Harbaugh: The Universal Pipe Dream

Submitted by bonobojones on November 23rd, 2010 at 11:51 AM

Living in San Francisco, my only regular contact to Michigan football besides games is Mgoblog, and a few other Michigan blogs (BWS, Touchthebanner.etc)  I don't get the full media experience of newspaper, talk radio, and nightly news that you get in Michigan.  But I do get the full load for the 49ers.  And it has been a funny week.  After both teams suffered big home losses after two game winning streaks, all those looking for hope are looking for Harbaugh. (49ers lost 21-0 to Tampa Bay, turns out Troy Smith is not the second comming of Steve Young like all the fans were saying the previous week.)  You can't listen to KNBR for more than 5 minutes without someone calling in to say how Harbaugh is ready for the Niners and wants to continue his battle with Pete Carrol. Here's an example from today's paper in San Jose.   It seems both fan bases are convinced that Harbaugh is the answer and he would drop everything for the job if offered.  Sorry, not all that informative of a topic, just an interesting observation on the universal reaction of fans when something bad happens.  They look to the hot name for the quick fix and renewed hope.



November 23rd, 2010 at 12:42 PM ^

I think we all agree that hiring Jim Harbaugh is not some magical coaching change that will bring national championships over night.  I do recognize in Harbaugh an excellent coach with meaningful ties to Michigan.  

I think he would be more inclined to coach at his alma mater than with a mediocre NFL franchise like San Francisco.  


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:16 PM ^

"I think we all agree that hiring Jim Harbaugh is not some magical coaching change that will bring national championships over night."

I ... do not agree.  I sometimes get the sense that maybe 60% of Michigan fans want him here yesterday.


* At Saturday's game I spent most of halftime perched just inside one of the gates.  I could hear the comments of the people leaving (a special group, obviously, and probably not representative) and a few random conversations by cell phone.  There was a big dude near me who was shouting (into a phone, with a ROIDRAGE kind of voice) "I JUST SAW RICHROD'S LAST GAME IN THIS @#$%ING STADIUM.  WE NEED HARBAUGH TO TOUGHEN UP THIS TEAM!  UGG!"

* Afterward I treated myself to some 1050.  (Bad idea, yes ... I know.)  Most of the droolers who got air time said "Harbaugh" at least once.


November 23rd, 2010 at 9:45 PM ^

Blah blah blah to all those people you heard (not to you). I'm so sick of hearing uninformed opinions. The MGoCommunity is at least informed. The general public is not and I could care less about their opinion. I'm also sick of hearing about Harbaugh - he's an extremely polarizing figure (see the comments below). That is exactly what we do not need. Is he a good coach? Sure. Is he a good coach for Michigan? Who the f- knows. The general public sure as f- doesn't!


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:21 PM ^

Here's how I see the coaching debate:

We basically have two options:

#1) Rich Rod is brought back...IF...he agrees to letting Brandon and Moeller appoint him a new defensive coordinator, and that defensive coordinator is allowed to hire two of his own defensive assistants (because RR has proven, twice, that he is incapable of putting together a competent defensive staff).  The RR assistants lost will be Robinson, Braithwaite, and probably Tall (Gibson becomes full time special teams coach - something else we desperately need - and recruiting coordinator).  The defensive staff could potentially look something like this...Mike Trgovac (for example) DC/DL coach, "Trgovac's hire" LB coach, "Trgovac's hire" DB coach.


#2) Jim Harbaugh is brought in as the new head coach.



#1) For keeping RR.  His offense is great, his defense sucks.  If Harbaugh comes in, he's going to have to revamp both the offense and the defense.  If RR is kept, and a new defensive staff is brought in, only the defense needs to be revamped.  Plus, RR is under contract for another year, and his buyout is pricey.  And, of course, Harbaugh angered Lloyd and friends with his academics comments four years ago.

