Rumors are flying around the internet today that Lloyd Carr, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, will retire after the Ohio State game. He’s been criticized a lot this season for obvious reasons, and for some less obvious reasons.
I find a few things ironic about this new rumor. First, Carr has no reason to retire after the last regular season game, since Michigan is bowl-eligible and it would only distract the team from their bowl preparations. The Wolverines may even play in the Rose Bowl if they beat arch-rival Ohio State this week. He doesn’t need to do the administration any favors by announcing his exit early because it’s freaking Michigan; coaches will bite, kick, and claw their way up to Ann Arbor for that job. Carr could even tell the administration he’s resigning but not make it public until after the bowl game so the higher-ups could quietly begin the search.
I seriously call into question the people who are actually criticizing Lloyd Carr. It makes perfect sense to say that he runs a stone-age offense and he’ll never fully understand modern football. However, he recruits like crazy. Recruiting, for those of you who don’t remember, is the life-blood of a program. Also, the only reason he’s been so heavily criticized this season is because Michigan fan thought they were going to win the national title by just showing up. They paid no attention to the fact that the team lost nearly all its defensive starters and was only a couple of key injuries away from disaster. Eleven weeks later, both Chad Henne and Mike Hart have been injured for long stretches and the defense, though very young and inexperienced, is improving a little. During Michigan’s eight-game winning streak, everyone felt comfortable with Uncle Lloyd all over again. A road loss to Wisconsin (in which Henne barely played and Hart didn’t play at all) later and suddenly Lloyd should be on his way out again. Was Ryan Mallett, a true freshman, really supposed to lead that team to victory with no help?
Obviously, the rumors coming on the heels of Carr retiring are who will succeed him as the head coach of college football’s winning-est program. Everyone has heard how Les Miles will take the Michigan job when it’s offered to him because he’s a “Michigan man” and he understands the program. First, Michigan fan shouldn’t get all excited because, if you haven’t noticed, Les Miles isn’t that great a coach. He’s a terrible game-manager. I can’t actually emphasize the “terrible” strongly enough. He’s also that peculiar kind of scary-intense and emotional that is the exact kind of guy that you don’t want running your program. Remember, Carr is one of the most successful coaches Michigan has ever had and he is as calm and even as anyone you’ll ever meet. He can motivate the troops and fire them up (see: his “Cinderella Man” antics last season) and, like I said, can still recruit. Maybe he’s old and really does want to retire, but anyone associated with Michigan pushing him out the door is making a huge mistake. Besides, who says Les Miles wants to leave a sweet gig in Baton Rouge anyway?
So who could really succeed him at Michigan if he does retire? Here are a few modest suggestions to mull over other than the usual obvious names like Miles, Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano:
Paul Johnson – Head Coach, Navy
I got this idea from Mowtown Sports Revival’s list and I think it’s a good one. He only runs the triple-option because he’s at a service academy, not because he’s just that old school. But can he recruit? On a side note, why does Michigan fan want Jeff Tedford? Have they ever actually watched Cal play? Johnson would be an interesting choice. He’s a guy who has done a lot with very little. What could he do with the talent Michigan has?
Jimbo Fisher– Offensive Coordinator, Florida State
Widely regarded as a genius from his days at LSU. He could be the reason LSU’s offense stinks so badly now with the same talent as last season. Coached a ton of talent to a lot of success in college and the NFL (an excellent recruiting pitch). He shouldn’t be judged too harshly by his days at FSU under a decrepit coach for a dying program, the guy is excellent at what he does.
Norm Chow – Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans
OK, so he’d have to get paid a ton of dough and have a really good DC/energy guy working under him (Ed Orgeron post getting fired at Ole Miss?), but let’s face it, Norm Chow is THE offensive genius of the last ten years. His coaching and play-calling are unparalleled. But he may be too old and he’d have to prove his commitment to recruiting. Assuming Orgeron gets fired at Ole Miss, a Chow-Orgeron team could be incredible at the right school. If I was a Michigan fan I would love this idea. They helped Pete Carroll with the USC turnaround and I’m sure they’d be willing to pair up in the right situation.
Bo Pelini – Defensive Coordinator, LSU – Pelini is the real reason LSU’s defense is excellent. Saban was great there, but he left, Pelini showed up, and the defense stayed great. There has to be a reason for that other than just the excellent talent he has to work with. He’s the type of young (39-years-old), hard-nosed, defensive guy the fans in Ann Arbor could fall in love with. He played free safety at Ohio State, so he knows what Big Ten football is all about but his connection to the Buckeyes could hurt him in the eyes of the fan base.
Jim Harbaugh – Head Coach, Stanford
Sure he recently had a huge falling out with the University but he’s a young (43), energetic, former Wolverine All-American. In his first year at Stanford, Harbaugh isn’t having the rousing success you’d want from an incoming head coach (he’s 3-7), but his career record of 32-12 isn’t too bad. While quarterbacking Michigan in 1986 he was the Big Ten player of the year and finished third in Heisman balloting. Sure his little “verbal malfunction” pissed off virtually everyone associated with Michigan football but Jimmy has been known to say dumb crap all the time. Guess what, the guy will bring an energy to the program that very few others could.