ND fans expect us to turn on Harbaugh after he goes 9-4

Submitted by Decatur Jack on July 25th, 2017 at 11:34 AM

It's always interesting perusing the college football blogosphere and seeing what other fans think of our situation with Harbaugh. Obviously most of the time it is negative. We all know that Michigan creates ire everywhere just by being Michigan, and that is doubly compounded by Harbaugh.

Notre Dame has always struck me as an odd animal for offering criticism. Eric Murtaugh, a longtime ND blogger and noted M-hater from One Foot Down, has a new blog called 18 stripes, and never misses a chance to rip on M.

Excerpt from one of his more recent posts:

2017 seems like the year a long honeymoon starts ending for Harbaugh in Ann Arbor – expectations for year three will still be extremely high despite massive turnover on both sides of the ball. The schedule isn’t kind to the Wolverines either – they open in Dallas against Florida and down the stretch face road games at Happy Valley and Camp Randall before hosting Ohio State.

Michigan has recruited well enough that the floor remains high, but a step back even to 9-4 could start bending perceptions of Harbaugh from “crazy genius” back toward “just insane”.

This is a common thread among ND writers/fans. I've seen it from MSU and OSU fans too, but on this particular occasion I've limited my perusing to Irish corners.

Following is some additional noteworthy commentary. (Sources at the bottom)

You have to hand it to Michigan. There was no one - at least, no one who wasn't living in the fantasy land known as Ann Arbor - who genuinely believed that Harbaugh would leave the NFL for Michigan, even if it was his alma mater. The Wolverines were abysmal following the 2014 season, where they fell to 5-7 amidst blowouts, a concussion scandal, and the resignation of the athletic director - the very definition of a college football tire fire. Why would any coach with options walk into that?

Then when you realize Harbaugh is actually insane by clinical definitions it becomes easier to understand why he took the job. Of course, that won't stop the fans from eating him alive when he loses a third straight time to Ohio State. All the goodwill Harbaugh has built up from his two seasons will vanish come 4 p.m. on November 25th.
When does the Harbaugh honeymoon end?

The answer is obvious: 2017. Harbaugh is the only Michigan coach besides Rich Rodriguez to fail to beat the Buckeyes in his first two seasons. It's hard to see a triumphant Michigan squad succeed this year, either. They return so little that the losses spell doom for the Wolverines so much it could result in a 9-win season. That will prompt the very real grumbles from Michigan fans that Harbaugh isn't the right guy after all. The so-called Maize and Blue faithful can only take the abuse from Urban Meyer for so long before they decide it's time for a change.
Notre Dame only wishes it could play Michigan this year, when the Wolverines' loss of so many starters means the chance of a crushing defeat at the hands of the Irish would be surprisingly favorable. Alas, they'll have to wait until 2018, when the Wolverines will be a title contender.

Will Harbaugh still be the coach by then? Keep your eye on the game against Ohio State at noon on November 25. If the Wolverines lose that one (again), Harbaugh might just be given his walking papers, even if he's 11-1. Common sense tells us to never underestimate the delusional arrogance of Michigan fans.

In other news, Notre Dame went 4-8 last season.





July 25th, 2017 at 11:35 AM ^

If we fire Harbaugh for going 11-1 but losing to OSU this year, I will quit following Michigan football. That's how mad I would be, and how certain I am it's not happening. 


July 25th, 2017 at 11:46 AM ^

not happen.  He could go 8-4 this year and lose to OSU and the word "fire" would be never be discussed about Harbaugh.  That being said, as a hypothetical, how many more consecutive years could we lose to Ohio State before you really had to think this through?  It is interesting as just food for thought.  I think Harbaugh is pretty close to the most untouchable coach in college football given the early returns and how much love he as from the fan base and alumni, but certainly there are some expectations when it comes to Ohio State, right?

What if Harbaugh loses his first four games to Ohio State?  Five?  When would you not be cool with anymore?  It can't be that long, right.

