WELP. You know, you schedule a thing in Cleveland right after OSU loses to Virginia Tech and you think two things: 1) OSU is definitely not going to be winning the national title that night and 2) Michigan's not going to be finalizing its assistant coaches after hiring Jim Freakin' Harbaugh. I've been playing catchup this week.
BUT ANYWAY. Your assistant coaches.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/OFFENSIVE LINE
TIM DREVNO. I'm mostly through his hello post. Upshot: Harbaugh vet with OC experience under him at San Diego who coached TEs and OL at Stanford (yes please) before following Harbaugh to San Francisco, where the OL's performance was highly variable. Drevno left last year to go to USC, where he had excellent results with an extremely young (as in three true freshman starters) Trojan line.
Drevno's a good fit with Harbaugh specifically and appears to be the most qualified OL coach Michigan's had in forever. USC fans were super pissed about losing him.
QUESTIONS. Is OC/OL too much for one plate? How are his recruiting chops?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A-. Lack of big-time OC experience the one drawback; tons to offset that.
TYRONE WHEATLEY. You know Wheat. Even if you are a pup, there is Wolverine Historian for you. Michigan legend, quick-riser once he hung up the spurs, driven to be a head coach. Should be a killer recruiter and guy who tells guys to run at the holes.
QUESTIONS. Is there enough of a difference in RB coaches to matter, or is vision un-salvageable?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. Excellent trajectory, is Ty Freaking Wheately.
JEDD FISCH. Former OC at Minnesota, Miami, and with the Jaguars was dumped after two years in Jacksonville during which he was provided not much talent and a ton of rookies. Two-year tenure at Miami was highly encouraging, featuring a big turnaround from Jacory Harris and the development of pretty-good Stephen Morris.
Fisch's WR experience is somewhat limited. He didn't play football and hasn't had a WR job since 2008.
QUESTIONS. What exactly will he do as a passing coordinator? How much does his relative lack of WR background hurt?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. B+. Recruiting questions due to his relatively short tenure in college, awkward fit at WR, but also a position coach who is 38 with 5 years of OC experience behind him.
woo! suck it, dad! via MGoVideo
JAY HARBAUGH, son of Jim. Yeah, nepotism hire. The younger Harbaugh at least resisted the call when it was offered to him earlier:
With a coaching vacancy to fill this offseason, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh zeroed in on a promising young member of his brother John's Baltimore Ravens staff. John reluctantly granted permission, and Jim proceeded to woo the up-and-comer.
But his pitch wasn't good enough -- not this time, at least.
"It's a dream to one day work for my dad, and hopefully the opportunity will come," said Harbaugh's son, Jay. "He understood where I was coming from."
Jay is the first Michigan coach who's appallingly younger than me—25—and should have Michigan on the cutting edge of the Facebooks and Instagrams and swipe-right-to-commit websites; he necessarily has zero track record.
I'd rather have a guy with one of those, but if that's the cost of Harbaugh whatever man. Also, let's look back that the Harbaugh coaching tree… okay. I mean:
"One time, I asked, 'Do guys give you a hard time about working for your uncle, automatically look at that as the reason you got the job?' His response was: 'It's my responsibility to not give them the opportunity to confirm that suspicion.'"
QUESTIONS. Is he actually a good coach? Will having a 25-year-old on staff help with the insta-twitter-snap-tinder-cruiting?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. C. Zero track record. Shades of JayPa, but Harbaugh isn't the OC. Harbaugh name rescues it—there is obviously a heritage there.
DJ DURKIN. Mattison/Harbaugh/Muschamp protégé has experienced meteoric rise in the coaching profession, to the point where he's taking his second DC job at a prestige program at the tender age of 37. (It's his birthday. Happy birthday.) Called plays for Florida's kickass D the past two years, has three years of Harbaugh experience as the DE coach at Stanford.
Should be a dynamic recruiter both in Florida, where he has four years of experience, and in Ohio, where he grew up and played college football at Bowling Green. Was pursued heavily by A&M and UNC, the former of which "settled" for throwing a walrus of money at LSU DC John Chavis.
