Good vs Great Coaching and what are reasonable expectations?

Submitted by ak47 on November 19th, 2017 at 3:29 PM

I know there has been a lot posted on this and I also want to preface this with I don't believe Harbaugh should be fired but I wanted to take a look at what seperates good from great coaches and what we should reasonably hold as expectations.

Michigan has some structural advantages due to recruiting, even with Hokes last two classes being mediocre by Michigan standards they were still higher rated than the vast majority of our opponents.  An average coach could coach most games to a stalemate and win the vast majority of games simply by just not losing to mediocre less talented teams.  As a result the actual value of a coach at Michigan isn't determined by win totals by performance against teams that have similar levels of talent or are having a good season.  So I choose to look at results vs teams that were ranked in two ways, both whether they were ranked at the time (because that is what makese something a big game) and end of season rankings because that is what is probably a better determinant of whether that team was good.

In 2015 vs teams ranked at the time: 3-2, vs teams ranked at the end of season 2-3 

In 2016 vs teams ranked at the time: 1-2, vs teams ranked at the end of season: 3-2

2017 is still incomplete but to this point 1-2 vs teams ranked at the time.

So to this point Michigan is essentially .500 against teams that you look at to determined whether a coach is a good recruiter or actually a good coach. with a 5-6 record against teams ranked at the time and 5-5 against teams ranked at the end of the season.

In comparison here was Hoke's performance agaisnt the same subsets.

2011: vs teams ranked 2-1, end of season 2-1

2012: vs teams ranked 0-4, end of season 1-5

2013 vs teams ranked 1-2, end of season 1-2

2014 vs teams ranked 0-3, end of season 0-3

So this clearly shows that Harbaugh is a superior coach to Hoke and that Hoke really couldn't coach agaisnst any team they weren't physically superior to.  However setting brady hoke as the bar is setting the bar really low.  So while we acknowledge it can be much worse than Harbuagh (hence why I started this by saying I don't want him fired) I also wanted to compare him against an eltie coach and look at Saban's first three years.  When Saban came in Bama was coming off a previous 4 years of 4-9, 6-6, 10-2, and 6-7.  So not exactly a powerhouse and I think a fair comparison in terms of walking into generally superior talent but a bad atmosphere.

2007 vs teams ranked 2-3, end of season1-3

2008 vs ranked teams 3-2, end of season 2-2

2009 vs ranked teams 6-0

So Harbaugh is essentially one year behind Saban and if he can have a good year next year with an experienced team of his recruits would essentially be on the same path.  You are essentially 6 inches from Harbaugh and Saban having the same success rate vs ranked teams through 2 years.  This year is obviously dissapointing but assuming it is a blip Harbuagh has performed relatively well vs ranked teams to this point.  Hope this calms some people down.  Next year is a big year, I think Harbuagh has earned this year as a mulligan. 

Also beat OSU.



November 19th, 2017 at 3:36 PM ^

I dont know what its going to take for some of u to get off the harbaugh train maybe this upcoming 50-3 beatdown at home this weekend will push the fanbase over the edge to demand changes


November 19th, 2017 at 3:43 PM ^

I mean, as long as you realize that any talk of Harbaugh being fired is a non-starter and therefore you are simply blowing smoke out some orifice (I'll let you decide which one)....

Seriously though, criticize the staff if you want, but calling for Harbaugh's head is merely wasteful trolling that will only serve to derail discussion. 


November 20th, 2017 at 9:59 AM ^

For a fan community that likes to feel we are smarter than other fan communities, we sure have our share of dolts.  The David Brandon Debacle left this program in a state of disrepair that is going to take a full five years to rebuild.  Any expectations of immediate championships don't display a lot of intellect.

The Wiscy game was a great example of why Harbaugh didn't want to play Peters this year.  The OL he has cobbled together is nice, but isn't really able to provide enough protection against elite teams for a senior QB, what alone a RS freshman.  

Next year will be better, but it's gonna be 2019 before Harbaugh has his own senior class, not counting the transition year.  We should be grateful for Harbaugh going 10-3 his first two years, with a probable 9-4 this year.  Contrast that to what happened to MD in the tenth year of his program, going 3-9.  

I am as happy to see Harbaugh there as I was when he was hired.  I think they may contend next year, but I still think it's gonna be 2019 before we can expect this program to be in contention for the BT and National Chapionships on a yearly basis.