Stringer Bell

July 25th, 2017 at 11:48 AM ^

I'd say you have to at least wait until the team is fully his. He's still working from behind talent-wise because Hoke's last full recruiting class and the coaching transition class were not great.

Either way, its very premature to talk about what if Harbaugh can't beat them. He's had 2 chances, and last year he was literally an inch away from beating them in Columbus. Not claiming any moral victories because we aren't MSU fans but damn, there's nothing to suggest he can't get it done.


July 25th, 2017 at 11:54 AM ^

is why I just posed it as a hypothetical.  It may be that we beat them this year and it becomes a non-issue, but it is just interesting to think about.  Right now, it seems nearly implausible to ever consider such a discussion, but as quickly as two more losses to OSU without a win and it would probably start to get a little foggy. 

Stringer Bell

July 25th, 2017 at 11:58 AM ^

That's why I think we have to wait until the roster is fully comprised of his players, which would be year 4 or 5. Sure the outsiders will mock him if he starts 0-4 against them but who cares, he's the right man for the job and no Michigan fan should doubt that. Stating that he's the only coach other than RR to start 0-2 against OSU is ridiculous, since other Michigan coaches didn't have to take over for Brady Hoke and other Michigan coaches didn't have to go up against Urban Meyer.

Chalky White

July 25th, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

If he continues losing when the team is completely full of his players, who would you want to replace him? 8-4 under Harbaugh is better than the debacle this program was between Lloyd Carr and Harbaugh.

You can probably have any coach in the country not named Saban or Meyer. Who do you think could win here?

Stringer Bell

July 25th, 2017 at 12:43 PM ^

I wouldn't take anyone over him, and I don't think he will continue losing to OSU. I think he worked miracles with a group of players that went 5-7 before his arrival and I think the results will only get better from here on out. Even guys who have won national titles like Fisher, Swinney, and hell even Saban took time to get their programs to that level.

Chalky White

July 26th, 2017 at 9:35 AM ^

That's the dirty little secret about Swinney. He he's been there since 2008. I believe was the first to have a coordinator make 7 figures annually. At one time people were saying Rich Rodriguez should come back. Fixing a program usually doesn't happen overnight when you don't have a built in pipeline of high level players to feed your program.


July 25th, 2017 at 12:03 PM ^

I predict we'll start hearing chatter this season we lose to OSU again. Not anything remotely close Harbaugh being fired, but the pressure and the temperture in the room will start to rise.


July 25th, 2017 at 12:38 PM ^

I love Harbaugh, but people were over the moon here about how Dantonio would never win against Michigan again, and we'd be 50/50 vs OSU AT WORST! blah blah blah

Those were'nt realistic expectations, but i don;'t think the possibility of going 3rd in the B1G East division for the 3rd time in a row (if it happens) can be seen as anything other than "not meeting expectations".

Grounds for firing? of course not, not even if this team went 5-7.  They ARE young, have a tough schedule, and OSU is reloading as usual.

But grumbling? After 3 years? Damn right I'd be grumbling.

It's funny how the goalposts move.  

"Hoke was a great recruiter, & we've got NFL coaches now so Harbaugh can win right away!" (15)  
"Harbaugh just needs to get some of his young talent in to mix with the seniors but all elite coaches win big in their 2nd year" (16)  
"We really can't judge Harbaugh until he has at least 4 years of recruiting his guys" . .  (17?)


Stringer Bell

July 25th, 2017 at 1:00 PM ^

Who expected him to win big right away? Certainly not the national media or a lot of Michigan fans. 9-3 was seen as the most optimistic prediction and he achieved exactly that, so in a sense he did win big right away. Year 2 was disappointing only in the sense that he overachieved in year 1, his team in year 2 was unquestionably better and probably a bit unlucky in that we lost 3 games by a combined 5 points, and our two regular season losses came on thr very last plays of the games. The expectation when he was hired was that it would take a few years until we're performing at an elite level.