QUESTIONS. How much of the Florida D was Muschamp and how much was him? How long will he stick around before getting a head coach gig? Does he know Mike Judge and can he get him my movie script?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. An up-and-comer with a terrific track record who immediately piqued the interest of a half-dozen recruits in SEC territory when he took the job.
GREG MATTISON. Michigan retained its DC as a position coach, and he was pretty good to excellent as defensive coordinator. Also, he's regarded as a terrific recruiter and provides continuity to help ease transition costs and prevent too many transfers. Pretty pretty good. Good fit, as well—Mattison's known various Harbaughs for 40 years and had Durkin as a GA when both were at Notre Dame. He's not going to butt heads with Michigan's new DC, but rather help him ease into being the man in charge of his own D.
Yeah, he's expensive for a position coach, but that contract was already signed.
QUESTIONS. How long does he stick around?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. Or five swag Mattisons.
MIKE ZORDICH. Twelve-year NFL vet has a decade-long coaching career that is mostly on lower levels save for a short stint with the Eagles. Should know everything about coverages given playing experience; Youngstown dude who went to Penn State should be able to hit Ohio and Pittsburgh hard.
QUESTIONS. Can he recruit at a big-time level? What happened with Philly and why did he get stuck at YSU?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE: B-. NFL pedigree is nice, track record lacking, does bring a presumed set of recruiting chops that should be highly useful in PA.
GREG JACKSON. Another guy with a decade-plus career as an NFL safety; hooked on with Harbaugh after a few years at small schools and one at Wisconsin, whereupon his DBs were statistically lights-out. LSU alum who will likely focus on recruiting the south.
QUESTIONS. Was he a driving force behind the kickass 49ers DBs or was that either a statistical fluke or just a fortunate confluence of talent? Can he overcome the extreme gravitational pull of the South—and especially Louisiana—in recruiting?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE: A-. Track record a little short, but dang man.
JOHN BAXTER. Thirteen-year career at Fresno State saw Bulldogs block a stunning 84 punts and kicks and return a bunch of the unblocked ones for touchdowns; upon his hire at USC was an immediate success with the Trojans. Left out after Kiffin firing when Sarkisian brought in his own guys, took a year off, was pursued by Texas and Pac-12 schools this time around and chose Michigan.
Also has 15 years of experience as an associate head coach and touts his "Academic Gameplan," which helped drag Fresno State out of the depths of schoolwork purgatory.
QUESTIONS. Spread punts?!?!?!?! (Yes.) How's his recruiting?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. Should be a massive upgrade on Michigan's dismal Hoke-era special teams.
A BRIEF COMPARISON TO THE PREVIOUS STAFF(s)
As in how good of an idea they seemed like when hired, not now. Otherwise these grades would be worse.
Borges: C. Had been out of football, not much success since first year at Auburn. Did have a good year with Lindley in second year at SDSU.
Doug Nussmeier. B+. Pretty clear he was getting chased from 'Bama so Lane Kiffin could enter, but a guy with an impressive track record who's still respected enough to get the Florida OC job even after last year.
Fred Jackson: C. Had been losing his fastball for a while. In-state recruiting successes offset by wildly inaccurate talent evaluations, and how hard is it for Michigan to recruit in-state anyway?
Jeff Hecklinski: B. Long time Hoke assistant did do a nice job with SDSU WRs, both of whom went in the third round after Heck's departure for M.
Darrell Funk: C. Pre-Hoke experience topped out as OL coach at Colorado State. Seemed plausible as an up-and-comer.
Dan Ferrigno: D. Had bombed out of college coaching in 2008 and was back in HS when Hoke picked him up; aging; no thought of upward mobility.
Greg Mattison: A. Big time college coordinator coming straight from the NFL.
Jerry Montgomery. B. Iowa alum and up-and-comer who Michigan yoinked away from Indiana mere weeks after he agreed to move there. Trajectory was borne out when Oklahoma came in with a big offer and stole him away.
