Best and Worst: OSU

Submitted by bronxblue on November 30th, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Let's get to it.  I was traveling most of Sunday, so this is going up a bit late.  


Worst:  Tapping Out



I know I'm just a guy who writes a couple of paragraphs interspersed with animated gifs a week about Michigan football, but man was this a tiring season.  The on-field play was bad enough, but then you have everything with Hoke, Brandon, player injuries, Shane Morris's concussion, Frank Clark's domestic violence situation, and everything else that turned what should have just been a bad season into a clown show.  It's a testament to the coaches and players that they remained as upbeat and non-homicidal as they did, but I would love nothing more than for next season to be overwhelmingly boring.  I know some people have knocked Brian for not keeping up with the UFRs and the like, but if I had to watch replays of this season intensely and try to tease out meaning going forward, I'd never leave my room or bathe.



Worst:  A Very Brady Holiday Game



It's already been said, but this season epitomized the Brady Hoke experience at Michigan.  The game could not have started worse, with Gardner throwing a headless turkey of a pass that was intercepted by OSU, and the Buckeyes quickly capitalized with a TD.  The next drive featured two huge sacks by OSU's stud line, and it felt like the rout was on.    But then Michigan held tough, scored on a couple of long drives, and would have entered the half with the lead had (sigh) they not given up an all too-familiar end-of-the-half TD run to Barrett.  Still, for over a half Michigan looked like they could hang with one of the best teams in the country, seemingly playing up to the talent on the recruiting trail if not on the field.  Of course, the fact "keeping up with OSU for part of a game" qualifies as a positive sign for UM is pretty damning praise.  But whatever, the Game felt like a game for the second year in a row despite the trajectory of the club coming in.


But every Michigan fan has seen this movie a million times, and there's a reason Hoke has been various hot seats since midway through 2012.  His teams seem capable in spurts, but against elite teams they fall apart amid a cloud of janky offenses, overwhelmed/non-adaptive defenses, and the types of mental errors and coaching mistakes that you just don't see with other top programs.  Outside of one completion to Devin Funchess, Michigan's offense plugged along but never really exploded; it's a testament to their determination and heart that they scored 28 points, but they needed drives of 7, 15(!), 12, and 9 plays to do it, and none were shorter than 75 yards.  On one hand, that was the most consistent offensive performance the Wolverines have shown against a team with a pulse all season, but it also highlighted how uncreative/un-explosive the team has been all year.


The defense did what it could, forcing OSU to punt 4 times, which feels like some type of record, but it also gave up nearly 500 yards and struggled to deal with yet another mobile QB, as Barrett ran for 2 TDs and threw for another before breaking his ankle.  Michigan had trouble getting pressure all day, failing to record a sack and only really threatening a handful of times.  OSU converted on 7 of 13 3rd downs, and... you know, it just wasn't good.  On paper they played well enough, but Michigan's long drives kept OSU's offense off the field as much as Michigan's play did, and they still dropped 35 points on 9 meaningful drives, and with a chance to boot OSU off the field on 4th-and-1 down 7, Michigan gave up a nearly-untouched Ezekiel Elliott 44-yard TD run that effectively ended the game.


On one hand, it was an entertaining game for one of the few times all year, and Michigan played with the passion, cohesiveness, and efficiency great teams display against other top programs.  Watching this game, it looked for long stretches like two national-caliber teams out there, trading shots in a meaningful rivalry game.  And then reality set in and Michigan reverted to the team we've seen for years now, one incapable of just keeping pace, of playing the type of fundamentally-sound, "big boy" football its coaches expound upon every week and claim they see every day in practice.  Michigan played like an overmatched underdog holding close, like a more historically-relevant Indiana or Illinois, and not the team a decreasingly-number of diehards claim are a "rival" to OSU.


Hoke should be and probably is gone, and I'll get to my feelings about the likely successors.  These last two weeks showcase the best and worst of his tenure as a head coach, and the fact that means two semi-competitive losses is the perfect summation as to why they should be his last at UM.


Best:  Why Can't They Make the Whole Season Out of OSU's Defense?



