Spring Preview: Harbaugh self reflects on 2017 coaching

Submitted by Fezzik on March 15th, 2018 at 5:34 AM
https://247sports.com/college/michigan/Article/Spring-Preview-Self-Scou… Similar to the "Harbaugh on tackles in spring preview" thread here is some great content about Jim reflecting on what the coaching staff can improve on from last season. It's a great and short read (or listen). Some big take-aways I took from it are, having "less volume" offensively and finding the identity of the 2018 offense. Jim McElwain will carry the bulk of WR coaching rather than just a grad assistant (Joe Hastings) like we had last season. Harbaugh also discusses a major mistake he made during pre-season QB training and shares how he plans to improve upon it. A lot of specific concerns many of us had about our offense last year already have changes made to address them. We aren't 'there' yet but I believe 2018 will be a major improvement offensively. Read, discuss, and enjoy. Go blue!



March 15th, 2018 at 5:40 AM ^

Props to evenyoubrutus for telling me a couple weeks ago we only had a grad assistant coaching WRs and no other coach handling it. I thought that was crazy but clearly that was the case.

With McElwain plus a year elder I expect our WR group to take a big step forward.


March 15th, 2018 at 5:55 AM ^

making (in his mind) the necessary changes to right the wrongs of last year.

It was a bummer/eye opener to read that during the first game of last year he already knew we were in trouble. 

Jim's honest evaluation and open criticism of himself will hopefully be the catalyst that gets this ship turned back in the right direction.


March 15th, 2018 at 6:15 AM ^

I was going to include something similar but I didn't want to start rambling. You are so right though. It made me think of Hoke in comparison. His response to all improvement questions was "we need to execute better." Jim being able to identify, confront, and address problems with more than coach speak is a huge positive to have in a coach.  


March 15th, 2018 at 10:00 AM ^

who can look in the mirror and realize he didn't coach up his players to the best of his abilities.  I have seen way too many coaches think they are doing a great job and just blame the players for not getting the job done.

Every off season a coach should evaluate himself, his staff and players and see where improvements can be made across the board. Great Harbaugh does that and is even willing to share with the public his mistakes.


March 15th, 2018 at 11:39 AM ^

Data clearly shows that freshman wide receivers suck, regardless of position coach. Therefore, we can expect them to improve based on the experience alone.

So when they do improve, people will of course say "its because of the coach".


March 15th, 2018 at 1:19 PM ^

That is usually the case, but Black was killing it. Pairing Black with the right QB and he will destroy the big ten. I guarantee you Harbaugh also saw he did not have one QB that was going to play at the level he expects. Bottom line I did not see a viable QB playing for Michigan last year.

Some of that may be coaching, but Harbaugh did not just forget how to coach. Sometimes you just don't have the talent. Enter Shea Patterson and yes there should be no excuses know. And to be quite honest I don't think Michigan will need any. One thing that I don't want to see is running backs fumbling at the goal line or punt returners looking like the bad news bears and letting the ball clank off your face mask. Higdon and DPJ can do a lot for this team but if players can't make the simplest of plays they should find the bench because this team has the depth to do so.

Can't wait for the spring game for two reasons. I think you will see a QB that is just better than the rest. And secondly I want to see what recruits are at the game and the BQ.


March 15th, 2018 at 8:24 AM ^

I think I heard Sam mention it a couple of times on the air.

This is something we have seen with other NFL minded coaches. They underestimate how important teaching fundamentals is at the college level. That's a big reason that Weis had such a massive dropoff after Willinghams players left. I hope this is a sign that Harbaugh recognizes this.


March 15th, 2018 at 9:01 AM ^

This is still surprising since Harbaugh not only 1) has been a college head coach at two different locations in the recent past, but 2) was quite successful at both stints. He should already be well aware of the demands of coaching college players as opposed to professionals, whereas long term NFL coaches with little/no college head coaching experience (e.g. Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards, etc.) can get a pass on that to a certain extent.


March 15th, 2018 at 7:56 AM ^

At least you didn’t give him the old,”I guess we can start pointing fingers at coach again. We’re better now than we’ve been in over a decade and he’s just getting started. Thank the lord for our coaches at Michigan. I’ll be here until we get it right, with full support. Go Blue!


March 15th, 2018 at 10:15 AM ^

It's the ones who anticipate negative possibilities BEFORE they happen and plan for them who do the best.  They don't allow those mistakes to occur. 

When I consider the lack of development and poor play of the QBs, OL, and WRs during the past 1-2 years, I'm totally in awe of how poor of a coaching job JH has done compared to what I expected when he was hired.


March 15th, 2018 at 8:53 PM ^

Do you know anyone whose anticipation of problems is perfect?  I don't.

I used to be an engineer, so I'm familiar with both concepts of avoiding problems (FMEA etc.) and fixing them (PDSA etc.).  No one's perfect; to continually improve quality you need both.


March 17th, 2018 at 1:59 PM ^

...as well as Design FMEAs.  My point was it doesn't take a guru to anticipate that if you don't have a good & experienced WR coach AND you have no upperclassmen playing that position, you are asking for trouble.  JH should have anticipated the problems that occured, IMO, and should not have had to 'fix' them afterwards.


March 15th, 2018 at 6:45 AM ^

Holy crap, Jim, I could've told you this:

"In the spring practices and the training camp we go against our defense. It's offense against defense… one's against one's. We really did that exclusively in spring ball and a good 10 days or so into training camp. Our defense is different. (emphasis added) They play a lot of cover one… a lot of press man. I felt like it was making us better. (I thought), ‘okay, we're going against a defense that is really good. They cover great, and the variety they bring in the blitz game… we've got to get that picked up.’ But I didn't feel like we showed them enough looks from the quarters, (or) enough looks from quarter-quarter-half, (or) enough looks of zone blitz.
“It hit me way too late… during the first half of the Florida game. Wilton was throwing a dig over the middle about 16 to 18 yards, and he threw it high and it got intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Right there I am standing on the sidelines going, ‘this is what he's done for the last six months… throw exclusively against man coverage where there wasn't a safety, or two in this case, standing back there.’"

