Jim Harbaugh looks excited about, well, something

Monday Presser 10-30-18: Jim Harbaugh Comment Count

Ethan Sears October 30th, 2018 at 1:23 AM

Things Discussed

  • Chase Winovich, good football player
  • The run game and Karan Higdon's effectiveness
  • Injury non-updates on Rashan Gary, Tarik Black and Juwann Bushell-BBeatty
  • Ben Mason's contact craving

[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh wore baggy shorts in the '90s]


Coach, can you just talk about how far your safeties have come over the last year?


“They’re playing really good ball. Josh Metellus, playing really well. Coverage and getting his hands on balls. His tackling. Really improved in all areas. Doing a fantastic job.”


Talk about Chase Winovich. He’s had quite a season, there’s a lot to impress you. Talk about what’s impressed you most about Chase.


“He sure has been having an impressive season. Always, a defensive end can affect the game. He’s found ways to do that, whether it’s getting pressure on a quarterback, or tackling, playing from the backside or the frontside. Hustle plays constantly. Tipped balls. Sideline to sideline. Every way a defensive end can affect a game.”


How motivated is this team to play this week against Penn State after what happened last year?


“I think the team will be motivated to play this week. And every week.”


Jim, do you have an update on Rashan (Gary’s) status? Is he expected to play this week?


“Don’t know. Don’t have an update for you.”


How did Tarik (Black) pursue the bye week?




Is he expected to be a full-go here?


“We’ll see.”


How did you use the bye week to prepare for Penn State and what jumps out at you about their team right now?


“We practiced, we had meetings, we had weight workouts during the bye week. Penn State is an excellent football team, they are once again this year, in all phases. Very good team.


Jim, you once said Ben Mason was born to play fullback. What traits of his led you to think that and how have you seen him develop since then?


“He’s just a very, very physical, aggressive football player who has great contact courage and really craves it. He loves it. He loves football and he loves contact. He loves running and hitting.”


What led you to move him to fullback when he got here?

“He was playing linebacker when we first started in the spring. He was just so good at going forward. I think that’s his personality. It’s an attacking type of football personality. Really felt like he was so good as a downhill type of linebacker, to be able to do that all the time, be a downhill, aggressive football player, fullback would be a great position for him.”


You said you wanted to give some of the younger guys reps last week, is there anybody who has stood out in your mind?


“Oh yeah, there’s been a bunch of good work going on, whether it’s the Monday scrimmages or the opportunities and practices we had last week. Several guys.


Can you name some of those, or would you rather not?


“Oh, name somebody, leave somebody out. Lot of really good work going on in those practices. I think our players really look forward to them to.”


How difficult is it to try to keep up momentum when you have a winning streak after the bye week?


“We’re just attacking this week. Everybody coming in, we practiced yesterday as a matter of fact, so it’s already begun. We practiced last week during the week. Can’t really say it stopped. Continuous. It’s been continuous. We strive for continuous improvement, so it fits them well.”


How has Karan Higdon’s maturity helped him?


“Well, he’s been — how’s his maturity? Yeah, he’s a very mature guy. It helps as a football player, very goal-oriented. Think that’s a very mature trait. He understands the benefit of hard work, and a very good example to the entire team. He’s a leader and he’s played tough, in practices and in games.”


In what ways does Chase and his unique personality lead this team off the field or emotionally, and do you enjoy that he lets people see what he’s like?


“He is definitely a great example and always has been. … What he does as an example playing football, on the field. Just does everything at such an intense level. Hard working level. He’s gung-ho, too, as he’s doing it. Seems to be a rarer trait in individuals these days. I think sometimes you see younger people thinking it’s more cool to have an approach that they’re too cool for school as opposed to gung-ho. Chase is definitely a throwback in my mind in the area of attacking each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, which I have great respect for.”


Jim, do you anticipate to Chris Webber in town this weekend?




He’s coming?


“Anticipate him being the honorary captain for this Saturday’s ballgame.”


What’s that gonna be like for you?


“Very excited about it.”


Did you pay attention to the Fab Five when they were here?


