close to being Mike Hart. Hart's best season was probably his junior year, wherein he had 1562 yards on 318 carries, 4.9 per. He had 144 yards against Ohio State in a sorta-kinda close loss.
In 1995, some guy with a funny name did this:
His name was Tshimanga Biakabutuka, and in 1995 he had 1818 yards on 303 carries, six yards per. 313 of those came against Ohio State in a 31-23 win. 1818 yards remains the Michigan single-season rushing record. Michigan football comes up regularly in conversations with my mother and about twice a year she lingers over the many syllables of "Tshimunga Biakabutuka" two or three times apropos of nothing. He was selected in the first round of the NFL draft and during the brief period in which I played fantasy football, he was always but always on my team, injured half the time (always when playing) and running for 160 yards and two touchdowns the other half of the time (always when benched).
And I wasn't even a little mad.
Statistically, this is Anthony Thomas. His 2000 season is the second most-prolific in Michigan history, with 1733 yards at 5.4 YPC and 18 touchdowns. And if it's not Anthony Thomas, it's Chris Perry. In 2003 Perry rushed for 1721 yards and 18 TDs at 5.0 per. Against Michigan State he set an all-time record with 51 carries. In the history of game-worn jerseys, his is the most worn.
But... Mike Hart's offensive line in 2006 was Jake Long and four guys who can only see an NFL game if they buy a ticket. And he never fumbled. And he windmilled his little legs and stoned Dan Connor over and over again, and I just like him better. So it's Mike Hart 2006, with apologies to the aforementioned duo.
I guess it depends what you want in a fullback. Do you want a quasi-tailback? Then BJ Askew's your guy. Do you want a quasi-tight end? Aaron Shea's your guy. Do you want someone to crush a linebacker into a white-hot furrow of snapped limbs and smoke?
Maybe I've been hopelessly biased by this lingering image of Chris Floyd giving the business to some poor Wisconsin defensive back (in the snow, no less), but for my money Floyd was your #1 limb-snapper fullback in the Carr era. He was such a badass that Michigan gave him the ball some 30 times his senior year lest he eat one of the freshmen.
If Floyd was the #1 limb-snapper, Chris Dudley was 1A. He plowed a path for Mike Hart's breakout freshman season. Also, Owen Schmitt didn't play at Michigan or under Carr but he did play for Rich Rodriguez, who has met Lloyd Carr, and is so awesome that we should figure out some way to claim him, too. We will never rest until everything good about West Virginia has been appropriated for our purposes!
This is a two-man battle. (Ha!)
Joppru came from nowhere to be John Navarre's safety valve and go-to third down receiver his junior year. He is now the shining archetype of a bad-senior-gone-good that excessively optimistic types trot out every fall when things like "Chris Graham, starting OLB" are suggested. Tuman caused Michigan fans to fall in love with the waggle. 1996 was actually Tuman's sophomore year; his '97 was slightly less productive and by '98 his YPC came down to around 9.
This is terribly close and depends on what you value. 16 YPC out of a tight end is something else, but Joppru was the Jason Avant of 2002. Joppru seemed to be more integral to the offense, with a knack for spectacular catches and critical third down conversions, and was more highly regarded by the NFL, so I think he wins.
Tuman; flip a coin between '96 and '97.
LT Jake Long, 2007. All American, first pick in the NFL draft.
LG Steve Hutchinson, 2000. Two-time All American. Four year starter. Probable NFL Hall of Famer.
C Rod Payne, 1996. All American.
RG David Baas, 2003. All American, Rimington Award winner (in 2004).
RT John Runyan, 1995. All American. Long time NFL pro bowler.
Holy God. The best way to sum up this collection is to list the players left out: Jeff Backus, Jon Jansen (All American, 1998), Maurice Williams (longtime NFLer), and Jonathan Goodwin. There is some weakness at guard, where Damon Denson was the best pros
pect left out and David Baas' junior season was used so Rod Payne could get on the hypothetical field.
LT Jeff Backus, 2000
LG Jonathan Goodwin, 2000
C Dave Pearson, 2003
RG Damon Denson, 1996
RT Jon Jansen, 1998
Yeah, Mo Williams still doesn't get on the field.