Indeed it is, and this is kind of the main downside to having Don Brown -- his defense is unique, so his starters don't give your offense any practice against more common stuff, like quarters.  You're gonna have to throw together a scout team from the get-go.

Fact remains that Harbaugh has more football in his fifth fingernail than I do in my whole body, but I guess sometimes people get so deep into what they're doing that they lose sight of the extremely simple stuff.


March 15th, 2018 at 7:59 AM ^

He did not say Don Brown was the problem.

He simply stated a fact - the same fact Harbaugh stated in the quote - that going against a unique defense like that in the offseason and not showing your quarterbacks any other look will hurt your QB when you play a team like Florida who ran a bunch of zone. 


carolina blue

March 15th, 2018 at 8:14 AM ^

For crying out loud. The point is that Don Browns defense is unique (def: unlike any other). As a result, going up against it all the time does not prepare you for defenses you will see during the season.

Don Brown defense is excellent, but it is also different from any other defense. Using his defense as a prep is not all that helpful to prepare for most, if not all, opponents.


March 15th, 2018 at 9:01 AM ^

I'm not a coach but I'd wager camps are run differently from regular season.  I think ones vs. ones makes sense for many programs if they're relatively conventional on both sides of the ball, and Harbaugh's never had a DC like Don Brown.  I can see why he made this mistake.

Scout teams are generally for game prep.  Some of the guys on the scout teams expect to eventually play, so while it's a necessary evil during the season, scout teams in spring and fall camp isn't just a re-org -- it's burning up a lot of their practice time.  Not to mention, if the offense gets a scout team, then the defense needs one as well.  That's four squads.  Harbaugh had good reasons to avoid splitting the roster so much at a time everything's in flux, and hypothetically, he'd rather his sushi-raw offense toughen up against a top-10 defense than a scout team's hodge-podge quarters imitation.   What I'm saying is, I agree, but I doubt it's that simple.  This is a change that's going to have a very tangible cost.

I just, if I was there, I would've tried to convince him it's unavoidable.  Brown flatly said in an interview that he doesn't even have quarters in his playbook, and that's mainly what our rivals run.  One week isn't enough to deprogram the PTSD our offense would get from going against Brown every day and be ready for something very different.  Brown's unique defense is a clear advantage against our opponents, but the flip side is that uniqueness is of no value to the offense in practice.  It goes both ways;  I'm sure Air Force's defense can't spend all spring and fall learning to shut down a scheme they won't face all season.


March 15th, 2018 at 9:54 AM ^

Our defense is more experienced and further along, but it probably does not help them either, going against our offense. 

That's not the look they are going to see in most of our East Division games . . . PSU, OSU, UMD, and so on.

So a little less ones vs ones in spring and fall practices is probably not a bad thing.     

BTW +1 for:  "he'd rather his sushi-raw offense toughen up against a top-10 defense than a scout team's hodge-podge quarters imitation"



March 15th, 2018 at 8:08 AM ^

On himself and I completely understood what you were saying. However, coach also in his words stated, only that our defense is unique. Therefore he will accept the responsibility to say,”hey Don we’re playing Notre Dame next week so could you switch up the scheme for this week? Again I know you didn’t mean that.


March 15th, 2018 at 9:06 AM ^

is the answer. For one thing, what the hell were they practicing in the two weeks before the Florida game? They must have had a scout team by that time. I imagine they had a pretty good idea what they were going to get from the Gator defense. If they didn't practice enough zone defense at that point, then that's not a spring ball / camp problem but an offensive prep issue.

Secondly, if you are telling the DC he has to put in some defenses he doesn't run you are now stifling their growth and development. Essentially robbing the defense to pay the offense.


March 15th, 2018 at 6:45 AM ^

I think the introspection is impressive.  Not many people will talk about their mistakes in public.  Makes you wonder if his toned down sideline demeanor last year was a result of the realization that his team was just not that good?


March 15th, 2018 at 6:53 AM ^

He was flagged for a penalty the season before, and it's the worst thing for a coach to set your team back in a game, DURING the game.  He identified a problem and fixed it.  One "mistake" (even if it was a B1G ref being an asshat), fixed, done.

He's already moved past that and is now focusing on other problems to fix.  Improvement is a continual process; it never stops.


March 15th, 2018 at 1:35 PM ^

Bingo!!! I don't think it was the realization that his team was not that good. It was the realization that his QB'S were not that good. Jim Harbaugh's attitude has changed ten fold because of one simple reason and everybody on this blog know's what it is. Unless you are the minority that thinks the problem last year was the o-line.


March 15th, 2018 at 6:52 AM ^

Two observations

1. This level of honest introspection is very encouraging. Not often do you see anybody in life make these types of admissions privately, much less on the national news platform Harbaugh holds.

2. This should end, once and for all, the notion around here that Harbaugh is perfect and none of his decisions can be questioned on the board. The man himself knows hes not and has admitted as much.


March 15th, 2018 at 8:30 AM ^

There is no "notion around here that Harbaugh is perfect and none of his decisions can be questioned". Most people here lack both the baseline knowledge of football in general and any special insight into the Michigan football program in particular needed to make an incisive criticism of Harbaugh. Pointing that out doesn't equate to demanding unquestioning approval of Harbaugh.