Mark Smith: D. Had been with Hoke forever after moving from Indiana State, failed DC at Ball State, no track record of success recruiting or coaching. Also no thought of upward mobility.
Roy Manning (CB): C. Awkward fit in secondary, but young go-getter good on the trail. Would have been a grade higher if left in the defensive front seven.
Curt Mallory: C. Longtime DBs coach who had bounced around the Big Ten for a while; was coming off three years as Illinois co-DC and one as Akron's DC, albeit with little success.
All you have to do to measure relative attractiveness of Hoke's last staff is where they're landing. Borges and Ferrigno are supposedly headed to San Jose State; Jackson retired; Mallory went to Wyoming. Nussmeier is the exception, and he was only around for one year. Nobody else has an announced destination yet, and it's hard to see anyone other than Manning and Hecklinski getting a good Power 5 job—and even that's somewhat doubtful.
Notably, the biggest jobs many of Hoke's assistants had before coming into Hoke's orbit were not real big. A hypothetical Hoke-Harbaugh "impressive job not related to you or Michigan" challenge starts out with a couple of pushes and then is a blowout:
|HOKE COACH||PRIOR CEILING||HARBAUGH COACH||PRIOR CEILING|
|Mattison||Ravens DC||Mattison||Ravens DC|
|Borges||Auburn OC||Durkin||Florida DC|
|Hecklinski||Arizona QB/pass game||Fisch||Jaguars OC|
|Mallory||Illinois co-DC||Drevno||USC OL/run game|
|Ferrigno||Oregon WR||G. Jackson||Wisconsin DB|
|Smith||Indiana State DC||Baxter||USC ST|
|F. Jackson||Vandy RB||Zordich||Eagles DB|
|Funk||Colorado State OL||Wheatley||Bills RB|
|Manning||Cincinnati RB||Harbaugh||Ravens QC|
[Fred Jackson is a weird outlier, admittedly.]
Calibrate your preference between Borges and Durkin as you will; to me there's no question which guy I'd rather have at the time they were hired. Ditto Ferrigno versus Jackson since Jackson had been very impressive with Harbaugh. And this staff is very, very young. By my reckoning everyone on it save Baxter, Zordich, and Mattison is hungry to move up—and capable of doing so. I'm not sure you could say that about anyone on Hoke's staff.
Hooray, then? I think so.
two point buckets are rare as unicorns these days [Bryan Fuller]
That was ugly. I don't have much to say about last night's demolition in Columbus. It's pretty much over as far as an NCAA bid is concerned—even 9-4 the rest of the way leaves Michigan with two horrendous, horrendous losses compared to the rest of the bubble and no real marquee wins.
I don't know what blew up. Obviously losing all three posts from last year is a big factor, as is the almost total lack of production from Kam Chatman (who is shooting an unbelievable 34%/25%). But there's something not right with the guys we thought were going to be the big guns. When your captains are saying you're in "coast mode" after a game that's nasty.
Walton's obvious: he's got turf toe. Irvin and LeVert are both doing okay; neither has become anything approximating a go-to guy. Both are shooting 44% from two with little in the way of free throws; Walton's even worse at 36%. With no one who can create two point shots consistently they've lost the crazy offensive efficiency of the last two years, and the defense hasn't improved nearly enough to keep their heads above water.
The only remaining hopes for the season is that they start getting better, make the NIT, and have a run in there that gives you some confidence.
Mattison back, officially. The latest in a long line of re-re-confirmations:
"Jack Harbaugh will always be one of the most influential coaches I've ever been with," he said. "I had the opportunity to coach with him for five years, just a tremendous football coach who taught me a lot about coaching.
"And I really respect (John Harbaugh), you always knew he'd be successful. ... And there's another Harbaugh (I'm close with), when we had our first child, Lisa, the only person she'd ever let babysit for her was Joanie (Jim's sister). That Harbaugh family, we've known for a long, long time."
