Year Three Curse Strikes Again

Submitted by ScooterTooter on February 7th, 2018 at 1:32 PM

One of the big reasons I was excited about Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh is I saw the deficiencies this team would have come year three. I figured that like other elite coaches, he would be able to conjure up a decent season in a year where the team wasn't expected to do much. Something like 9-3 with a victory over a rival. 

Instead, for the third straight regime after Lloyd Carr's retirement, Michigan football's year three was abysmal after a promising start:

2010: Michigan starts 5-0, loses at home to Michigan State, ends up 7-6.  Rodriguez fired. While the offense and record improved, the defense is the worst in the program's history. Losses to both Michigan State and Ohio State. Recruiting ends up 30th in the country.

2013: Michigan starts 5-0, loses a blunderfest on the road to a mediocre Penn State team, gets blown out by Michigan State, finishes 7-6 with losses to both Michigan State and Ohio State. Hoke is retained, recruiting ends up 20th. TBH, its crazy to me how this season matches the beats of 2017-18, from the inexplicable first loss, to the road blowout loss to a rival, to the 0-3 finish with a closer than expected game against OSU and a disappointing bowl performance. Yeah, the circumstances were different, but the highs and lows were almost identical.

2017: Michigan starts 4-0, loses a blunderfest at home to Michigan State. Gets to 8-2 before losing three straight to finish out the season 8-5. Losses to both MSU and OSU. Bowl loss to a mediocre South Carolina team following a shocking collapse. Recruiting finishes up 19th (at the moment). 

The difference? Unlike the previous 2 regimes, I believe that Michigan is well set for success following this disappointment. A very good defense returns everyone. It would not be at all surprising for them to compete at a 2016 level. 

On offense...all I can say is look at the 2011 defense. That unit went from the worst in the country to good in a single year. While Greg Mattison deserves credit, undoubtedly one of the biggest factors in this turnaround was the fact that Michigan was no longer starting converted wideouts and true freshmen 2 stars in the secondary. With a little luck (aka Shea Patterson's eligibility coming through), next year should be a very good year*. And if that is the case, then I think we will look at 2017 as a blip on a very successful tenure.

(*The flip side, of course, is that Patterson is ineligible, neither other QB pans out, Drevno really does suck and the OL remains as bad as it was last year and the defense is more 2017 than 2016. Another bad year (8-4 with losses to OSU, MSU and ND) results in more recruiting misery setting up Harbaugh for a make or break year 5. Hopefully it does not come to that.)



February 7th, 2018 at 1:33 PM ^

this won't end well.

In other news do we know if we are ever going to get any main page NSD posts?  Seems like the board covered it all, but ya know, something up front would be good? 


February 7th, 2018 at 1:38 PM ^

What do you wanna see? We got that back in December, when we actually had a "signing day". I'm not ripping you, I just don't think there is much else for the guys to post on the main board. I look at it this way. The coaches probably knew this was not gonna be a great class real early, and are devising a plan to get this team into the playoffs next season. 


February 7th, 2018 at 4:40 PM ^

Kevbo, here's what will happen when we win. Will we lose out on some recruits? Sure, and like how OSU loses on a kid, there will be another stud right behind him ready to take his place. It won't be replacing him with some young man with a fairly modest offer sheet that we call a "sleeper" just to feel better about their commitment.


February 7th, 2018 at 3:46 PM ^

How about the ones who neither think the sky has fallen, nor that Harbaugh means that we will magically ascend to the top of the college football world, but think that the team has an extremely good defense, and that with many solid pieces on O and Shea probably playing, we'll also have a decent O and wouldn't be surprised to go 10-2, splitting the OSU/Wiscy/ND/PSU games?



February 7th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

maybe a recap of where we are and what to expect today (nothing).  

Seems like we aren't short of NSD board posts and these people don't actually run a blog covering this.  

I get that its hard to write-up some of this stuff when we lose, or its negative, or the NSD isn't the signing of the stars past, but still some content on a pretty important football day would still be nice


February 7th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

I agree! This is why Jim is so smart and will turn this team around next season. Hes gaining a tacticul advantage by giveing up on recruiting this cycle so he can get a head start in preparing for next years playoff run while everyone else is busy recruiting players that wont even play to much meaningful football this year


February 7th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

I don't mean to speak for them, but I believe both Ace and Seth have been sick. And Brian is hopefully choosing instead to continue tearing MSU to shreds.

Anyway, I don't think the MGoBlog staff is at full strength right now.


February 7th, 2018 at 1:35 PM ^

1971 - Bo year three: 11-1 - ranked #4 in the country

1997 - Lloyd year three - 12-0 - ranked #1 in the county

Year three wasnt always that bad.