#2) For hiring Harbaugh (my choice).  #1) RR's offense isn't that great.  It's actually flat out SUCKED against good teams.  We were down 24-0 to Wisc, 31-10 to PSU, 35-7 to Iowa, and 31-10 to MSU.  Most of the points he's scored against good teams have been scored in garbage time (against prevent defenses).  #2) Do we really want a coach who can't be trusted to hire his own defensive assistants?  #3) Recruiting.  The real reason people were excited about hiring RR was this - his offense at WVU was so great, with 2 and 3 stars, if he comes to Michigan, and starts racking up 4 and 5 star recruits, it's going to be unstoppable.  Well, that has not happened.  Rich Rod continues to recruit like he's at WVU.  And it's sort of a catch-22 situation that might never end.  He can't land talented recruits (especially defensively) until his team starts to go to BCS games, and he can't go to BCS games until he starts to land big time recruits.  Jim Harbaugh, on the other hand, is one of the best recruiters in the entire nation and would really be able to jump start things here.  #4) MICHIGAN MAN.  RichRod simply doesn't portray Michigan values.  If Bo was still alive, he'd be slapping the sh!t out of him after all of these excuse-filled press conferences.  "We're too young, we've had too many injuries, Vince Lombardi couldn't win with this kind of talent, etc...etc...etc...".  Rich Rod has yet to man up and accept any responsibility whatsoever.  He just blames it all on his players!?  How about..."I need to do a better job recruiting, I need to do a better job preparing young players and backups, I need to do a better job putting together effective schemes, It ultimately all comes back to me."  That's exactly what Bo/Moeller/Lloyd would have said.  Never in a million years would they have blamed the players publicly.  Never in a million years should a coach blame his players like RR has done time and time again.  #5) Jim Harbaugh's just a better coach, in every aspect.  We can't think short-term here.  We need to be thinking about 5-10 years down the line.  Sure, RR might be a better coach for this team NEXT season.  But we need to be thinking long term here.  #6) Everything Harbaugh said about our academics was TRUE, and Lloyd hates everybody anyways - that's why he was asked to leave the athletic department (and I have a very reputable source that verifies that).

#7) And I'm making this seperate because it's so important - It's NOW OR NEVER FOR HARBAUGH.  He's going to be getting some major offers this off-season (NFL, Georgia, etc.).  He almost took the KANSAS job last season, for crying out loud.  He IS going to be leaving Stanford after this season.  And once he signs a major deal with a major program, he's no longer going to be interested in us.   So...if RR ends up not working out (which is very likely) and Harbaugh is no longer interested...who in the he!! are we going to hire!?  Miles/Ferentz/Schiano already turned us down.  English!?  DeBord!?  Hoke!?  Trgovac!?  These are, honestly, going to be our best options if Harbaugh's not interested.  In which case, we'll be COMPLETELY SCREWED.


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:38 PM ^

He was winning with Big East-level talent.  More, he beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and a team that was basically his beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.   Whether or not he had the second best team at any particular moment, he did a hell of a job at WVU. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

are you talking about Lloyds last year? Then, yeah no comparison...however, after Lloyd's last year, Stanford was, without a doubt, in better shape than what Richrod had coming in...how do people not see these things? Rich rod walked into one of THE toughest scenarios imaginable...a fanbase who did not fully support him, demanded 9-10 wins, and a team that was, honestly, awful...How can someone succeed with that?

Frankly, I think he's a miracle worker for where he's gotten the team in 3 years...The offense is ridiculously good and going to be even scarier, while the defense can only improve because it honestly can't be worse than this...


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

It's takes an enormous stretch for your comments to be anywhere near reality.

Stanford was 1-11 before Harbaugh.
Michgan was 9-4 before RR.

Where was Andrew Luck Harbaugh's first year?  Was freshman Toby Gerhardt better than junior Brandon Minor?  While there were some who didn't like the RR hire, that did not determine his course.  He fired all the coaches (but one)...a move that doesn't win more friends.   He chose to work his system regardless of available talent; rather than working the available talent into his system.  He had a top-ten NFL QB.  He had two NFL WR's.  He had a defense with talent to "prop up" the offense.  The "bare cupboard" talk is garbage.  There was plenty in the cupboard...RR just preferred to use a different cupboard.  That was his choice and the results are his as well.  The only miracle RR worked was that he somehow turned Michigan into Houston (prolific offense against bad teams and terrible defense).

RR's biggest fans live in East Lansing and Columbus.  That should tell you something.


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:47 PM ^

Mallett didn't fit his system and neither did most of the remaining coaches.  You know which coaches like to run their owns systems and have their own staffs?  All of them (also, did you want him to keep Mike Debord?)...Manningham and Arrington (the two NFL receivers I assume you're talking about) left for the NFL.  After their great performances in the bowl, that was a given...The post-2007 exodus of talent from the football team was easily the biggest in the last twenty years. 

The 2008 defense was a disappointment, I'll grant that, but it also wasn't made up of world-beaters.   


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

The main responsibility of a postion coach is to develop the players' fundamentals.  Blocking, tackling, ball control, pursuit angles . . . these things don't really change from one team to another.  Several of Carr's assistants probably would have fit well into this staff.  There's no particular reason to believe that Fred Jackson has some intrinsic qualities that say, Steve Stripling or Vance Bedford wouldn't have had.  Firing all of Lloyd's assistants, save Jackson, was a calculated risk on RR's part.  It likely influenced the exodus of players from the program; the entire program changed for them in the blink of an eye. 

