LE$ MILE$- Any dream will do

For the last several years people close to the Michigan football program have been puzzled to hear reports that LSU Coach Les Miles was next in line to lead the Wolverines.

There was only one problem- the rumors all seemed to originate from outside Ann Arbor.  Anyone who follows Michigan Athletics knows that things don’t work that way in here.  If Les Miles was at the top of Athletic Director Bill Martin’s football coaching wish list we certainly wouldn’t be reading about it in the newspapers.

Whenever I tried to get people to talk about the possibility of Les Miles coming at Ann Arbor I heard the same thing.  People close to the program believed that rumors were leaked from the Les Miles camp as a negotiating ploy to shake more dollars out of LSU.  The thinking was that if Les was seriously interested he should know that leaking rumors to media on an annual basis wasn’t the way to get the job.  He created some additional ill will by not voting Michigan #2 in the coaches poll last season and giving the Wolverines a chance for revenge against the Buckeyes.

The rumors reached a crescendo after the bitter disappointment of this season.  When Lloyd Carr announced his retirement a few weeks ago many Wolverine fans and media members were insisting Les Miles was the best candidate to succeed him.

And for an hour or so it appeared that Les was on his way to Ann Arbor.  And then a funny thing happened.  Les did exactly what my sources said he had been doing for years.

He leveraged Michigan’s now authentic interest in him to shake a boatload of cash out of LSU.

And he turned his back on “his dream” of returning to his alma mater.

The elephant in the room

It’s no big secret that Lloyd Carr isn’t exactly a fan of Les Miles.  Nobody has ever gone on the record with exactly why they don’t get along.  What we do know is that Les Miles left Ann Arbor after Lloyd become head coach.  Why aren’t two Michigan Men, two of Bo’s Boys, on better terms?  Well, that’s the big question right now.  I do think Lloyd Carr is a pretty judge of character and if he’s not a Les Miles fan that is enough for me.

Les Miles- Our last hope?  No, there is another and another after that…

I’m not going to campaign for my choice as the next coach of the Wolverines (cough, cough, Brian Kelly).  I am going to say that there are a number of coaches who have the skills to succeed at Michigan.  People you have heard of and probably a few people you haven’t.

What we need

Make no mistake- the next head coach here has some big shoes to fill.  Every day he’ll go to work in a building named after Bo Schembechler.  And the last guy to win a National Championship (Lloyd Carr) will also still be hanging around.  When the season starts he’ll lead his team down the tunnel and play in front of the largest crowd to watch a football game in America.

At Michigan the head football coach needs to be more than a great tactician.  He needs to be the spiritual leader of the Wolverine nation, a pillar of the community, and the caretaker of the winningest tradition in the history of collegiate football.  He also needs to subvert his ego to the concept of THE TEAM, THE TEAM, THE TEAM.

The scrutiny is intense.  And not everyone is up to the challenge.

What Michigan needs is the *RIGHT* coach- not the popular guy, or the trendy guy.  We need a coach who hungers to write his own pages in the great Michigan tradition.

We need a man whose dreams are as great as Michigan Wolverine football.

Not someone who would sell his “dream” for few dollars more.

That guy belongs down in Louisiana- we have higher standards here.

2007 Michigan Football- Henne and Hart- Invincible?

 

Recently I watched the movie Invicible, which tells the true story of a Vince Papale, a 30 year old bartender who becomes an NFL player after being discovered at an open tryout.  In the movie, Papale freezes and blows a play during his first NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys.  As he leaves the field the head coach screams at him, “I stuck my neck out for you!”

 

The message was clear- it didn’t matter that Papale was a folk hero to the team’s fans, or that the coach personally liked him- if he couldn’t do his job and help the team win he wouldn’t play.

 

I thought about this scene in the movie as I watched QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart struggle against Ohio State Saturday.

 

 

It would have been a great story to have them return from injury and lead the Wolverines to victory over the Buckeyes.  It would have awesome to have Lloyd’s loyalty to his seniors validated with a victory in his final game at Michigan Stadium.

 

 

But it didn’t turn out that way.

 

The Michigan mantra is supposed to be “The Team, The Team, The Team” but on Saturday I’m not sure if the best interests of the team were served.

The Last Time I Saw Bo…

 

It’s taken me a long to write this article.

Last year I led a group on a private tour of Michigan Stadium on the Thursday before the Michigan/Ohio State game.

This tour took us all through the press box, on the field, through the tunnel and into the Michigan locker room.  But the highlight of the tour was running into Bo Schembechler in the press box  Bo was on his way to film an interview segment for HBO about the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry.

He didn’t look well.  But when he was introduced to our group he smiled and shook hands and seemed to light up.  His health may have been in decline but he still had boundless charm.  It was the highlight of the tour to say the least.

The next day Bo died.

I feel incredibly blessed that I got to see him one last time before he passed because Bo Schembechler and Michigan football changed my life.

Several years ago Bo and Jim Brandstatter did a book tour for “Tales from Michigan Stadium”.  One night when Bo and Jim and were signing copies at the local Ann Arbor M-Den I hung around until the lines dissipated and took the opportunity to speak with Bo.