July 25th, 2017 at 12:03 PM ^

Once he was hired, I sent in my Seat license fee, not kidding. He was the right hire period. He bleeds Maize and Blue to the most litteral end. Yes I love to see Michigan win, I love even more seeing them beat important rivals. With Harbaugh, he's doing things the RIGHT way. He's creating new levels of recruitment, camps, outreach. He's taking players to new levels and preparing them for their future, be it NFL or vocation.

With my son currently entering his Junior season, if he were given the opportunity to play under Harbaugh, I wouldn't hesitate for a second. What he has provided for his teams already is unmatched anywhere. It doesn't center around gifts or even trips to Europe. It has more to do with how, and why, and the accountability. I honestly believe the trip to Europe was more about seeing parts of the world they would otherwise never see more than it was a lure or reason for kids to come to Michigan. I think he believes so strongly in Michigan, it's not about selling it, it's about delivering the product.

God forbid he doesn't notch a win over OSU...but it won't sway my view either. Sadly they are working on a different level right now, and my bias says it's not on the up and up, and the NCAA could pick them apart if it wouldn't hurt their financials... Meyer is a slimebag, and yeah beating them would be great, but it isn't the only thing...

Magnum P.I.

July 25th, 2017 at 1:55 PM ^

There's no one better out there to coach Michigan football than Jim Harbaugh. For all intents and purposes we beat Ohio State last season, so he's shown (not that he needed to prove it to anyone) that he knows how to beat an Urban team.

The hard reality is that Ohio State just has a better program than us right now. They've always had a structural advantage over U-M being the only school in a talent-rich state. Now add to that the momentum of championship seasons behind one of the best coaches in history and ridiculous recruiting classes. We have a long road to catch up, and Harbaugh may lose to them a bunch more times, but anyone else in his shoes would lose worse. 

Honestly, the best thing that could happen for us in the rivalry is for Cincinnati to join the Big Ten and start playing like gangbusters. 


July 25th, 2017 at 7:43 PM ^

for there to be real discussions/chances of going in another direction, and even then, to Magnum P.I's point, I just don't see how we get anyone that gives us a better chance unless somehow his recruiting drops off or he isn't winning other games (both highly unlikely).

This year is a slight rebuild year with low numbers of juniors and seniors thanks to poor recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015.  A loss would hurt, but wouldn't be terrible and certainly not enough to get on the hot seat (assuming we win 8-9 other games).

Next season is at OSU so again, hard to expect us to beat them.  Losing there would put tremendous pressure on 2019, though.

These two recent classes will be juniors and seniors so we'll be stacked with upperclassmen plus several QBs on the roster that Harbaugh has picked and groomed. The game is at home.  If he starts 0-4, that game is nearly a must win.  And he'd be the first to say that.  No one would be more devastated with an 0-5 start than him.

Let's make it all moot and win this season.  We have a good shot at home.


July 25th, 2017 at 12:07 PM ^

OSU has a huge head start on Harbaugh. My expectations for him to beat them won't start until he has a roster full of his own recruits, who have only been coached by him and his staff. I would say the earliest this would be is 2018. From that season on I would expect us to start winning our share against them. 

As long as he also wins at least 9 regular season I don't see any rational fan wanting to get rid of him.


July 25th, 2017 at 12:57 PM ^

How does he lose those games?  Is his team injury plagued?  Are they non-competitive?  Are they like last year - ohh so friggen close on the road?

Put some context into the discussion for it to be 'realistically' played out.  But for my money, unless his teams are totally non-competitive (like RR and Hoke) I'm sticking with the guy...


July 25th, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

Yep, I think that ND blogger has completely misread the UM fan base.

7 years of mediocre coaching has humbled the fanbase a bit.  And we've witnessed what bad football looks like.  The only way people grouse in any serious manner on Harbaugh is if we start seeing bad football (excepting for mistakes of young players, obviously). 