I've said it before: I think RR's biggest mistake was that he approached the Michigan job as though he were replacing a fired coach, rather than a retired one.  The program's foundations were solid, but it just needed some tweaking.  He decided to blow things up and start afresh.  He made wholesale staff changes, nudged a few players out the door, and tried to install offensive and defensive schemes that may not have a great fit for the players he had.  He did not have to do these things.  It was a calculated risk he took.  Whether we see the payoff for it remains to be seen.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:06 PM ^

Maybe in some spots iis not practical, I dont know.

But, I would have certainly approved of keeping several holdovers. Our buddy in EL kept a JLS coordinator, he's doing ok.

Coming from a Lloyd apologist in the Haloscan Days, I think English staying as DC could have meant a world of difference. I know thats probably not going to be a popular statement, but in retrospect, given what we know about not all the Vets on D buying in originally, perhaps keeping their DC might have helped. Just speculating......even though I broke my own rule about not debating who we should have hired three years ago.

Maize and Blue…

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

I never understood the entire fascination with him.  In 2006 he had three future NFL pro bowlers in Woodley, Hall. and David Harris and a bunch of others who are still in the league yet OSU torched them.  No way that should have happened with the talent English had at his disposal.

Section 1

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

Bo did it.  Bo was specifically asked, by Don Canham, to retain Bump Elliott's staff.  Bo said he didn't want to.  Eventually, he kept 2.  Rich Rodriguez kept 1+.

Rich Rodriguez had a DC he liked before he came here.  Jeff Casteel was his A-Number-One choice.  And while Casteel couldn't be convinced to come in light of Bill Stewart staying, and his family's preference to remain in Morgantown, the basic decision by Rodriguez to go first to Casteel looks to have been a very good judgment indeed, going by how the Mountaineers' defense has been doing.  Maybe we can still get Casteel.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:23 PM ^

I agree with most of this. It seems Rodriguez has, contrary to the media depictions of him, a colossal lack of cunning and street smarts. He is stubborn and arrogant, which a good coach usually is. However, he lacks nuance, and when the transfer to U-M blew up like it did in the WVU press, he would have been wise to get help managing at U-M. (Note to that one dude who is mad we went 3-9 in 2008: not managing the players from the Carr era.)

Ultimately, I think the story is just writing itself too negatively for him to succeed. That is why, though, that a two-win-per-year (thus far) improvement is impressive to me. He seems to be doing it against long odds. Some people think that Michigan should be a place where everything is in your favor. In my opinion Rodriguez has ceded that advantage and is winning anyway.

That does not make him a hero: results-based decision-making still reigns. My opinion is simple: first sign of regression without first getting where we want to be (Big 10 Championship) means he is gone. It makes me sad for what could have been had the road been more smooth, though.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:08 PM ^

I don't mean to ask this in an abrupt manner, and it certainly isn't meant just for you, but do you see anything that RR is responsible for:

Not retaining extremely talented players...they weren't good for his system. 
Bad 2008 defense...the kids weren't so great anyway.
2008 offense...bare cupboard.
2009 offense...young QBs.
2009 defense...it takes time to adjust to a new coordinator
2010 offense...they're great even if they struggle against real competition
2010 defense...GERG sucks/young players/injuries

Of course, there are also the generic excuses:
-The media hates him
-The Freep has it out for him (which might be a little true)
-The alumni never gave him a chance
-Carr hates him
-Negative recruiting hurt him

Is anything RR's fault?


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:49 PM ^

I just typed a much longer response to this and then my computer ate it.  Here is the short version:  The one-year hiring/firing of Shafer shows that there was a mistake at one end or the other of that situation.  Hiring Robinson and/or meddling with his schemes seems bad.  Not finding a good defensive coordinator who you can work with is not good (though note that Jim Tressel, by his own account, "doesn't even go into defensive meetings"). 

However, the first set of things that you posted are all relevant.  All coaches run into hard times.  Some run into really hard times.  Urban Meyer is something like 6-4 this year and Mack Brown is something like 4-6.  Those guys have three national titles between them.  RR's career record is that of a very talented, though not perfect, coach. 