“Of course. Like most everybody. Was a big fan.”


Just talk about Andrew Stueber’s improvement and what you’ve seen from him as the year has progressed


“Andrew’s doing a nice job. Just shoulder to the grindstone and patiently getting better and understanding that it’s a process. But he attacks it every day. I like Andrew a lot.”


Talk about Will Hart. His punting average, inside the 20, kicks, and what he’s meant for field position, what he’s accomplished this season


“He’s done a great job. See it in practice and in games. he’s just been lights out. It’s great. He’s made huge improvements in his game, the punting position is one that we’re really confident in. He’s performed consistently well, punt after punt.”


Do you have any update on Juwann Bushell-Beatty? Did he practice last week?


“No update on Juwann so far.”


Talk a little bit about Trace McSorley and the challenges he presents


“Terrific player. Consistently plays really well. Always is a threat in the passing game, defending the passing. He’s running the ball a lot more this year, really effectively. He’s quite a quarterback. Their win-it factor shows up over and over. Big challenge for our team this week.”


What’s allowed Karan Higdon and the running game to be so effective this year?


“Lot of factors. Improvement and sustaining blocks. Getting on the right guy. Less mental error in our blocking assignments. Patience by our team and trust in the run and going back to the run. Constantly having that as a weapon in our attack. Karan deserves a lot of credit. He’s gotten tough yards and yards after contact, yards more than what the play is blocked for. Karan has also shown a real penchant for the big play. He can break out of a pile of players as good as anybody. Knowing that’s always a possibility, that’s a huge factor in staying with the run like we do. Talking about the plus-50 (yard) type of runs that he’s got a real knack for.”


Your team is one of the best in the country at time of possession. Is that something that you were thinking about at the beginning of the year, or is that just a product of the running game being what it is?


“I think that’s a team product when the defense is really good and the offense is good at making first downs, moving the football and scoring points. And the special teams is doing their job.”


Would you care to comment on the Big Ten’s reprimand of you and Devin Bush?


“No, I don’t think I have anything to add to that. At this time.”



October 30th, 2018 at 8:38 AM ^

Well that was a pile of words.

No knock on Ethan Sears for providing us with the transcript, the service is appreciated, but I think this is what the word "farce" is for.


October 30th, 2018 at 8:38 AM ^

I would rather have heard Coach Harbaugh talk about his thoughts on World War II or some non-football related topic that matters to him.

I don't blame him for the answers; I blame the press for uninformed lazy questions. "Can you talk about..." NO!


October 30th, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

It is almost a semi-rehearsed back and forth.

The reporters have to ask their question. The coach is obligated to be there and of course won't say anything that might have an effect on the game.

And of course both sides aren't really going to say anything ... especially before the big game.

REPORTER: Coach, Coach, over here, is your star player whose presence on the field can force the other side to make major alignment and personnel shifts going to be out for the big game?

COACH: Don't know; he's day to day. We'll see. It is up to the medical staff who can't talk because it would be a HIPPA violation.

REPORTER: Coach, Coach, Are there any inflammatory statements you'd like to say about the opposition and their mothers?

COACH: No, I have the utmost respect for them. They are a good team and play well in all phases of the game and I respect all mothers.

REPORTER: Coach, coach, you say all phases, but isn't there a weak spot that you'd like to share with us, the public, and the opposition.

COACH: No, I think they are a fine team and our whole team, coaching staff and myself have a real challenge ahead.

REPORTER: Coach, coach, are there any trick plays or innovations that you'll spring on the opposing team on Saturday? Something that might break big for a touchdown, sack or turnover?

COACH: We are constantly reassessing our play, our play calling and our own tendencies. It is a long season and we do try to adjust given unfortunate injuries and changes in personnel.

REPORTER: Coach, coach, will you say something that we can record into a 10 second sound bite or make into a GIF and get my byline onto the news? 

COACH: I'm don't have anything except that we are facing a fine team and we'll have to play hard on Saturday. Thank you.

Mr Miggle

October 30th, 2018 at 9:23 AM ^

I agree in general about the "can you talk about" questions. but here, most of them were quite specific.