Having Mattison around is going to be excellent for recruiting and continuity, and should allow Durkin to gradually adjust to being the man on that side of the ball after coaching under Will Muschamp at Florida.
Early signing may be happening. The Conference Commissioners Association was tasked with looking into an early signing date for football, and the proposal now has a shape:
On Tuesday at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Louisville, Susan Peal, NCAA associate director of operations who serves as a liaison between the collegiate governing body and the commissioners, revealed that the committee is leaning toward recommending a mid-December signing period. Peal said that window would likely coincide with the midyear junior college transfer signing date that occurs in the third week of December.
"Based on all of the feedback -- and there are all kinds of dates out there of what people want -- the most favorable option the committee has seen seems to be for an early signing day in December, something that's in line with the midyear junior college transfer signing date," Peal said.
I'm not a fan of early signing because it does nothing for the players, who get locked in earlier than they do now in exchange for bupkis. But at least that date is much better than the ridiculous August 1st date supported by the ACC, which the Big Ten somehow supported. Signing before official visits are even possible is some kind of dumb.
The darkest alternate timeline. Les Miles lost his excellent defensive coordinator to a conference rival and has now hired former Clemson DC Kevin Steele to replace him. The Kevin Steele whose last act as a DC was this, as Get The Picture points out:
Miles is also supposedly bringing in Ed Orgeron, a move that bodes well for local press conferences, Louisiana-set buddy cop movies, and recruiting but maybe not so much organization and the like. If Les farts around again next year I wouldn't be surprised to see him get the boot, because LSU fans have always been way more discontent than you'd think.
The competition to best describe Harbaugh is over. Former Stanford tackle Ben Muth:
"When I first met him, I honestly thought a lot of it was an act, it was like a robot who was programmed as a football coach," says Ben Muth, who played offensive tackle for Harbaugh at Stanford. "It's absurd stuff, but he believes it all. And after a while, so do you. Just the way he talks, his cadence and his deliverance. He talks like a normal football coach, but kicked up 50 percent and he's always on."
Also: hooray spring game fun? As part of Harbaugh's insane competitiveness, he turned Stanford's spring game into a full on draft-win-die thing:
At Stanford, his spring games featured full-scale drafts. The coaching staff was split down the middle into two groups, and inside the team meeting room, every player was drafted to a side for the game.
They weren't just glorified practices, they were full-scale competitions. Nothing was wasted or viewed as insignificant.
If that format's announced and Michigan pushes it back to best roll the dice on the weather that would be guaranteed to be Michigan's best-attended spring game ever.
Why do you hate turkey? I get most of what Oregon's trying to say here.
I'm down with most of it, as well (though tradition generally wears two colors unless you want to count white). But what's with the shot at turkey on Thanksgiving? Surely you would prefer us to eat that instead of duck, right?
Whiskey the dog. In case you were like "WTF" when Brandon brought up Whiskey during his My Personality Is To The Best Of My Ability tour:
Sap and MVictors have more details over there.
Whatever this is. OSU and Michigan are listed 1-2 in "intrinsic value" thanks to improved cash flows:
Note that OSU is bringing in 20 million less than Michigan this year, and Michigan is above everyone except Alabama and Texas in revenue. Oregon's 18th. Brandon's relentless focus on dollars above everything else was unnecessary.
Etc.: Michigan is getting a visit from 2015 megaprospect Jaylen Brown.
My biggest takeaway from last night is Michigan will need a very strong and well-coached front seven if Harbaugh is to pull a 1969 next Thanksgiving weekend.
The key to Michigan's dramatic defensive improvement in 2011 was that Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison gave Michigan's defense an identity. They went to a 4-3 under, single-gap run defense that Mattison brought from the Ravens, and over the course of the year found the best fits for the guys on hand.
|Durkin knew Mattison from his Charlie Weis pants days. [photo: Joe Raymond|Freep]|
You remember, despite the relative success of this transition, that some fits were more or less awkward than others. Jake Ryan was a perfect SAM. Ryan Van Bergen worked as a 3-tech or a 5-tech. Mike Martin played nose because nobody else could, and his disruption was deployed with a lot of stunts, or weird stuff like when they came up in an Okie and Martin dropped back to essentially MLB. Roh at WDE was a solid run defender but wasn't built to take advantage of that WDE-tackle matchup that's supposed to produce natural pressure.