I will take the time to address one specific thing b/c it bugs me so much:  RR did not "fail to retain" Manningham or Arrington.  Those guys were gone to the pros.  Carr would not have kept them.  No one would have kept them.  They were gone to the pros...RR failed to retain Mallett and Boren.  Mallett doesn't fit his system any more than Pat White fits Petrino's system at Arkansas.  Coaches have systems.  See Meyer and Brown struggling this year with QBs who don't quite fit what those schools have been doing lately...Also, while I don't want to bash two young guys too much, If you want to stand on a side that says the University of Michigan took a big hit when it lost Boren and Mallett, good luck...

RR is a very talented coach who has made some mistakes at Michigan and who has run into some very bad luck.  I went to the University of Kansas as an undergrad, where I saw Roy Williams make some mistakes and have some bad luck too.  Roy has turned out alright.  Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:08 PM ^

Frankly, I think he's a miracle worker for where he's gotten the team in 3 years

Say what?  It's perfectly fine to be optimistic about the program's future, but do not try to claim that posting three conference wins in year 3 is somehow miraculous for the coach of the winningest program in history. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:53 PM ^

I'm a RR supporter (sounds like an AA meeting...) but calling what he's done "miraculous" stretches the conventional definition of that word to to the point where it's meaningless.

However, I would call a victory on Saturday miraculous.


November 23rd, 2010 at 12:18 PM ^

Jim Harbaugh can coach my team anytime

But, perhaps Michigan's roster on the first day Rich convened spring and later summer practices in 2008 is a lot closer to the Stanford situation Jimmy had than you would care to admit or learn about. The entire offensive depth chart from the Cap One Bowl virtually vanished. That was a pretty tough situation to deal with and overcome


November 23rd, 2010 at 12:36 PM ^

Agreed. Take a look at the Stanford depth chart. Gerhart was already there. The offensive linemen (3 fifth-year seniors this year) who made holes for Gerhart and are giving Lueck time were also there. In fact, the 2-deep this year is littered with Harris players.

Harbaugh is a great coach, but part of the success he is having is that he has taken guys who went through the 1-11 pain and *kept* them there for four more years.


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:16 PM ^

How is this a knock on Harbaugh?  There are many facets to successful coaching.  One of them is keeping your players from transferring and developing them,  Rrod has really struggled to do this.  Sure there are reasons for the attrition: such as recruiting players that never made it to campus or left soon after, practice gate, transfers, and early draft entry.  But, Rrod is responsible for all of these things.  It is his job to identify which players may appear talented but will not make it because of grades or other issues.  It is his job to make sure the team is NCAA compliant.  And it is his job to convince players to play in his system or play another year at Michigan to increase their draft stock. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:15 PM ^

It's not. It's more factual information that informs my opinion about the two coaches, that's all. I agree with you - RR has to get players and keep them. I am merely pointing out that Harbaugh's fourth year (this year, 2010) has benefitted from retaining and developing a lot of players Harris recruited.

For whatever reason, RR has had a lot more roster instability. It looks like U-M's defensive roster will suffer less of that next year. Without making any decisions about what should be done in the (more) distant future (I don't like evaluating a coaching decision now based on what I think has to happen in the future, i.e., "RR gets another year, but next year he has to have X wins," or, conversely, "RR should not get another year because next year he has to have X wins and there is no way he can get them."), I think RR should get another year to see what kind of dividends stability can pay in his fourth year.

I don't know exactly what the hell happened with Emilien and Turner. RR probably should have been able to get a DB with 75-80% of the talent of Dorsey. If we lose three secondary players (not due to injury; Woolfolk is not a part of this discussion) before 2011 starts and the defense suffers as much for it as it has this year, certainly you can't keep saying "but he has no doodz" to justify keeping him.


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:59 PM ^

You might want to consider the fact that RR has lost (non-injury) a bit more than 25% of his defensive recruits.  Considering that...the "no doodz" excuse will certainly be applied again next year (if RR comes back).

Maize and Blue…

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:30 PM ^

Meaning most of the players he recruited are freshman and sophomores with the exceptions of Shaw, Roundtree, Odoms and a few others from late 08.  The real question is where are all the talented RS seniors, seniors, and juniors who should have been left over from the previous regime of the winningest program in college? 


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

I'm a RRod defender as well, by and large, however much of the offensive depth chart you mentioned vanished by choice - Manningham and Arrington, 3 of 4 returning O-linemen, and of course Mallett. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:52 PM ^

I dont see what we're disagreeing with here.

The point is those guys left, leaving the new coach with a massive rebuilding job on that side of the ball. Maybe we should have hired somebody within or a safer choice and those guys dont leave by choice. But I am not interested in arguing who we should have hired in Dec, 2007.