To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, if Michigan is only capable of playing this way offensively when they line up against OSU, they might as well just schedule the Buckeyes 12 times.  Devin Gardner did throw the interception, and it was his fumble on a sack that OSU returned for a defensive TD following Elliott's TD run, but he also threw the ball as well as he has in weeks, completing over 2/3's of his passes for 233 yards and 2 TDs, and spread out the receptions to 9 different players, 10 if you include the throwback pass he caught from Drake Johnson on a pretty brilliant playcall that helped Michigan tie the game at 21 in the 3rd.  It wasn't anywhere close to his record-breaking performance from last year, but Gardner acquitted himself well enough in his final game as a Wolverine, and it was a bit poetic that his last completion of his career was a great little throw and catch to Canteen for Michigan's last TD.  Of course, the fact it was in a game Michigan wound up losing by 14 takes a bit of luster off the rose, but this is the "happy thoughts" part of this diary.



Drake Johnson had his 3rd really solid performance in 4 games, scoring 2 TDs and would have likely finished with 100 yards had he not been injured in the 3rd quarter.  What he does isn't necessarily flashy and I'm not sure if he could hold up to every-down back-type carries for a season, but his one-cut-and-go style meshes well enough with the playcalling, and outside of Green in spurts I'm not sure there has been another back this year who has shown Johnson's consistency these past 4-5 games.  In this game, nobody other than Gardner had more than 3 carries, and Norfleet's 10 yards were the most non-QB yards on the ground amongst Hayes, Smith, and Kerridge.  Once Johnson went down, so did the rest of the rushing offense.


According to the internet I am to believe that Devin Funchess GAF this game because he caught 7 balls for over 108 yards (only the second time sigh he's done so all year), but it also felt like one of the few times this year Michigan hasn't been afraid to throw downfield a bit and challenge defensive backs.  The offensive line gave up 5 sacks, but they tended to come in bunches and, overall, Gardner was able to survey the field and find open receivers reasonably well, especially when the pocket moved with him and bought him some time with his legs.  If this is Funchess's last game (and barring some crazy ju-ju by the next head coach or a poor draft report, it is), at least it felt like he had some chances to make plays and fulfill a bit of the promise expected before this broken season took place.


I'd like to say this portends some hope for next year, with only Gardner and (probably) Funchess gone, but I'm not going to fall for that fool's gold again quite yet.  Whoever takes over next year will find an offense capable of playing a couple of different ways, and even though a big part of me wishes we could have seen a healthy Devin Gardner is a spread-style offense behind an improving line, Morris and co., there's enough talent and ability at the QB position to make me think a repeat of 2008 ThreetSheridanDamnit isn't in the cards.


Good(?):  Good Many Cooks in the Backfield



Coming into the season, one of the key questions around these parts was whether or not Michigan had anyone who could matriculate the ball forward without (a) fumbling, (b) exploding, or (c) not following that up with three carries going backwards.  Transfer Ty Isaac was going to be redshirt, but after a disastrous 2013 people expected the slew of highly-rated freshmen to mature into competent rushers, especially if the offensive line made some positive strides.  For most of the year, it looked like Green was figuring out how to be a semi-effective rusher in college, while Smith would do his phonebooth runs where he fell forward for a couple of yards.  Nobody was going to mistake it for past efforts by Hart or Perry, but it was consistently mediocre, which counts as a "win" in my book.


Then Green went down and Smith stumbled getting the lion's share, while guys like Hayes and Norfleet provided change-of-pace but still felt like misshaped pieces in the offensive scheme.  All wasn't "lost" because this is 2014 Michigan, so not having a semi-competent rushing attack is WAYYYYYYY down the list of concerns, but given the improved play by the offensive line it was a bit sad it wasn't being put to better effect.  And then Drake Johnson had a good day against IU on Homecoming and we all kinda said "good for him" and figured that was it.  Two weeks later he was held in check by Northwestern, but that game was played on the M00N and DeVeon Smith had his best game in a Michigan uniform.  Since then, Johnson has played really well, and at some point the sample size  and opponent arguments disappear and you can begin to (cautiously) get excited about him coming back next year and competing with Green, Isaac, and Smith for meaningful carries.


Johnson isn't as dynamic as Smith or Green can be, and while Isaac looked good at USC during his freshman year who knows what effect the year away from the game will be, especially if he is learning yet another offense that may or may not be similar to the ones he's been exposed to the past 2 years.  I do think next year will feature a healthy dose of real Drake Johnson hype, especially if Michigan sticks with a similar blocking and running scheme, as his point-and-shoot running style works really well with zone blocking that was most effective this year.  Green was probably the "feature" back this year before he went down, and Isaac should get a good number of carries as he is eased back into the game.  So that means the backfield could well be a strength for the team in 2015, which would be great considering Michigan will be breaking in a new QB who, at best, has played 2 meaningful games in his college career.