November 19th, 2017 at 4:07 PM ^

Harbaugh will start to feel heat next year whether we like it or not, unless we have success against our rivals. He has four chances to change that narrative between now and the end of next year. I think we have a good chance to do that. But let's be real, if we lose all of those games, Harbaugh is on the hot seat, plain and simple. You can't go 1-3 vs MSU, 0-4 vs OSU, and 0-1 vs ND and call that remotely successful, especially considering what he is paid. I realize there is not a lot of nuance in this argument, but the media doesn't care about nuance. We need to beat our rivals sooner rather than later. Saturday would be a great start!


November 19th, 2017 at 5:14 PM ^

I completely agree, and - i gotta be honest - I am on the fence with my optimism.

Our rivals-schedule next year is brutal...all away games! I do believe this team will be better than they are today, but I also believe all of our rivals - save ND (maybe) - will also be better than they are today. ND loses some players, but they've been able to get a lot of their backups quality playing time this year too...Also, it's the very first game of the schedule, on the road, in a relatively hostile environment. Not good.

What scares me is this team can both be better and realistically lose to all three of our primary rivals. If that happens, the media will eviscerate our program. 


November 19th, 2017 at 4:25 PM ^

Hailhail47 you are correct! You simply cannot have all the antics that Harbaugh has, get paid what he gets paid, and not be on the hot seat if he doesn't beat MSU and OSU next year. Being a "crazy character" is totally fine if your kicking peoples arse, but when you lose to your Rivals consistently you look more like a professional wrestling character.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 19th, 2017 at 5:10 PM ^


You would actually evaluate JH's tenure at Michigan so far differently if (1) had the exact same W-L record, but (2) didn't engage in "antics?

You are crazy.  

"Antics" or no "antics" does not make JH a better or worse coach in any way. 

The only way to judge a coach/staff is on the plus/minus of wins as compared to expected value of wins based on overall roster talent/experience. 

Moreover, there are no "antics."  That is just click bait hype from sport writers that want to drive traffic. 


November 19th, 2017 at 6:12 PM ^

Ghost of Fritz, do you listen to sports radio, watch ESPN, or go to any sports websites? Harbaugh is known for "antics" that get attention...yes, like Tweeting. Like it or not, that is clearly Harbaugh's reputation nation wide. This is news to you? Really?

Ghost of Fritz…

November 19th, 2017 at 9:53 PM ^

but a few tweets here and there (and that is all it has ever been) is not "antics."

Getting some media attention is not "antics."

And far more often than not it is the media drumming up some false controversy about Harbaugh than Harbaugh doing anything that is, you know, actually controversial.

Just becasue sports talk radio, ESPN, or the internet creates a false reality does not at all mean that it is reality. 


November 20th, 2017 at 1:12 PM ^

You can blame the media for JH's "antics."  He's just being himself, and the media trips over itself to print everything they can.  JH can't get a cat out of a tree with a reporter there to film it. 

One thing I wonder, though, will the team be taking their European trip this year?  I'm not sure that's a great idea.


November 19th, 2017 at 4:58 PM ^

So I'm assuming you want to give Coach Harbaugh a really sweet looking "Participation Trophy" if we lose again next year to OSU and MSU. That is rad. I'll provide some Hi C's to drink on the way to the pizza party.


November 19th, 2017 at 5:02 PM ^

Doesn't matter who the coach is, as sooon as the alumni and fans turn on you (due to losing) and the media piles on, you're richrod or hoke at that point and singing sappy songs at a football banquet. They don't poll a few influential backers alone to see if they're dissatisfied and use that information soley to make their decision, they're asked their opinion for sure but mostly if it's gotten bad such as at the end of Hoke or Rich Rod's term, it's everyone who is pissed and unappy and the collective weight of that spurs the replacement.


November 19th, 2017 at 5:10 PM ^

Unfortunately the media does count, because recruits read and listen to that. Fans listen to it and become more anxious. We need to win big games sooner rather than later to get the monkey off our back.


November 19th, 2017 at 8:10 PM ^

As long as JH wins 8 or more of his games per year he will not be fired- even if he loses to rivals- here is why: UM is a very liberal university and JH has massive liberal political connections and sympathy. Staff and students would go nuts and shut down the U. He is very strongly supported by the University Pres and Trustees no matter what.


November 19th, 2017 at 7:56 PM ^

Harbaugh won't feel the slightest heat. He's already a multimillionaire. He's coaching here out of a deep love of the game and a love for Michigan. Unlike the most whiney part of the contributors here, the AD and the powers in the University actually appreciate the impact of critical injuries. They'll look at this season, especially if the team manages to win nine games, and credit Harbaugh and his staff with over performing in the face of adversity. 

