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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dr. Z's latest dissects a favorite topic of Michigan football fans: conservative coaching and how it functions as an extreme handicap in the big games. Like everything Dr. Z writes, the article is well worth your time.

Particularly pogniant for Michigan fans:

There are coaches whose playbooks are filled with things that can go wrong. They have a fine working knowledge of the terrors of the game. They coach not to lose. Yet they lose, maybe not over the course of a season, or a career, but they lose the big ones.
Many would accuse Lloyd Carr of fitting that description to a T. I don't know about that anymore, which is an improvement. Look at the end of the Rose Bowl: Michigan has third and two. If they fail to get a first down they have a makeable field goal awaiting that will peg them to a one-point lead. The call: Chad Henne drops back and rifles a pass hard and slightly off target to Braylon Edwards, who is sitting slightly past the first down sticks. The pass goes off Edwards' hands and falls to the ground, incomplete. The conservative thing would have been to stick the ball in Hart's stomach.

Then, after the field goal, Texas has maneuvered itself into field goal range and seems content to attempt a 38 yarder to win the game. Michigan lets the clock wind down to two seconds instead of expending their timeouts. Is that excessively conservative? A lot of Michigan fans thought it was ridiculous... I didn't. Given the fact that Vince Young was unstoppable all night, the prospect of the ball in his hands, rolling out, and finding no one open was terrifying. Mack Brown was the one who was erroneously playing conservative. If either Ernest Shazor or Prescott Burges moves his hand over two inches and Magnum's 38 yard field goal attempt, Michigan wins that game. Do you want your fate hanging on the foot of Magnum or the legs of Vince Young? That's what I thought.

The offense has evolved. It is now fully modern. Where Michigan sees potential disaster is now the defense, where Jim Herrmann gets spooked into playing horrible soft zones time and again, where defensive linemen hold up their blockers against mobile quarterbacks and never, ever spin inside in case they lose contain, where big plays happen with regularity anyway.

Lloyd seems to win his share of the big games... he has a national title to his name, after all. And maybe that was the perfect Lloydball team... but he's had to move away from Lloydball (ok, ok, except for horrible punts from the 35) recently to win games, and he has. Maybe not enough for the tastes of some, but there's no denying that Lloyd 2004 is different than Lloyd 1997. We'll see over the course of the next three years. The offensive skill positions will be more loaded than they've ever been in my memory, and the defense will have at its disposal four and five star athletes galore. If Lloyd can harness and direct that talent to another national title, he'll go down as a great one. If he can't, he'll be remembered as a good steward, a great man, but no legend.

Here's hoping it's the former.