I wanted him to know what an impact he had on my life.  I told him how I decided at young age to attend the University of Michigan.  That a lot of people told me that it would never happen- that kids from my high school didn’t go to Big Ten Universities.  That in my heart I knew what the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve and I was going the University of Michigan.  I told him how I saw Anthony Carter score a touchdown at my first Michigan game but the Wolverines lost 9-7.  I told him how although my high school football uniform was practically identical to Ohio State I wore a blue shirt underneath my pads for Michigan.  Of how I disappointed I was to get waitlisted when I first applied to Michigan, of how I wouldn’t give up until I was admitted.  I told how I drove cross country to see him coach his last game in the Rose Bowl only to see the referees call a bogus holding penalty to negate a 4th down conversion to end Michigan’s chances late in the game.  I told him how after UM commencement in the stadium I walked out the tunnel of Michigan Stadium for the first time.

Bo looked at me for second and then said, “You done good!”

I’m sure he heard these kind of stories all the time.

bophil

After this I thanked him and got his autograph on a photo of us taken during a recruiting visit to Michigan football practice.  The photo is proudly displayed on my wall.

The word hero gets thrown around a lot and some question whether a football  coach is worthy of such praise.

But what is a hero?  I believe a hero is someone who inspires us to greatness.

Bo Schembechler is one of my heroes.  And I make no apologies to anyone for that.

Lloyd Carr- Michigan Man

I remember how unenthused I was when Lloyd Carr was named interim head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

 

It had been a tough week.  Bo’s handpicked successor, Gary Moeller, had been involved in an embarrassing off-the-field incident.  Mo had gotten drunk, got into a verbal altercation with the police (which was taped and played on the local TV news) and resigned in shame.

 

Barring the complete meltdown of Gary Moeller, being Michigan’s Head Football Coach probably would not have been in Lloyd’s future.  I had met Lloyd Carr a few times and my impression was that he was the nice guy on the staff compared to Bo and Mo’s tough guy personas.  I didn’t have high hopes for Michigan football under his leadership.

 

During Lloyd’s first game as head coach the Wolverines were getting embarrassed by Virginia at the Big House.  With 13 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, the Wolverines were losing 17-0.  Hardly a great start for the interim head coach.

 

 

But then something amazing happened.  The Wolverines got off that mat, fought back and won on the last play of the game when QB Scott Dreisbach found WR Mercury Hayes in the corner of the end zone.  The Wolverines ended up 9-4 and Lloyd was named permanent head coach.

 

I still didn’t have a lot of faith in Lloyd.

 

And yet, two seasons later in was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena watching the Wolverines clinch their first National Championship in 50 years.  He did something that Bo never was able to do.  He won it all.

 

And still there were critics.  Going undefeated wasn’t good enough.  And Lloyd didn’t care.

 

Over the years I have to come to have great respect for Coach Carr.

 

Gary Moeller had been destroyed by the pressure of succeeding Bo Schembechler while Lloyd embraced the pressure and eventually thrived.

 

All Lloyd needed his team, a field and an opponent.  Everything else was superfluous.

 

 

There’s no doubt that Lloyd had little interest in pandering to the press.  Lloyd treated them all same- taking a page from Bo’s playbook- like dogs.  He understood that they really didn’t matter.  Michigan didn’t need people in the press to drum up interest for the Wolverines.

 

It has been amazing to see the transformation of Lloyd Carr from the all around nice guy to someone who outsiders consider to be grouchy and mean.  To anyone who has had a chance to observe Lloyd interacting with his players or recruits this misperception is hilarious.  Whenever I saw Lloyd being gruff with a reporter I always imagined he was doing his best Bo imitation.  But it wasn’t him.

 

 

Lloyd was coach who honestly cared about his football players as people.  Someone who considered himself foremost a teacher.  He was fiercely loyal to his players and coaches no matter what the public thought.  He could also be brutally tough on players who he believed didn’t have the team’s best interests in mind.

 

The following is one of Lloyd’s favorite quotes:

 

I am wounded but not slain
I will lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again.

 

I think of this quote whenever the Wolverines would rally back from a deficit.

 

Lloyd Carr coached teams were never defeated.

 

They simply ran out of time before being able to mount a comeback.

2007 Michigan Football- UM 34 Minnesota 10 Game Grades

 

Game 9 Scoreboard

 

 

 

 

 “Obviously, Mario Manningham is one of the better receivers in the nation. We got tested, and he won.”

 

Dominique Barber, Minnesota Strong Safety

 

“Our defense was outstanding today. The good news is that we got going offensively in the second quarter. I think our offensive line has been good all season long.

 

Lloyd Carr, Michigan Head Coach 
 

 

Phil’s Game Grades

 

Offense   A-
Defense A
Special Teams   A-
Coaching A
Overall    A   

 


The Wolverines beat the Gophers with QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart on the sidelines.

 

Offense-  The offense didn’t get rolling until the second half but had enough firepower to handle the hapless Gophers.  Backup RBs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor both rush for over a hundred yards and WR Mario Manningham had a career day. 

 

Defense-  The defense looked great stuffing the spread offense of the Gophers.

 

Special Teams-  Nothing bad report- a nice change.

 

Coaching-   Lloyd rolled the dice that the Wolverines could beat the Gophers with QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart resting for next week.  He was right and their backups got valuable meaningful game experience.

 

Comments-   The only question about the upcoming game versus MSU is how long it will take Chad Henne and Mike Hart to shake off the rust.  If they can get rolling early the Wolverines will put a beating on the Spartans…