Of course, there are only so many carries to go around, so I wonder if every rusher will be back next year, but that's a discussion for another day.  It still remains a positive uptick for the Michigan rushing offense to put up solid efforts for the better part of the month, and credit should go to the backs and the offensive line for making that a reality.


Worst:  Missing Frank Clark


I didn't want to say much last week given what transpired with Clark, but with the end of the season it is hard not to look back at the games against OSU and (in particular) Maryland and not see where his absence had a significant effect on how the defense played.  Clark wasn't a top-flight DE, but he was a disruptive force on a line that has lacked punch for most of Hoke's tenure, and more importantly possessed the athleticism to string out the QB-based running plays that killed Michigan against Maryland and are the bread-and-butter of OSU's offense.  I don't think he would have made a difference in the overall outcome against OSU, but I absolutely believe him not being available against Maryland cost Michigan that game.  Of course, I'm not condoning what happened in that hotel room and absolutely agree with Hoke's decision to dismiss him from the team, but from a football perspective him being gone hurt a Michigan team that could have at least won 6 games.


Best:  Defensive Effort


I know I seemed a bit underwhelmed about the defense's performance above, but I absolutely felt like they played as best as they could given just how scary-good OSU's offense can be.  Michigan didn't force a turnover or get a gift possession after a bad punt return or fumbled snap like other OSU opponents, so they deserve credit for giving up 35 points the honest way.  As noted earlier, they were without Frank Clark, and while early-season J.T. Barrett might have been susceptible to weird blitzing patterns or different alignments, by this time in the season Barrett was just another Heisman trophy-caliber QB coming off the Meyer assembly line.  And OSU's offense is designed to pick away at your weaknesses, like they did against MSU, like they did for stretches against PSU, and like they've done to great effect to everyone else this season save VT.  So while it is clear the corners aren't as talented as we all hoped coming into the year, and the linebackers struggled at times in coverage, and the run defense benefitted immensely from missing teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska, it was still a unit that "came to play" every week, as cliche as that is, and one a different team is probably good enough to win you 9-10 games.  And with only a couple of key contributors leaving (Ryan, Beyer, Taylor, Clark), it feels like a unit that the next coach should be able to meld pretty quickly.


Meh:  Flightracker 2015!



If you want a full recap of the coaching search and the key players involved, check the various diaries from alum96, Eye of the Tiger, and others, along with the front-page posts by Brian and the staff.  They have fantastic takes on the candidates, and I have nothing substantive to add in terms of names.


To steal a line from Brian, I don't know man.  Everyone and his mom at Michigan are calling for Jim Harbaugh; the 49ers have obliged by all but packing Jim's bags for him and called for an Uber headed to the airport.  Barring a run to the Super Bowl, I don't see a world in which Harbaugh is coaching in San Francisco next year, and even if they win out I could see both sides cutting ties at their highest point.  And by all accounts, he's interested in coming to Michigan, with those insider-y comments like "he feels like he might do better in college" and the usual platitudes about wanting to come back to his alma mater.  So the tracks are absolutely greased for Harbaugh to ride into town and save the day.


Now, I know I speak for the minority, but I'm not in love with the prospect of Harbaugh being the next head coach.  This isn't because I want to be a contrarian, or because I want to start a debate.  Objectively, Harbaugh is the best option for Michigan if the goal is winning quickly and (hopefully) voluminously while apeasing the most fans.  He had good success in college at Stanford, and though it was brief he absolutely showed an acumen recruiting top players to a down program.  He then went to the pros and had one of the most successful runs any new coach has ever experienced, winning 36 games in 3 years and going to at least the conference final every year.  He's young enough to stick around, and his ties to the University are unparalleled amongst the available options.  Plus, it would be fun to finally have a coach who would absolutely call Mark Dantonio out on being an a-hole and, well, we can only dream about that first post-game handshake.  And yet, there remain reasons why I really, truly wish Michigan would look somewhere else for their next coach.


