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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Men for All Seasons

Reading and responding to some interesting recent posts has led me to consider how to evaluate Michigan football seasons. Records vs. top ten teams, vs. unranked teams, even overall records often fail to capture precisely what kind of season Michigan has had.

I propose the following scale for judging Michigan football seasons in the Carr Era:

* Amazing-Win national championship (97)

* Great-Win Big Ten and Rose Bowl (X)

* Very Good-Win Big Ten and lose Rose Bowl (03, 04)

* Good-No Rose Bowl (NRB) but defeat three of ND, Sparty (sorry, Wangs), tOSU, bowl opponent (99, 00)

* OK-NRB, defeat two of top rivals (96, 98, 02)

* Pretty Bad-NRB, defeat only one top rival (95, 01*, 05) (*-the 01 team gets put here on a technicality because they did not play ND; but consider that the 01 team lost to Sparty after LaSeur committed that personal foul on 4th and 15, put forth an astonishingly bad effort in a home loss vs. tOSU, and finished the season by getting by getting devoured by Tennessee as if we were a pulled pork sandwich on the plate of Phil Fulmer.)

* At Least We're not the Lions-Do not qualify for a bowl (X)



Yost said...

Great post, IG. I put this in the OK category for the simple fact of PSU, Iowa and NW. We could have quit like MSU but fought the whole season, even if it didn't turn out as hoped.

IC said...

I agree with you, Yost. We've shown too much resiliance, particularly with a relatively young and injury-depleted team, for this to be a Pretty Bad Season, at least at this point (though it would be tough to say 7-5 isn't Pretty Bad.) According to the half-baked framework detailed in the original post, 05 would be an OK Season if we defeat the Gamecocks, Sooners, or whoever we end up playing in our bowl, by having two wins over top rivals.

mayday said...

I can't see how a minor bowl win, over a program I don't even have any animosity against, would make up for the staggering futility and repetitive nature of the losses. It's good that they came back from the depths. The Penn State and Iowa wins were inspirational, tough-minded, etc. But there just aren't as many highlights as disasters, even if you throw MSU into the highlight category. (Northwestern was not a highlight; it was merely part of a tease that made us hope the gameplan would change against OSU.)

The only potential systemic merit in this season is the refusal of the players to quit. This only becomes significant if awareness of their abilities and resilience it carries over into next year's player development and performance. Even then, it doesn't make 2005 any better of a season. It just lets us reflect that at least there was some purpose to the suffering, just like it turned out there was some payoff for suffering through the early stages of Navarre.

I don't view 2002 as an OK season, considering the heartbreaking nature of losses to Notre Dame and OSU, an embarrassing HOME beatdown against Iowa (one of a couple of pantheon-level horrible home performances in recent memory), missing the opportunity to thwart an OSU national championship... and considering that you are arguing that these things were offset by beating an MSU program that had just reached maximum disarray and a close win over Ron Zook. I don't see it. I know I wasn't happy at the end of the season. I had a couple exciting wins to console myself with, but just like this year, that's what they were: consolation.

So that is why I think some of the anger is justified in a more-than-transient sense. The recent mix of very good with pretty bad, and scarce apparent hope of attaining amazing/great levels anytime soon(because I can't conceive of a Rose Bowl win over USC, given Michigan's historical/structural disadvantages in that matchup, and perilously flirting with Hindenburg status this year, is a bad combination of trends.

Not saying I know what should be done about it. The athletic department simply won't be able to muscle Lloyd out like Mr. Wangler fantasizes; Lloyd simply won't budge without a hire from within, and he's got two more years. Then, even if you see no future value in Lloyd as coach (and I won't go that far), you've cast an ugly shadow of political infighting over the 2007 squad's performance at least, and at worst queered recruiting for years.

Now let's say you're Bill Martin. You commit yourself to Lloyd for '07 and implement the rest of the wangs plan. No consideration whatsoever for internal candidates, but consult Lloyd on who else to consider. How much vigor do you think Lloyd will put into the recruiting of the '07 class and the early-to-middle stages of the '08 class? Obviously he's a team-first guy, but don't you think such a sweeping judgment from Martin will disappoint Lloyd so significantly that he won't be able to help some dropoff in his performance for these absolutely vital transitional classes?

Worst-case scenario, Lloyd, having previously accepted turning over the reins, digs in his heels and decides he's not done coaching. He'll stick around, and just flatout do more to prove that his wishes about the program's future should be heeded. When the press asks him about it January '07, he says he fully expects to start talking about a new contract some time after spring practice. Is Martin prepared for the public shitstorm should he step forward and admit he's not interested in renewing Lloyd, regardless of Lloyd's wishes?

mayday said...