Last year of course they went to a 4-3 over base alignment, making Jake Ryan into an awkward MLB because the alternative was Beyer as a really awkward 5-tech. The kicker: offenses were forcing Michigan to play nickel 50% to 90% of snaps, which made Ryan into either an undersized defensive end, or a guy on the sideline.
JMFR is gone but Mattison will still be around, joined by new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. At the Cleveland event last night I suggested Mattison’s role will be as sensei to Durkin, who hasn’t really flown solo yet (Muschamp was very involved with that defense).
It adds up to a belief that Michigan won’t change its defensive style for 2015, but what is that style? Coverages are another matter; just speaking to the front seven: should they be the under that they recruited for, or the over they transitioned to?
Refresher on 4-3 philosophy
Mattison and Durkin both coached (Durkin as a graduate assistant for one year) under Bob Davie at Notre Dame, who with Jackie Sherrill developed the Texas A&M "Wrecking Crew" defense. Jimmy Johnson (another Sherrill acolyte) took it a step further in Miami, and Pete Carroll now runs in Seattle.
You’ll note that they used different alignments. Johnson’s defenses were the genesis of the 4-3 over, and so influential that this is what people usually mean by “4-3” defense, as opposed to Tom Landry’s base version. Carroll’s been coaching the 4-3 under since he learned it directly from Monte Kiffin, who developed it at Nebraska.
The under alignment was not the base concept; the real philosophy in Kiffin's terms was to give his defensive linemen simple assignments so they could play with aggression and disruption. The benefit of one-gapping is no defensive linemen stopping to diagnose the play. Once the ball is snapped, all of these defenses want those brains thinking "go!", "put my hat in a gap," "be a factor," and "attack that block!"
Mattison used a mix in Baltimore because he had Ngata, but at Michigan he’s had an almost exclusively gap-attacking defense. The question has been what alignment to run it out of, and that’s a question of which players fit it best.
(Start at 1:17)
So which alignment is Michigan going with this year? I think again it’s a question of personnel? I make diagram.
Michigan’s short on red dudes
The above is my attempt at showing the spectrum of qualities emphasized by the front seven positions in the 4-3 over versus the 4-3 under. I also gave a small approximation of color fits for guys I know something about (Spur-like objects like Gant and Wangler left out because I ran out of colors to depict DB-ness).
It's meant to show what we mean when we talk about the why nothing's a perfect fit for the talent on hand. Suggestions for improved shading are welcome. Takeaway from this experiment: Michigan's front the next few years may be better at throwing out different looks than it will be at rotating through shark teeth.
If you trust my judgment on the shading above, the over appears to remain the best fit for the guys we have, provided they can find some backup ends (the glut of DE/DT tweeners remains). As Mattison mentioned in the video above, the half of the time you’re in nickel to counter a 3- or more-wide look, you’re in an over anyway. D.J. Durkin used a lot of smaller players and changed things up a ton at Florida, and I expect the future will be a truly multiple defense with versatile front seven players. I expect when they can’t run Ojemudia and Charlton out there at the ends, Durkin will experiment with linebacker-ish dudes out there.
247 is reporting that three different recruits have been contacted by Greg Mattison in his capacity as a Michigan assistant coach within the last day. It's not clear what his role is, but we're going to guess he ends up as a DL or LB coach with either a co-DC or associate head coach title and put him on the assistant board in ink:
|OC||Tim Drevno||lock||DC||DJ Durkin||lock|
|RB||Ty Wheatley||probable||LB||Greg Mattison||lock|
|WR||Tim Morton||probable||OLB/DE||Roy Manning||probable|
Drevno may take on the offensive line by himself or Michigan may add a dedicated OL coach. Sam says Michigan is reaching out to OL coaches($), including Oklahoma's. Adding an OL coach would either mean that Michigan goes with just four guys on D or Marrow isn't added—I doubt that anyone would go without an RB or WR coach.