First off, what I dislike about Harbaugh as a head coach is what he symbolizes.  Michigan got itself into this near-decade of sub-mediocrity because it doggedly holds onto the past, pulling off their best Notre Dame "echos of the past" by talking about how good they were years ago and how they just need to get back to playing football the "Michigan Way."  This mentality is obviously not shared by all Michigan fans, but there is this contingent that has been chasing ghosts since Bo left, and it has colored their worldview to such an extent that anyone who doesn't subscribe to that notion of Wolverine football is shouted down for "ignoring history" or recognize true greatness.  And yes, I believe Bo was a great coach for Michigan when he was there, and he absolutely helped revive a faltering program and bring them back to national prominence.  But he's also a guy who has 1 more Rose Bowl win than Mark Dantonio and the same number as John Cooper, whose teams always seemed a step below elite (save for your outlier year here or there), and whose memory exceeded his accomplishments around the time Carr left and the first "outsider" was let into his Hall.  Harbaugh has such a strong connection to Bo, to an era when Michigan could just be "Michigan" and that was enough to win most games, and I don't believe it is possible for Michigan, or really any program, to go back to that.  So through no fault of his own, his existence feels a bit like the "break glass to stop time" emergency release that will further keep Michigan a step behind other national powers that don't seem afraid to break with tradition and the withered alumni tree.


Now, I don't think Harbaugh would try to recreate 1980's Michigan football, but at the same time what we've seen from him in college has been schemes that wouldn't be out of place decades ago.  Stanford was a run-heavy outfit with a pretty basic defense that beat you by forcing you to grind down the field; it worked because Harbaugh is a good coach and his teams were smart, heady outfits that played within their limitations.  But the dirty little secret about 2009/2010 in the Pac-10 is that they were pretty terrible years for the conference.  Stanford and Oregon finished #4 and #3, respectively, in 2010, but the next best team was 8-5 USC coached by Lane Kiffin, and Oregon ran Stanford off the field when they played them.  In 2009 Stanford got on the national map when the upset Oregon, but that wasn't a banner year for the conference either, with Oregon winning the league at 10-3 and Pete Carroll's last USC team limping to a 9-4 finish with sanctions looming.  That isn't to outright dismiss Harbaugh's accomplishments because winning at Stanford is incredibly tough and his teams were trending upward, but at least some of that success should be attributed to playing some pretty weak competition, probably even weaker than what he'd see in the B1G his first year.


What we've seen nationally is that unless you have overwhelming talent, which Michigan doesn't have, the best teams employ offensive and defensive systems that attack your weaknesses dynamically and aren't afraid to fight left-handed if it makes sense.  It's how OSU turned a redshirt freshman into a record-breaking QB, or how Auburn drops 600 yards on Alabama (in a losing effort, yes), or how Rich Rodriguez is playing for the Pac-12 title in his third season at Arizona.  Maybe Harbaugh learned more coaching Kapernick and having to adapt to his playing style, so this could be a false concern.  But at the same time, it is reasonable to wonder if the best version of Stanford is the ceiling Michigan is looking at.  That might win them a bunch of games in this conference, but it will still put them behind OSU more times than not, and nationally I'm not sure that gets Michigan any closer to being nationally relevant year-by-year.


But beyond that concern of hoping for past glories, the other key reason I'm down on Michigan going for Harbaugh is that I don't think he's coming here, or that he'd stick around all that long if he did.  Like I said earlier, he's had a near-unprecedented run of success while at SF, and his name is already being thrown around for spots in NY, Cleveland, Atlanta, etc.  This isn't Nick Saban finishing under .500 in his two years in Miami, or Spurrier spectacularly flaming out in Washington and running back to college and its noon tee times.  Harbaugh isn't likely done with the NFL, and if he has some early success at UM that siren song is only going to get louder.  You may say "that's great, it means he'll win now and set Michigan back on the national map", but I could see that being a bit of a distraction and having a negative effect on recruiting.  Furthermore, and this is absolutely a personal take with no basis in provable fact, but I'm not sold Harbaugh views Michigan the way other people think he views Michigan.  This was the guy who took shots at the education, at the way the program was run once he was a head coach and recruiting against them, and he's not said or done anything since then to make me believe his view of Michigan has changed demonstrably.  We all laugh now at Brady Hoke for saying "This is Michigan, fergodsakes" because he failed to back up his love with results on the field, but there is something to be said for a guy who wants to stay and create a legacy at your school.  Harbaugh would absolutely be positive about Michigan while he is there, but I also think he'd be looking around at other opportunities when appropriate.  I'm not sure if "cold-eyed focus" and cutthroat calculus are good or bad traits, but Harbaugh has them in spades.