With the kind of coaches Harbaugh has brought in, I don't expect to see any bad football on M's part for some time.  Irrespective of the record, if M's teams play hard with good fundamentals and some creative playcalling, I don't expect any serious complaints from the fanbase. 

And we all know elite coaches are very rare and there's no guarantee of getting one.  We can look back at ND to see that.  And we didn't even want Kelly.


July 25th, 2017 at 1:16 PM ^

I honestly don't think there is a point. I mean there's more games on the schedule than just OSU. I get it, it's a huge rivalry and it's a game we want to win and win consistently. But I'm not on board with the whole "enough is enough" mantra when it comes to a coach who is consistently winning 10+ games. I want that game just as bad as the next guy. But I'm not will to take a man's job based solely on the results of that one game.


July 25th, 2017 at 1:30 PM ^

actually has more meaning than it used because except in the most unusual of situations, we will not be able to win the division/play in the BTCG/play in the playoff without winning that game.  Even in the BCS era, we could win a share and/or go the Rose Bowl and the season was considered a success even with an OSU loss.  Now, success or failure will pretty much annually depend entirely on that game.  Really, the result of that game and the result of our season will be one in the same.


July 25th, 2017 at 2:26 PM ^

Not really. At all.

I mean if your only determination of success is a conference title, then sure. But OSU made the playoffs without a conference title. Michigan can reasonably go 11-1 in the regular season and not go to the conference championship. That's not a successful season to you?

There are 11 other games on that schedule. The fact that you hinge the success or failure of the entire season on that one game is pretty pathetic. And that you would let it determine a coach's future is even worse.


July 25th, 2017 at 2:52 PM ^

serious?  The entire point of my post was to ask when, and if, fans would start to question Harbaugh with regard to his record against Ohio State.  I did not even say that I would.  You either really bad at reading or you are just looking for conflict.  Either way, you suck.

(And you are out of your mind if you think that the BIG will send a non-division winner to the playoff anytime soon.  That idea died with Ohio State this year).


July 26th, 2017 at 6:29 AM ^

Let me quote you here.

"Now, success or failure will pretty much annually depend entirely on that game."

"Really, the result of that game and the result of our season will be one in the same."

So yes, you really did say you would begin to question Harbaugh. You're saying unless he wins a conference title, he failed. And that whether the season is a success or not is based solely on his performance in that game.


July 26th, 2017 at 1:45 PM ^

"Even in the BCS era, we could win a share and/or go the Rose Bowl and the season was considered a success even with an OSU loss."

No season, regardless of win in a bowl,  in which Michigan lost to OSU was considered a success. Perhaps it could be considered a decent season or one that raised hopes for next year, but a successful season reqired a win against OSU. That hasn't changed. 

That said. I'm quite pleased by the progress the team has made under Harbaugh, and plan to give him at least through 2020 to establish Michigan at the top of the Big Ten. If we can get back to 50/50 with OSU and making the playoffs every couple of years and a NC every four or five years I'll be ecstatic.


July 25th, 2017 at 4:10 PM ^

Sure.  The 'fan' that tweeted threats after the '15 MSU loss was a 14 yo kid.  Social media pretty much guarantees that any nutjob who can't control himself can yell loud enough for someone to hear. 

The people the AD listen to are the big $$ boosters and former players.  The latter group knows when there's a good effort and when there isn't, and they're solidly in Harbaugh's corner.

As for us, people who get out of line get sent to Bolivia. 


July 25th, 2017 at 4:15 PM ^

Wishful thinking on their part.  ND seems to think that other blueblood schools suffer the same as them.  It's probably difficult for them to come to grips with the idea that M football pulled itself from a hole to ascend again, while they remain mired in their own pit of mediocrity.

The more Harbaugh succeeds, the more pressure it will put on Kelly to match him.