The upshot is, it's not hopeless. The next 2 years should have veteran playmakers. "Good" seasons are attainable, although I consider Penn State more important than MSU during this period, because the Michigan recruits will come no matter what, but the Pennsylvania pipeline must be maintained in the face of PSU's resurgence.

But it will take VERY delicate political maneuvering to get Lloyd out smoothly, assuming (as I think we do, correctly) that Lloyd is fully planning to move on after '07. It will take convincing Lloyd that he will have a major voice throughout the process of determining the next coach, and that his preferred candidate from his staff will get serious consideration, in order to keep him fully on board. Then carefully pushing the merits of whatever other candidates are settled on without offending or steamrolling Lloyd. If the search can identify genuinely primo outside candidates that would be a good fit, they should be able to win this argument -- if they can keep the process diplomatically stable. If they try to sell an Urban Meyer or Bo Pelini type, I doubt Lloyd will go along.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

I would replace the Rose Bowl with any BCS bowl since going to the Rose Bowl for winning the conference outright won’t always be possible. Also, getting one of the at large BCS bids is an accomplishment since another team may get the Rose Bowl without having beaten Michigan and Michigan will have to finish the regular season ranked high to do so.

I would rank the 1999 season at least “Very Good” since Michigan beat Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin (the conference champions) and Alabama in the Orange Bowl and finished the season ranked fifth in the nation.

Additionally, the Big Ten was very strong that year with Wisconsin ranked fourth and Michigan State ranked seventh and four other teams in the final Top 25. The back to back losses to Michigan State and Illinois were that season’s only bad points.

Wangs said...

Interesting breakdown. Not sure I value wins over mediocre to poor programs (like Spartie) as that signfiicant. I'm not really happy when we beat them, more relieved that we avoided an embarrasing loss. Wins over ND, tOSU, Bowl, Pennsylvania State do make me happy.

Anyway ... in the past 10 years we've had 5 good or better season and 5 OK to pretty bad. It has been 8 years since we competed for a national title.

During this period, my recollection is that we've had top 10 or top 5 recruiting classes, nationally, every season. I understand that recruiting rankings are about as accurate as press/coaches polls in September, but they are an indicator.

I think that a great season is when we compete for the national title beyond our first road game (which we haven't done in many yeasr). In this new era, winning the Big Ten is nice, but competing at the top is how we should measure our program. And we simply do not compete at that high level, despite having some of the best high school talent in the nation coming to our school every year.

How is it acceptable that we rarely, if ever, over achieve but we constantly under achieve? Isn't that the better way to measure Michigan and this band of coaches? Are they getting more or less out of the talen that they have? I think less, consistently. I know it's hard, but holy cow batman, this program has more talent walking through the door every season, consistently, than any other program in the country (I think) over the past 10 years. Yet, we haven't competed among the elite for an entire season since '97. What gives?

We apparently have the Jimmies and the Joes. Maybe it's the coaches?

Yost said...

Wow, Mayday, I think in your Wangs has found his soulmate.

As you'll soon figure out (if not already from my previous posts), I am a Lloyd supporter. I think, as disappointing as this season was, as Lloyd eve stated, we were the most injured of ANY season he remembers. Yet still, on the last game of the season against our hated rival (who, let's admit it, was the better team), we still had a shot at the Big 10 title and a BCS birth. While it didn't work out and I THINK LLOYD MADE MISTAKES (nobody is perfect), I think the "Fire Lloyd" or force him out talk is crazy.

Since I don't know you, May, please let me say here and beforehand that any "heated" defense of my position above that seems rude or offensive in any way is directed at Wangs since I've known him for years and I know he won't be offended when I tell him he's out of his f'ing mind! :)

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Completely off topic here, but how can I make a new entry here?

mayday said...

Beg pardon, Yost, you misunderstand me. I was trying to show how wangs' scenario was unfeasible for the future of the program, even GRANTING for the sake of argument, his position that Lloyd must go. I don't want Lloyd to go, though I would probably be pretty happy about Herrmann going, not that I think that has a chance of happening.

I guess I wasn't clear that I differed with Wangs because I think it's mostly immaterial. Lloyd sounds like a guy who wants to have a life after football and is ready to take off after this contract. So in 2 years you'll have a new coach anyway. But Lloyd has enough political capital that he'll make things very unpleasant if boosters or Martin or whoever try to strong-arm him on the way out the door. I was just trying to spell out those hypotheticals.

For the record, I don't support an internal hire, because none of the assistants seem to have a head-man type personality, not because I have a problem with their philosophies. Assistants' tactical preferences become less important when they become the head guy; they're too busy and that stuff tends to get delegated to the new coordinators. I do favor making sure the next guy is a Michigan guy.

Azher said...

You didn't mention Carr's record of having no scandals. ...I also just wanted to see my profile pic on your site.

Yost said...

LOL, Az. That's a pretty vile picutre ut you are right about Lloyd's tenure being scandal-free.