by Robert Haddad
A common way to test the value of our traditions is by comparing them to our present day experiences. If they resemble the past, or what we know of as the past then we tend to appreciate them more. We pay equal attention to that which we've never seen. But in order to determine value we usually need certain parameters to act as measuring sticks. To say "he's good but not as good as..."
What's fascinating when we incorporate sports into the conversation is that we tend to rely heavily on championships. Our fondest memories tend to emanate from our most extreme experiences. Winning a championship or a heart breaking loss. Joy and pain are shared emotions. But obviously to maintain a level of reverence, one must be successful.
So when we look back on the past eras of Michigan football we hold certain coaches near and dear to our hearts because of their accomplishments, but let us not forget to include the timing in which they arrived as factors of our fondness. No doubt their success drives our foundation and our culture but their success most frequently is predicated on the fact that they followed failure.
Earlier this week we took a look back at the contributions of Gary Moeller. A man who actually had timing on his side. No doubt his task was daunting. He was in the unenviable position of having to follow a legend but he had the resources and tradition that were laid before him by someone who not only redefined an already established tradition but resurrected the program after a brief down period. Bo was handed the keys to a vintage car in need of a tune up. Gary Moeller inherited that same car with a complete overhaul but same classic looks. All he had to do was drive straight. And sometimes that's the hardest way to drive. So Gary, much like many who follow in the footsteps of an icon acted as a bridge to a new generation. And instead of being able to crest his own wave he had to pass and let someone else try.
Enter Lloyd Carr. A non-descript assistant who had put in more years coaching as an assistant than his players had on earth. He was not what the fan base was looking for. But timing was everything. Whether his success came with the help of Moeller's recruits or not, Lloyd coached Michigan to it's first National Championship in 50 years. His success always revolved around that fact. What will be interesting to see is if Lloyd Carr will in fact act as a bridge to Rich Rodriguez or if he will be the second wave of our most recent run of success.
The talent level during the Lloyd Carr era is unparalleled. And our current age of information may be why we have less appreciation for Lloyd. Because we know what talent was available and the perception was they were undercoached. Will Rich Rod have the same talent and do more? Where do the expectations lie and when can we fairly evaluate the impact Lloyd had on this program? When Bo retired there was never a question of his value. For some reason Lloyd's is still in doubt.