My point is when you look at the roster when spring and summer practices convened in 2008, we might have been closer to the Stanford situation Harbaugh had to deal with, than some folks care to admit. They didnt want to admit it then. Dont want to admit it now. Losing that many players takes time to recover from.


November 23rd, 2010 at 1:59 PM ^

How are they similar?  Harbaugh, in four years, has improved his Stanford program by 10/11 wins over the year prior to his entry.  RR (assuming the likely outcome on Saturday) will, after 3 seasons, still be two wins short of the win total prior to his arrival.  There's nothing similar there.


November 23rd, 2010 at 2:54 PM ^

Lets fire RR because he hasn't raised U of M's win yearly wins the the 19-20 range (+10-11 wins from previous years ala Harbaugh)

I plan on taking a week of  vacation next year -- when we are on a huge roll going into OSU week -- and quoting back all the moronic statements made this year to the entire doom and gloom / anti-RR crowd.........This gets me thinking...where are all the "this offense will never work in the Big10" people from last year??..prolly on the "this Defense will never work in the B10!!11!!!" bandwagon. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 3:57 PM ^

No.  That's not what I said.  I said that RR and JH are not similar in terms of their track record with improving their current teams because one had a shit program and the other had Michigan.

For the record, being pro-Michigan doesn't mean anti-RR; it means accepting reality and wanting the best for the program.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:33 PM ^

I dont know if I agree with the person you are debating with here.....but I see you using the terms accepting reality......i wonder if somebody like yourself has even accepted the reality that was the 2008 offseason. Or the fact the defensive recruiting/retention has been crappy in the program for going on 6 years now

I accepted both a while ago. You might like to hear it, but because of that first offseason and the decimated defense that has yet to be fixed, its been a rebuilding job. It takes time climbing out of that hole

Rich has rebounded the program from the first issue. With a bullet and a high ceiling remaining. He has not solved the second issue, arguably making it worse merely by not solving the attrition issue. I dont know what the solution is. Other than time. Just like the solution in 2008 on offense was time.

But, I think you are almost being as disengenious as the person you are debating with when you claim Rich inherited some super talented MICH roster.

I dont care who the coaches are next year or in 2012 or beyond. But somebody is winning with Rodrigo's players as we keep going into the future.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:47 PM ^

The reality of that 2008 offseason is that RR, whether by his reputation (not personal reputation, but schematic), activities or just bad luck, had a strong influence on those happenings.  As for defensive rebuilding/retention, I get negged every time I point it out (even though it's completely accurate), RR has lost just over 25% of his defensive recruits.  That number does not include injuries.  That is an enormous percentage of his own recruits.

So, the talented players were on the roster at the time of the RR hire.  Many did not stay, but I'm sure some might have if he had worked hard to re-recruit them (i.e. Manny and DeShawn in bball) and/or retained some more coaches (i.e. Mike Jackson in bball).  RR isn't without blame.

Now, the retention problem continues with his own recruits.  That is a big red flag to me.  It can be debated if he might have kept more of Carr's players by doing some things differently, but what about his own players? 


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:10 PM ^

I never said he shares no blame. Just wondering if you have accepted the reality of what happened in 2008. Since you continue to whine about his alleged lack of re-recruiting players and love to harp on the fact that he inherited a 5-star QB and NFL WRs, it tells me that no you have not accepted the reality. I dont what you allegedly think he should have done, but the fact is a bunch of guys bolted cratering the offensive depth chart. At that point, accept reality and realize whats been accomplished on that side of the ball since then. He has fixed that problem, but it took time and the fixing isnt exactly finished yet.

As for the defense, when I said defensive recruiting/retention issues for the program going on 6 years, do you think I'm not including the last couple of years?

Our defensive program has been broken for years and its not been getting better under Rich.  Although I do like some of the prospects he's brought in, none are instant impact guys, and need a couple of years of seasoning before seeing the field. At this point, I can only hope they stay, regardless of coach. lol. Wait, no. That's not lol. Thats FML.

Why have players on D been leaving the program? Why does a Mixon and Kates leave? Why does a Turner and Emilion and LaLota leave? I dont know. But, I've told you before I would be more than happy if DB steps in and says coach our D program has been broken, we're brining in this guy to fix it. Its shocking how long this problem has been going on.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:52 PM ^

Of course I accept the reality of the many players who left in 2008 and those who remained behind (including Threet and Minor).  I didn't expect miracles but that team was terrible, far worse than it should have been and it drives me crazy to see people blame Carr for RR's record.

As far as working on the DC alone, I don't think that fixes the problem.  That's just my two cents.