February 7th, 2018 at 4:38 PM ^

considering that each of the last three regimes ended on downslides, so the final classes under each regime were bad and the transition classes were brutal plus you had attrition related to the big swings in style from Lloyd's pro-style/I-from to RichRod's spread and shred and then back to pro-style.

You're absolutely correct that year 3 of Hoke and year 3 of Harbaugh were pretty similar, with the biggest problems being bad OL, bad QB and poor offensive coaching that couldn't scheme around those deficiencies.

Hoke actually had set up the program well for the future with his great 2012 and 2013 classes.  Those classes allowed Harbaugh to be immediately competitive and send a slew of them to the NFL.  Hoke just couldn't stick around long enough to see that through because his OL was young and not developing quickly enough and he still had bad QB play and bad offensive coaching in 2014 (not to mention the poor handling of concussion-gate, general anger over the AD, etc).

For Harbaugh, the questions remain similar: can he find a QB, an OL and some competent offensive coaching in year 4?

I think the floor is much higher for Harbaugh in year 4 because the defense is better than it was in 2013 (and expected to be better into 2014).


February 7th, 2018 at 3:58 PM ^

I mean, I get that this year's class has been roundly judged to be underwhelming by many on the board (and I tend to agree that it seems that way on paper, but they haven't had a chance to hit campus yet), but man, someone took a big runny shit in your Cheerios apparently. However, if you wish to continue, I won't stop you. 

The Man Down T…

February 7th, 2018 at 1:58 PM ^

the best assessment of Amaker's career posted here.  Overall he was a good thing for us. He took us from the dregs and sludge, cleaned us up, improved us as much as he could then handed off to Beilein.  All in all a net positive.  He didn't have the "make them better as the season goes" ability like Beilein but he wasn't terrible.  


February 7th, 2018 at 1:43 PM ^

All 3 coincide with a cratering of recruiting as the previous coach was a lame duck. 


3rd year slump is a thing that happens all across NCAA FB as coaches get fired and replaced.


February 7th, 2018 at 1:44 PM ^

But we'd all agree that Harbaugh is a better coach than Rodriguez or Hoke right? Yet the results, right down to recruiting are roughly the same (with Rodriguez's recruiting ranking probably being a bit lower because he was actually fired). Is the Harbaugh difference really a single victory? Or if Florida had actually been an 8-5 type team, would this season have been exactly the same and ended up 7-6. 


February 7th, 2018 at 4:39 PM ^

Comparing top programs that also replaced sliding programs/bad coaches:

The Good

Saban: national title in year 3

Jimbo Fisher: Orange bowl at 12-2 in year 3, National title in year 4

James Franklin (ugh): conf title in year 3 

So there are examples of quick success.  There are certainly other examples of year 3 struggles but it's hard to tell if it was a talent/youth issue or just bad coaching:

The Bad

Jim McElwain: fell off a bit of cliff in year 3, canned.

Charlie Strong: Not that he had a slump in year 3, but was bad for all three years.

Mark Helfrich: ok third year, fell off a cliff in year 4

The Ugly

It (not surprisingly) seems like year 3 shouldn't be a problem if you're a good coach and good recruiter.  And even James Franklin managed to be great in years 3 and 4!  I would have thought Harbaugh would be in that "Good" tier, but let's all take a step back and remember that we were on our third string QB and still lost some brutally close games that could have gone the other way to make this a solid season.

I'm optimistic 2017 was more of a blip than a trend. 



February 7th, 2018 at 1:44 PM ^

The last two Coaches were morons. Look at RR in year 3. Not so good.


Harbaugh will be fine. I am not happy about 2 and 13 in the last 15 years against OSU. We are going to beat ND,MSU and PSU next year. OSU is 50/50


February 7th, 2018 at 2:22 PM ^

Rich Rodriguez inherited an absolute shitpile...Threat and Cone as QB options?... Yeah and Lloyd pushed the only viable QB out the door to me this is the same "hero" who benched Brady in favor of Henne. And made a deal with the devil to get Henne here.
Rodriguez shifted the systems with zero talent and more importantly zero support from alums/athletics. By the end of his tenure things were improving and gifted Hoke his only good season which helped secure good recruits only to see them squandered by captain clapity clap clap. Harbaugh benefits from some talent, and starts recruiting the likes of Bush and Gary and Solomon. Yeah there are some glaring holes in the line, QB play, and offensive schemes and play calling...
Honestly if you fix line issues, the QB play and play calling are capable. If we land Shea Patterson with immediate eligibility and two seasons of game time, things could flip in a hurry. NEED TO BE PATIENT.