So I guess that's why I'd love for Michigan to look at younger options, guys who would jump at the opportunity to coach at Michigan for decades and turn it into their own instead of a guy who is sorta, kinda being pushed out for political reasons in the NFL and might land back at Michigan because it is the best option at the time.  The more I see and hear about guys like Herman at OSU, Frost at Oregon, or Aranda at Wisconsin the more I'd like a younger coordinator who has "apprenticed" under a top-flight coach and who seems poised to take over a program.  I know people say Michigan doesn't need to take chances on coaches, but Gus Malzahn had one season of HC experience at Arkansas St. before he took over at Auburn and turned that program around immediately, and guys like Bob Stoops and Chip Kelly got their first HC chances at programs where they flourished almost immediately.  Age is just a number, and getting a guy with "head coaching experience" instead of "a clue" is what led us down the Hoke wormhole.  "Michigan" does a fair bit of recruiting for you, and a young guy coming in will undoubtedly keep around the pieces from the current regime that work and won't be afraid to upset the apple cart a bit where necessary.  Who knows if any of these guys will turn out to be great HCs, but taking a risk on an unknown with upside sure beats out the alternative of Miles or retreads that seems to be option B if/when Harbaugh takes a hard pass.


I commend you for reading this far, so I'll end this here.  I want Michigan to win, to get back to being the type of program that deserved to be called a "Leader and Best" on the football field.  And maybe Harbaugh is the perfect compliment of old-world charm and new-world winning.  But what I fear is that the powers in control of the decision are going into it with blinders on, and for a school that has so many innovative elements it would be depressing to see them not explore every option out there.


Best:  The End


Finally, my Saturday nights/Sundays are free!  I want to thank everyone who reads and comments on these diaries, and for putting up with my rants and long-winded explanations.  I've enjoyed trying to bring a bit of levity to this season, and look forward to 2015 when Shane Morris and Drake Johnson ride Harbaugh mania to the Rose Bowl!


Wolverine 73

December 1st, 2014 at 9:47 AM ^

That Scott Frost is to Nebraska what Jim Harbaugh is to Michigan.  Maybe Nebraska should hire Harbaugh and Michigan hire Frost so each could change its culture?  Anyhow, I get there are concerns with Harbaugh, but anyone who has accomplished what he did at Stanford and the 49ers is far, far less of a gamble than an untried OC from wherever.  If Harbaugh is interested, it seems obvious you take a chance on him.  Nothing is guaranteed.


November 30th, 2014 at 10:15 PM ^

Don't totally agree with your Harbaugh take. Only because I hadn't looked at it like you. You bring up some great points. Specifically the weak Pac 10 at the time and will he be happy? Your point on recruiting is spot on.  Nobody is worried about Meyer, Saban or Stoops going to NFL (anymore).  That being said, I'll still take him. But I too question his willingness to forgo NFL glory 

Thanks for taking risks in your posts, you make us all think.

I expect a full write up on the coach we do hire, with your usual wit and wisdom.

Swayze Howell Sheen

November 30th, 2014 at 10:22 PM ^

On getting through the year, and in style. Looking forward to reading these when the team has a better year!

I think a Herman or Aranda would be fascinating to see; might not make the older fans happy at first but could lead to something special. Doubt it will happen though, sadly.

I think the Bo everyone remembers is the Bo who lost only a handful of games from 1970-1975. An amazing run. And also the guy whose team never really lost by more than one score (also only a handful of times). Maybe not quite what people remember but still pretty damn impressive. Yes he lost too many bowl games - but that doesn't make him dantonio or cooper.


November 30th, 2014 at 10:32 PM ^

You say "Johnson isn't dynamic as Smith or Green can be...".  What have you seen from Smith that makes you think he can be more dynamic than Johnson?

I thought it was pretty telling that the coaches rarely, if ever, subbed out Johnson for Smith until Johnson got hurt.

You Only Live Twice

November 30th, 2014 at 11:01 PM ^

This diary wasn't just about yesterday, it was about Michigan past, present and future. Thanks first of all for these beyond-excellent chronicles of our games this season.  I'm not fully onboard with your Harbaugh take but it's food for thought.  He's not going to sign an extension to be traded to a lesser NFL team.   Then again no one knows anything about his purported desire to return to Michigan. No documentation on that, only what people wish.  Don't know what to think right now about CC anything until the pain starts to lessen.