Just talk about Andrew Stueber’s improvement and what you’ve seen from him as the year has progressed? is a good question. What more specific question about him would have been better? They also asked about the young players who stood out in practice and he refused to name any. 

Really, I thought the ratio of good questions to lazy ones was pretty high. I think Harbaugh is just even more reluctant to give out any info before a big game.


October 30th, 2018 at 9:41 AM ^

I like most things about Harbaugh, but I don't really see the need for him to make his press conferences dry to the point of being kind of intentionally awkward.  There are coaches who are as dialed in as he is that still manage to put some window dressing on their answers to engage the media/fan base.  Rashan Gary's mom just had to put out a novel of a message as to how Gary is doing, what is happening, what to expect, and probably would not have had to do that if Harbaugh would just engage the question as its most basic level. 

"He is doing well, obviously working through a shoulder injury that has been tough for him.  Still obviously part of the team, working with the team to try to get back on the field.  Good teammate.  Unfortunate that he is injured but he is working hard and hopefully can be a solid contributor to the defense at some point going forward."

Why not that?  What is the downside?


October 30th, 2018 at 10:04 AM ^

I get what you are saying, but he is who he is.  Like so many public figures, Harbaugh has figured out that anything that he says has the potential to be parsed and misinterpreted by the media.  He is completely focused on preparing his football team, and nothing else.  I think that to him, the value of giving good answers to the press is near zero, but the potential downside in terms of distraction is more than zero, so in balancing the scales, it is not worth it to him to answer.  

As to your hypothetical answer, while it is what 99% of coaches would say, think back to just before MSU when Harbaugh actually gave an answer that was similar in substance to that and people started interpreting that as him saying that Rashan could play but decided not to (which was part of what caused Mama Bear to have to issue her social media post).  Sometimes, saying nothing is better.  


October 30th, 2018 at 10:09 AM ^

I don't really think that is who he is, that is the thing.  He is informative and fun on Attack Each Day, he really enjoys talking football, loves everything about the game, and can be really hilarious.  His analysis of the Florida State program before the Orange Bowl was epic.  He knew the name and breed of the horse that the Seminole rode in on!  

He just walks into these press conferences and completely turns off.  I get that he doesn't want to like divulge too much about injuries, game plan, etc., but he really goes beyond that to become off-putting and he really isn't like that a large majority of the time otherwise.


October 30th, 2018 at 10:43 AM ^

He’s contractually obligated to attend these pressers, and he doesn’t see any value in them. He’s doing something he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t believe in. It’s that simple.

This leads to answers like, “We practiced, watched tape, and lifted weights.” I think that’s the best answer I’ve ever heard.



October 31st, 2018 at 11:07 AM ^

There's a big, huge difference between his podcast and a weekly presser - he wants to do the podcast and is surrounded by close associates.  Neither is true of the pressers.  He opens up to people he likes - Ira, Rich Eisen, other podcast guests and M sports alumni - but never has for any national interview.

You're trying to turn him into Dabbo Sweeney, who gives a fantastic interview to anyone.  But you can't - he and Dabbo have very different personalities.  Deal with it...

yossarians tree

October 30th, 2018 at 2:25 PM ^

I think when he first got the job Harbaugh was much more animated with the press. He was still very guarded about his players, injuries, etc. but he would sometimes give great answers that had nothing to do with the question! And everybody ate it up because he is such an odd dude. But as the media machine began chewing on some of his best observations they started to turn his words against him.

I'm not even talking about local media. It's more the big, national, 30,000 feet media like ESPN and Finebloom, and those assholes who just want a sensationalist story and like to turn sports figures into caricatures. This is why so many people believe the myth of Harbaugh (insane, grating, wears out his welcome) as opposed to who we know he is (family man, sincere, devoted to his players first and foremost).


October 30th, 2018 at 11:55 AM ^

ijohnb... always so easy to tell everybody else what they should do or say with their life. how is everything doing in the little world you live in? do you really believe you have all the answers and would know exactly what "you" would say and do if you switched places with harbaugh tommorrow?


