The Detroit Free-Press caught up with former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr this week for his opinions on new Wolverine head man Brady Hoke, a former Carr assistant. Not surprisingly, Carr had nothing but highly positive things to say about his protege:
"[H]e has a great recruiting background nationally, and he’s a guy who likes to recruit. He’s a gregarious, fun-loving guy and meets people extremely well. I think he’ll do a great job recruiting. If you look at his background in coaching -- he’s been a defensive coach, a defensive player, and I think, if you look at the Big Ten Conference, there aren’t any teams winning that conference that I can recollect that didn’t play outstanding defense. So I think he’s going to hang his hat there, but it looks, to me, that he’s hired a very good offensive coaching staff as well. He understands it’s a big-picture deal ...This probably wouldn't even be worth discussing -- "Football Coach Says Nice Things About Other Coach He Worked With" isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff -- if not for the contrast between Carr's effusive praise of Hoke and the lack of such praise for Hoke predecessor Rich Rodriguez.
"[H]e’s not going to ask for my counsel. The thing he knows is I’m for him. I’m for Michigan. And if I can help him or he needs me, I’ll be there for him. But I don’t think that’s going to be very often. He’s spent seven, eight years here — he knows what he’s doing."
Rumors abounded in Ann Arbor throughout the course of Rodriguez's tenure that Carr was less-than-pleased with the direction of the program under his successor, and even as Rodriguez came under attack from any number of directions, Carr's public support amounted to what MGoBlog author Brian Cook summarized as "a single tepid statement of support" over the course of three seasons. Former Carr players like Braylon Edwards seemed particularly hostile towards Rodriguez, exacerbating the perception of a rift between the two coaches. Former Michigan quarterback Rick Leach eventually came forward to attack Carr's lack of support on multiple occasions .
None of this is to say Carr shouldn't be as candid and as positive regarding Hoke as he is. But the conventional wisdom regarding Rodriguez's failure in Ann Arbor was that part of his struggles, at least, could be chalked up to a lack of universal support within and without the program. Contrasting Carr's rapid show of support for Hoke with his lack of same for RichRod -- certainly he never said anything publicly as encouraging as " The thing he knows is I'm for him" -- and it seems clear that the days of factions within the Michigan program are at an end. Hoke will have the kind of support that Rodriguez did not.
Now he just has to win the games that Rodriguez did not, if he wants to keep it.