Updated: Sep 28, 2019
“Jim Harbaugh will save Michigan Football.”
“Expect Michigan to be relevant again, thanks to Jim Harbaugh”
“Christmas gifts continue to pour out for Michigan as they land their man, Harbaugh”
All of these headlines sprouted up as Michigan was able to pry Jim Harbaugh away from coaching in the NFL back in 2014, after firing embattled coach Brady Hoke. Hoke finished his final season 5-7, which was his worst record since taking the top job for the Wolverines. There was plenty of reason for optimism for the Wolverines after hiring Harbaugh. He was just two seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance, where he lost to his brother and the Baltimore Ravens.
Jim has been known for turning around bad programs and making them relevant again. Before landing in San Francisco, he was coaching at Stanford, who prior to the Harbaugh Era, was 1-11 the season before he took over. In just 4 seasons, he took them to a 12-1 record, and an Orange Bowl victory. In San Francisco, he appeared in three straight NFC title games with the 49ers, the same team who had been just 46-82 in the eight seasons prior to his arrival. Turing them around to average 12 wins per season? Some call that the “Harbaugh Effect”. From his over the top motivational antics (smearing the blood of one of his players on his face DEFINITLY qualifies), to his play sheet tosses and his legendary explosions on referees; Harbaugh has often been excused by fans for these wild outburst because he has been able to produce results.
His time at Michigan, record wise, hasn’t been bad at all. Three of the last four full seasons have resulted in 10 wins with exception to the 2017 season, finishing with a lowly 8-5 record. 38-14 through four full seasons is a definite improvement, averaging 9.5 wins a season. That’s more than three wins per season than Brady Hoke had, and better than the five wins per season Rich Rodriguez had. Significant improvement, the fans are happy, and there was much rejoicing in Ann Arbor, right?
Well, not exactly.
How often have the Harbaugh led Wolverines beaten their rivals? Let’s consider the Big Three (Sorry, Minnesota).
Michigan State: 2-2 Notre Dame: 0-1 (Renewed 2018, credit Harbaugh for that one) Ohio State: 0-4
Ouch. Maybe we *should* include the 2-0 they are against Minnesota. A combined 2-7 against the Big Three is not the direction you want to go.
“Ok, wait a minute. Michigan has been the victim of bad officiating! They should have won in Columbus in 2016!” If you claim you lost a game on one bad call, then you had no reason winning the game. You played the game where one call “cost” you a win? Then you didn’t play the game the right way.
“Well, Urban Meyer is finally retired! Michigan can finally win the Big Ten!” If that’s your attitude about the team, then you need to find a new team to cheer for. Michigan for decades was considered a top tier program, even when their record didn’t reflect it. The legacy built by coaching legends like Bo Schembechler, Fielding Yost, Bump Elliot, and Fritz Crisler, the Wolverines have always been given the benefit of the doubt when it came to having a “down” season. Allowing you to think “well, so and so finally retired, we can win again!” is a disservice to the current players. While they haven’t proved it on the field, you’re telling them they aren’t good enough until someone else gets out of the way. True or not, if you are a fan, you stand with your team, win, lose or tie.
Most of my friends know I am a die-hard Michigan fan. I have defended Harbaugh over and over, saying “Next year. He will have his players, his system, and things will be ready to go.” “The schedule is in our favor, Ohio State at home!” (Man, I was starting to sound like a Browns fan there for a minute…anyway, I digress.)I cannot defend this any longer. I was over defending Harbaugh after the embarrassing loss to Ohio State last season. The mess the team put on the field today against Wisconsin was just that. Michigan was outplayed on all sides of the ball, and showed little to no fight through three quarters of the game. Not exactly Michigan football. But, this is how it is with Jim Harbaugh. While he has a 40-15 record (counting the games played this season), his record against ranked opponents is anything but favorable.
1-9 against Top 10 opponents 0-7 as the underdog 1-6 on the road against ranked opponents Five losses by 21 or more, including three out of the last five (Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio State) (Courtesy @KyleRowland, twitter)
Not exactly the “excellence” Harbaugh promised when he took the gig.
I write all of this to say: Michigan, the honeymoon is over. It’s been over for quite a while. It’s time to end the Jim Harbaugh experiment. You gave Rich Rodriguez three seasons, where he slowly improved his record each year. You gave Brady Hoke four seasons in which the record steadily fell, leading to his eventual firing. (For what it’s worth, Hoke had a better record against Ohio State than his predecessor and his successor combined.) Harbaugh has been exposed as a showman, with little to no result to back that up at Michigan. You’ve had four years to get it right, and Michigan fans want to win the Big Ten. Even winning the Big Ten isn’t as important as beating Ohio State, and he has yet to do that. Last year looked to be his best hope, and Ohio State squashed that pretty quickly. Michigan stands tall against weaker foes, but can’t answer the call when the opponent decides to square up. It’s time for a change.
Michigan fans deserve better. Yes, Harbaugh is a “Michigan Man”, but does that matter anymore? Bo Schembechler wasn’t a Michigan guy, and he did pretty good. Rich Rodriguez struggled, but he learned quickly, moving to a better record each season as well as notching two wins over Notre Dame. Progress. In the competition that is the college football coaching circle, you have to be one step ahead, and with the exception of Don Brown, Harbaugh has been careless in how he has handled his approach in hiring assistants and coordinators. Getting Josh Gattis from Alabama seemed like an AMAZING hire… until you see how his play calling has been less than stellar through three games. A three-point win over a service academy? In double OT? Makes you wonder why Nick Saban didn’t promote Gattis, knowing he had the chance to. All hype, little result. The new “Michigan Way”. Harbaugh and his failure to deliver has become the new Michigan standard. Fans aren’t even surprised, they are just disappointed. Even Ohio State fans are starting to get bored. "Ill never hate watching Michigan lose, but 'The Game' isn't as fun when I already know the outcome." Yikes.
The expectations have never been lower for Harbaugh and the Wolverines. “Just beat Ohio State, please” is the cry all through Wolverine fans households. Fans don’t want much. At this point, fans don’t need much. They just want better and under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan will fail to meet even the lowest of expectations. Michigan, it’s time for a change. It’s time for Jim Harbaugh to go.