Assuming the injury god gives Michigan a break in 2018, my expected floor is ten games. That, depending on the rest of the season gives Harbaugh from 38 to 40 wins over four years. There is simply no way that four year record puts Harbaugh on the hot seat, even if, God forbid, he's still failed to beat OSU.

For better or worse, the University has always taken the long view about the football program. In the past, both recent and distant, that, more than once, has allowed for down turns that lasted a decade more or less. Thankfully, the folks currently in charge have figured out that quick fixes aren't going to get it done and have signed up for the long haul and picked Harbaugh to get the program where it deserves to be.  


November 20th, 2017 at 12:09 AM ^

and his record based on his performance to date. And clearly there is room for improvement and greater success in big games, especially against our rivals.

We've been having this same argument here and elsewhere where Michigan fans gather and speak out when the team doesn't win. Every fan base does it.

Jim Harbaugh wants to win every game. We've been competitve in every game we've played this year except the second half of the Penn State game. Remember, it was a 14-13 game at half.

We've lost two extremely disappointing games to Michigan State during his tenure and experienced a blowout at the hands of the Buckeyes at home, which again, was a game we were competitive in the first half before it got out of hand.

Harbaugh's staff has changed after each of his first two years. The same folks whom he originally hired to coach with him at Michigan are not still on staff.  He's also altered coaching responsibilities among his staff. When he lost his DC to Maryland's head coaching job, he went out and got Don Brown to replace him. So, the defense that got turned around in his first year under Durkin, got even better last year, the second of two 10-win seasons.

The idea that this coach is reluctant to evaluate staff or look at his program seriously to make it better is beyond ludicrous. And, as for the alleged antics that people are suggesting here are a program drawback, are all based on his efforts to both raise the profile of Michigan's recruiting to an elite level and break new recruiting ground for the school in places where it hasn't had a lot of success. Harbaugh is a lightening rod and lot of folks are envious.

Whether this team plays an exciting brand of football depends on your point of view about the evolution of the game. But for those who insist as we enter Ohio State week that Harbaugh isn't a Bo devotee in the way he runs his program, his team and the way it actually plays, they never saw Bo coach or his team play. Harbaugh models much of his team concepts and player development ideas based on his own Michigan experience. I can see it in the way he uses his personnel especially at tightend and fullback. This is old school power football borne from his time in Ann Arbor and as a pro quarterback and as a coach himself working alongside his dad, brother and other mentors.

The reason he gets paid a lot now is because of his past success and achievement, which was the price of hiring him. And reconstructing a program in your own image so it can succeed on an elite level means you grow it from competitive against everyone to become the bully that no one wants to face. Michigan is obviously not there yet. But it certainly lifted the stakes with his hire and every school we play wants to knock us off the pedestal, especially because of "this" Harbaugh. They even created a new sideline coaching rule because of him.

You know that Michigan games routinely draw better on TV than any other school. My God, the Michigan-Indiana game was the most watched college football game of that Saturday.

Regardless of your disappointment this season, and I've felt the anguish just like everyone else, I have no doubts about the direction of this team or its growth. And Michigan hasn't had 55 points scored on it by Iowa, either, and still have people claim that the coach of that team is one of the greatest in the game. You can suck on any given Saturday and still be redeemed, apparently.

Occam's Razor

November 19th, 2017 at 3:37 PM ^

Really do believe a lot of this has to do with the media hype train that came with Harbaugh. He was messiah status before he even stepped foot on campus. With that kind of hype, let down is inevitable. 

Combine that with the punt fail against MSU, OSU last year and MSU this year (+ 15 years of rivalry/big game futility exception ND) and you got a fanbase freaking out over the slightest obstacles. 

It is what it is. 

Beat OSU and win the bowl game. Make some offensive changes whether it's coaching or scheme.

(And secondly fuck Dave Brandon again for the even year away games at MSU/OSU and wtf Warde Manuel for away ND instead of home in the first leg of the home-home) 


November 19th, 2017 at 5:10 PM ^

OSU will likely win, but it's not totally out of the question. The game is at home and we all know that OSU got blown the hell out by Iowa only two weeks ago. Did we forget about that? They're not invincible. If [quarterback who isn't O'Korn] plays and the defense has a strong showing at home, we definitely can win it.