USE THE FORCE JIM. Daily article on Harbaugh's mentors with them all lined up…
…and the mind instantly puts them in this:
Sorry, Mr. Carr. Shouldn't have stood in the center.
MATTISON IS PRETTY MUCH IN. Man is still recruiting:
Isaac Nauta (@inauta24) said he talked to Greg Mattison: “He said I know you’re committed, but we’re going to recruit you until you sign.”
— Jeremy Crabtree (@jeremycrabtree) January 1, 2015
GET THIS MAN A TATTOO. Mark the Nomad has got to get some ink:
He's looking for the internet to fund it, in order to slightly reduce the chance this results in a divorce.
FIFTH YEAR OPTIONS. A quick glance at the roster will tell you that Michigan should be in the market for a graduate transfer QB. Their current options are either freshmen, Russell Bellomy, or Shane Morris. The former two have never played in college; the latter two have struggled immensely when they've gotten in the game. So this bit of news is intriguing:
A redshirt junior on track to graduate in June, [the Chicken Bowl] was probably [Kevin] Hogan’s last shot in a Stanford uniform. He hasn't addressed whether he'll return for his final year of eligibility, and head coach David Shaw intimated that Hogan didn't want to discuss it before the end of the season.
Harbaugh recruited Hogan, and he's obviously got he academic chops to make a smooth transition.
Hogan wasn't a world-beater this year (or he wouldn't be transferring) but he did finish with a 66% completion rating, 7.9 YPA, and a 19-8 TD-INT ratio. He's also a decent runner. He would almost certainly be an upgrade on Michigan's current options, and he knows the offense.
Another option: Everett Golson. Golson dropped off a cliff at the end of this year, as he turned into a turnover machine and split time with Malik Zaire in the bowl game. ND insiders and message boards are rumbling about a potential departure. If I had to bet I'd say he returns to ND, but keep an eye out if he doesn't.
DISCOUNT STILL IN EFFECT. Moe's is taking advantage of an opportunity with an enthusiasm unknown to retail-activation-kind.
AND SUDDENLY YOU'RE A FREE AGENT. Bills coach Doug Marrone has a bizarre window built into his contract that allows him to opt out at no cost… one he's just exercised. This puts his assistants in serious limbo, one of whom is Tyrone Wheatley. Even before this happened a lot of Michigan folk suspected that Wheatley would end up in Ann Arbor; now it seems highly, highly probable.
ALL THIS COULD HAVE BEEN OURS. LSU fans have always been turning on Les Miles, but now the knives are well and truly out. Miles is losing DC John Chavis to a megaoffer from A&M, leaving LSU scrambling to keep their defense as good as it needs to be to keep the wonky Tiger offense from submarining seasons.
ADDING TO MOUNT NFLWRONG. He hates recruiting!
Every old coach/staffer/whatever I've ever talked to who knows Harbaugh has ranted about how much he actually enjoys recruiting.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 31, 2014
His wife didn't want to come!
Was just talking to @IronsJarrett when Harbaugh's wife stopped to chat...she mentioned her shock re: rumors she wouldn't leave the Bay Area.
— angelique (@chengelis) December 30, 2014
His heart is in the NFL!
York, though, would not shed any light on what was said in those discussions, saying they were "private" in nature, though he did acknowledge that teams had inquired about trading for Harbaugh, and Harbaugh was not interested.
It was all about the money!
Jim Harbaugh told Hackett he did NOT want to be the highest paid coach in CFB, or even the Big Ten. More concerned with pay for assistants.
— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) December 30, 2014
NOPE. If you were wondering if Devin Funchess would return to the team because Harbaugh, your answer is no:
Just met coach harbaugh...Wish him the best with Team 136! Great guy glad he got the job #goblue
— Devin Funchess (@D_FUNCH) December 31, 2014
He'll be a first or second round pick in the draft even with the disappointing finish to his year.