October 30th, 2018 at 3:56 PM ^

Because you said "hopefully" and now the press starts speculating that he's out for the season making even more stress for Rashan and his family and his teammates . . . Harbaugh has 20 years head coaching experience dealing with press -- he has it well figured out and if he does it differently than you would the assumption should be yyou are thinking about it wrong.

Hail Harbo

October 30th, 2018 at 6:43 PM ^

Indeed, Harbaugh got a virtual slap by momma Rashan for implying Gary was doing a Nick Bosa.  His inartful answer necessitated her tweet, for both Gary's and Harbaugh's benefit.  Harbaugh doesn't speak well extemporaneously and this press conference is a product of that realization.


October 30th, 2018 at 9:00 AM ^

"Ben Mason's contact craving"

People are complaining about how they talked about nothing, but there's some serious Buddhist philosophy in this one. Looking forward to Ben talk about dependent origination in his next interview.


October 30th, 2018 at 9:22 AM ^

Why do reports insist on having every "question" start with "Talk about..."

So lazy and not at all a way to get interesting or detailed responses.  How difficult would it be to ask something a bit more specific.  Something like "Trace McSorley seems to excel when he gets outside of the pocket and free-lances a bit.  How do you approach a player like him differently than a more traditional pocket passer?" 

Even if it still gets a stock answer, at least it is a more interesting question than "talk about Trace McSorley." 


October 30th, 2018 at 9:47 AM ^

Typically, "questions" that begin as "Talk about..... so and so" are when a reporter or interviewer has "given up" on trying to get actual information and now is just getting a necessary sound bite.  More specific, informed questions don't go anywhere with Harbaugh.  He is usually even more curt in his answers the more specific they get. 

Reporter - "Coach, Trace McSorley is a very effective runner, last year, the defense had a difficult time containing both McSorely and a really good running back, what adjustments do you think the defense will have to make to take that away."

Coach - "Yeah, McSorley, good runner.  A lot of quarterbacks that we play can run.  Something you need always need to take a look at."

Why would you spend the time tailoring some kind of unique, memorable question?  It does not enhance the level of information you get back with him.  You are better off just going with "talk about....."



October 30th, 2018 at 10:05 AM ^

Sometimes the reporters do ask really dumb questions, but people here complain about the questions all the time and I'm not sure what they expect. If you ask about interesting stuff like playcalling or play design, he will say nothing. If you ask about health status, he'll say nothing. If you just say "Talk about..." You generally get an uninteresting answer. Harbaugh wants to say as little as possible, which is fine, but it doesn't make sense to blame the reporters for him doing that. It only gets interesting when there's a bit of a heated exchange or he goes off on some tangent and gives one of his odd Harbaughisms.


October 30th, 2018 at 10:27 AM ^

The weekly questions these lazy reporters ask "talk about Chase and the season he's had",  "talk about Ben Mason, what makes him such a good fullback." Same useless questions every week, same injury questions they know will not get answered. I would give short answers if I were Harbaugh as well. 


October 30th, 2018 at 10:32 AM ^

These constant coach press conferences all over the country are a waste of time. You either get fluff or non-answers from coaches. There’s never any real news from any of them.

I think Harbaugh enjoys messing with the reporters. The foolish questions are really because what the hell is there to meaningfully ask that doesn’t amount to, “What plays are you going to run in the first offensive series, coach?”


October 30th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

Woody Hayes taught me to look at last year’s post game interview for additional insight.  e.g. Bo told me he was going to throw on play action fake taken from comment from Bo that he would NOT play for a tie next year.

B. Kelly’s game plans reflect previous year’s comments e.g.  we over estimated Michigan’s offense which is code for your QB is in over his head but adults don’t name names of young men.  Hence the whooping the next year with the same QB.


October 30th, 2018 at 2:57 PM ^

Coach Harbaugh - You've called the bye week  "improvement week". What is the area on the team that you see as needing the least improvement? Could be rephrased as "What is your team best at?"

I dunno..Is that stupid? Would he answer it?