A Problematic Opportunity for Tom Kean Jr.

Two high-profile retirements today — one in sports, one in politics — have put wannabe successors in exceedingly tough spots.

At the University of Michigan, coach Lloyd Carr’s retirement should open the door for LSU’s Les Miles, who played and served as an assistant at Michigan. But Miles is in the thick of the national championship hunt at LSU, which won’t be resolved until the second week of January, making this a very inconvenient time to conduct any kind of job negotiations with another school.

And in New Jersey, fourth-term Republican Congressman Mike Ferguson’s surprise decision to leave the House leaves Tom Kean, last year’s G.O.P. Senate candidate against Bob Menendez, as the logical Republican heir apparent.

Kean lives in the district and ran for the seat in 2000, losing to Ferguson in a nasty primary. The seat would be an optimal perch for Kean to preserve his viability for a future statewide run. Plus, he has made it clear that he feels more suited for Capitol Hill than in Trenton. But there’s a problem: Kean — like everyone else — had no idea that Ferguson, who is only in his 30’s, was looking to leave. So he spent the last year fomenting a bloodless coup among his fellow Republicans in the state Senate, which finally paid off last week when they tapped him as their new leader. This would be about the worst time possible for him to abandon them — even if it would probably be in his best long-term interest to do so.

Ferguson’s seat, it should be noted, is hardly a lock for the Republicans. He barely survived his 2006 re-election against Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who is running again next year.