WHAT ON EARTH. There is a woman named Ann Arbaugh who lives in Ann Arbor. And she's…
The Ohio State graduate said she hasn't abandoned her Buckeye roots, and that she's become an Ann Arborite but not quite a Wolverine-lover.
…an Ohio State graduate. Life is weird.
COLTS ON HARBAUGH. They didn't think he was a total weird megalomaniac:
"I've read about that side of him, but that's it," Ward says. "He was not thought of in that way (here), and it doesn't characterize Jim as we knew him. He was intensely competitive, absolutely, but he was a great team player and scrappy and always, always battling for the team."
Indianapolis fell in love with Harbaugh, in part because he was the anti-Jeff George, a superstar talent whose less-than-superstar results and aloof air – think Jay Cutler – rubbed people the wrong way. Jeff George was not what the city of Indianapolis craved in a leader. Jim Harbaugh was, and he gave this city what it loved.
There was the 1995 AFC championship game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, when the Colts trailed 20-16 in the final minutes and Harbaugh was bleeding from a torn hand and still leading the team down the field before his final pass, a heave into the end zone, bounced away from Colts receiver Aaron Bailey.
"I remember blood dripping from his hand," Ward says, "and he singlehandedly pretty much drove the team within inches of winning that game."
HOLDING STEADY. I haven't gotten anything that would change my stance her\e since yesterday. That, of course, is this:
I did get a terrifyingly titled email ("John Harbaugh –> Jim To Oakland = $5 million") that turned out to be a third hand report that if Jim wanted to go to the Raiders the 49ers were planning on extracting the full freight of his contract from him. I have lectured this person on titling emails.
Other than that it's just more of the same. I can't quite say it's a done deal but I would be shocked if this did not happen.
THEY'RE OUT THERE. Feldman reports that Michigan officials are going to be in San Francisco today and tomorrow.
#Michigan brass & search firm will be up in the Bay Area this weekend as part of the Jim Harbaugh pursuit, per source.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 27, 2014
I've heard this is not so much a negotiation as just picking him up. Terms are settled.
ANOTHER MOVE. In the last couple days, even Rivals—the most cautious of the three paysites—has moved off their 50/50 and declared things to be 85% likely, and then said they'd call it if it was election day, and then that "this is happening" which HEY BUDDY THAT'S OUR PHRASE TO FLOG INTO THE GROUND. Balas now says it would be "beyond surreal"—squared!—if it did not happen.
In any case: the most conservative set of Michigan insiders has the lampshade on its head and is trying to drink shots through it.
ANOTHER REPORT? It's unclear whether this report from Harbaugh's (currently) local ABC station is independent or not. It uses SOURCES in its title (#sources) but the text is may only be referencing Joe Pequeno, the Arizona sportscaster who is this search's most random insider. This may be actual SOURCES, though:
Friday night, the unconfirmed reports began surfacing that Harbaugh will meet with representatives from the University of Michigan and one source says that a deal is already done.
The phrasing there makes it hard to tell if they're actually talking to people or just taking other stuff and not mentioning or linking it because BLOGS. Take it FWIW. Local news is not often the kind of place that breaks these things, but if San Francisco-based folks are hearing the same things Michigan-oriented ones are that's another quality sign.
Source says verbal agreement in place for Jim Harbaugh to become new Michigan coach. No contracts signed, but UM feels real confident.
— Joe Pequeno (@JoePequenoCBS5) December 27, 2014
That was just a few minutes ago and did not spur the ABC report.
THEY DON'T WANT TO GO ON THE CART. Rapoport raporeports that the Raiders are going to try.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 27, 2014
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 27, 2014
(Rapoport knows the Raiders are always in the Bay Area. Also, check the extensive reply lists on those tweets for a quick compare/contrast with the La Canforas and Kawakamis of the world. Rapoport doesn't seem to have the best sources here but at least he's a professional.)