Anyway.  Most of all, BronxBlue, thanks for recognizing the passion and the fight that was put forward by the Michigan team and coaches on Saturday.  All week I told myself that I'd watch and not care what happened, with the conclusion being foregone.  Well you can tell yourself you don't care, and maybe some have succeeded in that level of compartmentalizing.  I couldn't NOT care, I cared so much that the pain is just as great tonight as it has been every hour since the game was over.  Mismatched HELL.  Team 135 rallied to make this a game, this was The Game (sorry MSU fans that is not going to change).  It was The Game and always will be. 

edit:  Thanks again for your "Best and Worst" diaries, and as we say to fellow season ticket holders, see you next year?


Sione's Flow

November 30th, 2014 at 11:17 PM ^

Excellent points made. Harbaugh seems to be the consensus favorite, but I have doubts he'll take the job. If he does, perhaps he could groom a successor before bolting to the NFL again.


November 30th, 2014 at 11:26 PM ^

These are great.

I have my fingers crossed about Harbaugh.  First that we get him, and second that that's a good thing.

Harbaugh is everybody's Rorschach test.  He will magically cure whatever ailment you think is the problem.  

Not tough enough?  Harbaugh will cure that.  He always talks tough.  Offense too predictable?  Harbaugh will cure that.  He coached Colin Kaepernick and ran some zone read spread plays.  Defense not fast enough?  Harbaugh will cure that.  He's an NFL guy, they're all about fast defenses.  Whatever you are looking for, you can talk yourself into seeing it in Harbaugh.

My concern is that he is a high-drama, um shall we say, prick.  He is Bobby Knight.  He is only tolerable when he is winning big.  The elephant in the room is Holy fuck, he took a pathetic team to 3 straight NFC Championship games and the Superbowl and they still want him gone.

 You can say all you want about Owner egos and personality conflicts, but when a coach brings you the very success you crave when owning an NFL team and you still want him gone, there's more to it than York just being petty. 

If Harbaugh comes here and has some down periods or bad games, he will rip this place apart.  Get ready for some poison press conferences and Pelini-esque telling the fans to go fuck themselves.  It won't be pretty.  It won't just be Hoke's benign evasiveness.

Given where we are right now however, if we have a shot at Harbaugh we have to take it.  We can't afford to take any flyers on potential high-ceiling guys but low floor guys.  We shot that wad with RichRod and then over-corrected with Hoke.

Harbaugh is a known commodity.  He's had success everywhere he's been, and at all levels.  His teams will be sound if not dynamic.  He will not lose to teams he should not.  He will beat Dantonio.  He will be competitive with Meyer but not probably not outcoach him.  His teams will go as far as the talent he has.  He will be stubborn and grouchy as hell.

My fingers are crossed that if he comes here, he has enough initial success to keep from imploding.  He is not without risk.



December 1st, 2014 at 2:09 AM ^

Yes, Harbaugh has won and they still want him gone, BUT I get the impression, the SanFran brass are a bunch of weasels. Public comments, behind the scene comments to the media, floating stories about draft picks during the season while he still is coaching the team in a playoff hunt. Low class moves.

Sir Guy

December 1st, 2014 at 3:47 PM ^

I don't remember any of that happening at Stanford.  If he was really like that, we certainly would have heard about it at Stanford.  He had two sub-par years before he went better than .500.  I don't see him ripping this place apart.  Lack of initial success should not keep him from imploding.

Sione's Flow

December 1st, 2014 at 12:05 AM ^

After Hoke's nonchalant answers and evasiveness, maybe what UM fans and supporters need is someone, who isn't going to blow smoke up their a$$es. Maybe culture shock would do everyone some good. At this moment in time, when UM loses everyone just accepts it. I want a coach who refuses to accept it, I want a coach that gets pissed when he loses. A prime example to me is Urban Meyer in the 2007 MNC. Florida was up by 20 and got a penalty on a kickoff. Meyer went off on the officials, not because he needed to, but because it's what a HC does. Michigan deserves someone who demands results.


December 1st, 2014 at 12:08 AM ^

There's an old saying that goes, "you can't go home again." Hoke proved the saying. Harbaugh may just be stubborn enough to think that the rules don't apply to him. Time will tell.