I don't think that's going to change much of anything. While the Raiders have been restricted by NFL tampering rules it's not like Harbaugh doesn't know they're interested and prepared to hand him full control. I don't buy the random tweet claiming a Sirius XM report that the 49ers have given the Raiders permission to contact Harbaugh, since it hasn't been replicated anywhere credible. Radio is always the worst for breaking news. Half of it is bunk and the other half is misheard. In this case, that would be tampering.
If Michigan wasn't already operating like their guy was in the bag I'd be more concerned, but with the entire department and folks like DJ Durkin acting like it's a fait accompli this looks like the Raiders trying to save face with their fanbase. Or just doing the usual Raiders stuff and having no idea what the score is.
STAFF STUFF. I'm pretty confident that Greg Mattison is indeed going to be part of the new staff. I've got multiple reports that he's planning on staying in town and would like to continue, and Mattison has a long history with various Harbaughs. DJ Durkin seems all but assured as well given what we've heard about him, but I don't have anything that's been shared with me privately to add to the obvious. Scout has a freebie with some pretty strong indications that Durkin's on his way:
Word from a rival SEC assistant is that scenario [Durkin to M] is much more than rumor.
“He is waiting for Harbaugh to call him within the next 24 hours to make him the defensive coordinator at Michigan,” the assistant said.
I'd also bet a dollar that Ty Wheatley joins the staff as a RB coach with something like "run game coordinator" or "co-OC" tacked on and a salary bump from generic assistant coach.
[NOTE: Last time I bet a dollar in searchbits (on Mullen being plan B) a number of people thought this was a coy way to say "this is a lock"—it's not. It just means I bet a dollar. I have reason to think that thing is happening but would not bet, say, the MGoWife on it.]
Past that I don't have any names that I think are particularly likely. Mattison sticking might be bad news for Roy Manning, who is a LB coach by trade. Mattison and Durkin are both capable of handling LBs, and Mattison fills the ace recruiter and holdover the guys trust roles. I still think Manning's got a shot since every staff needs a guy on it who knows what this means…
— Ty Isaac (@TyIsaac) December 26, 2014
…but I haven't heard much about him sticking.
247 brings up an interesting name($): Vince Marrow, currently the tight ends coach at Kentucky. Marrow's had a deeply weird career, with a few years as a fringe NFL player followed by short stints in NFL Europe as a player and coach, a year in the Arena league, a year as Toledo's TE coach, a singe year as a HS head coach, a TE coach job with the Omaha Nighthawks(?!), two years as a GA at Nebraska, and finally his three years at Kentucky under Mark Stoops as the TE coach/recruiting coordinator.
Why is a guy like this on the radar? Kentucky's Ohio recruiting. Kentucky has been killing it in the state under Marrow, beating out Big Ten teams not named Michigan or Ohio State for prospect after prospect. With Harbaugh likely to be the QB coach Michigan has a spot to play with for a guy like Marrow.
Rivals just brought up Stanford DC Lance Anderson as a likely staff member, but getting both Durkin and Anderson seems extremely far-fetched. Anderson's unit kept Stanford afloat this year, so he's not getting a demotion. Durkin seems all but certain, so is he really coming for a co-DC slot? Is Durkin? Are we not even handing Mattison title frippery appropriate to his station? There are obviously a number of connections between Anderson and Harbaugh, but unless Durkin's waiting on a DC spot that's not guaranteed to be his—highly unlikely—that fails common sense checks.
WHY. The NFL doesn't understand this.
Last thing: The fan fervor for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan cannot be duplicated by the NFL or many actual religions. This I can attest to.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 27, 2014
That's why it's happening.
ETC.: Utah's coaching staff has been raided over the past week or so and now a local radio guy says it's "highly unlikely" Whittingham returns. Weird stuff, though radio disclaimer applies.
Colin Cowherd tweets out Seth's Harbaugh photoshop, hopefully teaching Seth to watermark things in the future. Iman Marshall interested? Stability a good thing, and a thing the Raiders aren't into offering.
Harbaugh on Brisco County Jr., because we all need to be reminded of these things.