On a personal note, I saw a job opening at UofM that I was really interested in applying for recently. I polished up my resume, wrote a cover letter, and started checking out Ann Arbor real estate. And the end of the application window came and went and that cover letter is still sitting on my desk. I can't say why exactly, except that I've built a new home out here in SoCal. A lot has changed in the 18 years since I graduated from UofM. It's been even longer for Harbaugh.

The opportunity may be there for Harbaugh. Will he go for it? 


December 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 AM ^

is that you still have a job in SoCal and the combination of living there with a job that is OK was better than living in AA with a job that you'd probably love. I can see that since I would find it near impossible to leave SF even for a perfect job . But Jim has NO job now and has NO idea where he may end up, especially with talk of trades to teams and cities he may find intolerable. Perhaps a great job in an OK city (AA) will be acceptable.


December 1st, 2014 at 12:30 AM ^

I have one disagreement about Harbaugh/Bo's style not having great success in today's football landscape.
One example is Wisconsin. They run the ball effectively and play excellent defense. They seem to be always in the mix the last few years for Big Ten titles. The same style is being implemented at Arkansas. In year two,they have already become competitive and came within one point of beating number one ranked Alabama.Romped LSU and Mississippi. Watch them next year. They will be legit contenders for the SEC title. The offense still works in today's college football. It also makes the defense better(less time on field and more rested) because the offense sustains long time consuming drives. Part of the reason it works is because other teams D doesn't see it much and practice against it. One coach that was mentioned, Aranda might be an out of the box, excellent hire. He's young, coaches great defenses, and probably will have an offense similar to Wisconsin, which is in essence what Bo used to have, and what Harbaugh had at Stanford. It also would be a great fit with the current talent on Michigan's team.


December 1st, 2014 at 1:20 AM ^

on Harbaugh.  Also, there are conflict from NFL and Michigan insiders.  Apparently, NFL people are saying Harbaugh hates college coaching because he hates recruiting and boosters.  He rather stay in NFL and wants to win a SB.  He felt that not winning a SB would gnaw at him and wants an opportunity to do so.

Like you said, Michigan insiders thinks that Harbaugh is ready to come back to college rank. The only thing that both Michigan and NFL people agreed is the only school that Harbaugh would come back to is Michigan.  However, there are several NFL teams would be very interested in Harbaugh.  Oakland remains the top contender for Harbaugh because of location and they have some young pieces that Harbaugh can build around like Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. They are bad enough that they will be picking at top 5 so they can get a game changer player to add to the roster.


December 1st, 2014 at 5:10 PM ^

I wouldn't be surprised if Harbaugh doesn't like the secondary parts of coaching like recruiting and dealing with boosters, but I've read other places that people don't think his personality works at all with NFL-types and college kids/boosters are easier to deal with than millionaires.  

I don't see Oakland being a great option because I think he needs more control than they seem willing to give him, though I could be wrong.  If he stays in the NFL, I suspect he'll try to be a coach/GM-type, or at least have significant input into roster creation and player transactions.  


December 1st, 2014 at 2:12 AM ^

RJMAC pretty much said what I wanted to say about Harbaugh's style.  Miles is basically the same offense.  Considering those are the 2 widely though front runners - well that is most likely the offense.  Wisconsin and MSU are doing well with it in the conf.

I will add Harbaugh absolutely needs a home run DC - his Stanford defenses stunk until he got his current DC who only spent 1 year in college.  It would be interested if he hired Bo P, as those 2 personalities would be awesome together if a bit crazy.

Also I wanted to clarify a point about Isaac who by this point in 9 months will be the most hyped guy since Peppers.. .. you wrote "while Isaac looked good at USC during his freshman year"

I'd say not really - he got like 250 yards and about 30% of that was in a blowout win over a 1-11 Cal.  He was 4th string, and one of the 3 strings ahead of him was another freshman so it wasnt like it was all upperclassmen.  One of the other strings was a converted LB.  He basically got Thomas Rawls type of carries.  So let us PLEASE not hype up players before they do real things on a football field of merit (not accusing you but just preparing for the onslaught of "Isaac should start" we will here all summer).


December 1st, 2014 at 8:55 AM ^

I agree with you that Wiscy and MSU have done well enough with similar offenses, but as noted both have great defenses that absolutely help to patch over some offensive limitations.  And this is purely personal, but I'd like Michigan to try something a bit more out-of-the-box; it feels like RR's defensive failings soured people in power on the terrifying potential of his offense and systems like that.

I agree Harbaugh needs a great DC hire; maybe he brings an NFL guy along in the same vein as Mattison, or maybe he grabs an on-the-rise college DC - I don't have any idea who that would be - and kind of "grooms" him to take over in the future.

Maybe I was a bit too high on Isaac, but I guess after watching both of Michigan's top two backs struggle as freshmen, I recalibrated my expectations for Isaac based on his limited success at USC.  Personally, I think Johnson and Green get spring camp buzz as the starters, with the usually hype around Isaac because he's the new guy.  But yeah, I agree that everyone expecting Isaac to be a stud from day one will be disappointed, though I do think he has the chance to put up some good numbers just because of his pedigree and (limited) early success.


December 1st, 2014 at 2:37 AM ^

I agree with some of your concerns about Harbaugh. I find his sideline demeanor distasteful. He is like a petulant child.

BUT, to think that his coaching is not at the level of Meyer is false. Most former NFL coaches who are in college failed in the NFL. Saban was terrible there, and yet, most think he is the best college coach. Jim Harbaugh has been to at least the NFC championship game 3 years in a row, and the 49ers were bad before he showed up. Only Belichick with the Pats has equalled that in the recent past, and many consider him to be the best coach in the NFL. Also, he has a great QB in Brady, which Harbaugh has not had. Harbaugh has his warts, but I think he equals or surpasses any college coach in coaching ability.


December 1st, 2014 at 9:12 AM ^

I guess my issue isn't that I believe Harbaugh is inferior to other great coaches, only that I don't know enough about him at any one place to be sure.  He was a D1 college coach for 4 years, then coached 4 years in the pros.  Meyer had success at multiple stops, and Belichick has been successful for over a decade, through multuple iterations of his team.  And maybe Harabugh is just as good, but my bigger concern is that he doesn't seem like he's dying to stay in college even if he did coach here, which means we'll be going through the usual "will he stay or go" every year or two until he finally pulls the trigger, and for a program as fractured and muddling as Michigan has been in recent years that isn't a good position to be in.

An Angelo's Addict

December 1st, 2014 at 10:57 AM ^

Thanks for all the write ups this season! I always thought Frost would be a fantastic option, althouhg I assume he is high on the list for Nebraska. I suppose Herman would be our comparable to Frost as he is a potent OC but has his midwest ties already


December 1st, 2014 at 11:16 AM ^

I agree with your general sentiment about ripping off the band-aid on the Michigan-man meme.  

I'd make an exception for JH, however.  I disagree that Stanford's apex represents Michigan's ceiling; it's too sad for me to contemplate otherwise.  I don't agree with some of your reservations about Harbaugh's coaching acumen.  And, I'd welcome a coach who's willing to stick his foot up ....  I don't know if there's causation, but this team appears to me to have been soft, mentally and physically.

But, I don't think we should just fold up the program if JH wants to stay in the NFL.  It's hard to handicap, but it's far from a sure thing.  So, we better have alternatives.  I think there are good alternatives, but not anyone that I'd say is markedly better than JH.


December 1st, 2014 at 11:59 AM ^

Great post, bronxblue.

I share a lot of the concerns about Harbaugh. Thing is, there's no Urban Meyer or equivalent out there right now, so everyone has settled on Harbaugh. Firing Hoke is easy compared to finding an actual elite coach.

Regardless of who that next coach is, it is going to take some time for us to get back to the top. We might be losing only a few players from this team, but assuming Funchess leaves, we'll have lost our main playmakers on both defense (Ryan,Clark) and offense (the Devins). I look down the returning roster and I don't see a single player likely to be a pre-season all-B1G pick (Jourdan Lewis, maybe)? There seems to be a dearth of athleticism, explosiveness, playmaking ability on both sides of the ball. Certainly there are kids with upside - Lewis, Mason Cole, Peppers, etc - but no established stars. The next guy will have to work on Jimmies and Joes as well as Xs and Os.




December 1st, 2014 at 5:44 PM ^

Though I know there was a post about it, but, and perhqps it due to my bias, I thought it deserved a mention and that was Gardner's response to J. T. Barrett getting hurt.


December 3rd, 2014 at 1:13 AM ^

I think in part all quarterbacks have been injured at times and know all too well the risks of a big injury . Most would just walk away , glad it was not them, but this was special as it was two supposed major rivals that are supposed to hate each other. Good to know underneath it all there was sympathy and concern.