Jim Harbaugh and the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight”

Last Saturday, Jim Harbaugh took his roster of 4&5 Stars to play Rutgers, which has a roster of “no stars”, and after 60 minutes, and 3 OT’s, Michigan finally eked out a 48-42 victory.

While it was an official victory for Harbaugh, on the other hand it was a Technical Knockout awarded to Greg Schiano!

Let’s remember, Greg Schiano is Rutgers first year Head Coach and he inherited a program that lost 21 consecutive Big Ten games, yet Greg Schiano and his newly formed coaching staff had Michigan on the ropes from start to finish.

Rutgers scored first and led 17-7 at Halftime. In fact, Rutgers band of “no stars” and its beleaguered #92 ranked Offense, lit up Michigan for nearly 500 Yards at nearly 6 Yards per play.

Jim Harbaugh escaped with a victory, but not with his dignity.


Jim Harbaugh, the Myth:

When Jim Harbaugh was hired, we were told he couldn’t miss.

We were told National title(s) were imminent. We were told Jim Harbaugh was an Coaching genius…an Offensive guru…a Quarterback “whisperer”.

We were also told that Jim Harbaugh, a so called “Michigan Man” would bring a Big Ten title to Michigan for the first time since 2004

That’s what we were told…and while Harbaugh had a slew of Championships in his sights, he also made a mockery of the simplicity of winning said championships, yet Jim Harbaugh clearly misjudged the degree of difficulty. It soon became evident that opposing coaches weren’t going to roll over and play dead for the enjoyment of Jim Harbaugh.

If winning a string of titles was the goal, then after 5 years and 5 games, Jim Harbaugh is essentially a $49 Million bust.

Not only has Harbaugh not won a National Title, or Big Ten Title, he hasn’t even won a Division Title. In fact the only “Return on Investment” the University of Michigan has received for their $49 Million investment is a “Participation Trophy” as well as 4 consecutive Bowl losses.


Has Dr. Blitz run out of tricks?

Don Brown is Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator and he is known as “Dr. Blitz” for overwhelming inferior opponents with a barrage of Defensive Blitzes.

It’s kind of a Michigan thing…you know, run up the score and beat the daylights out of beleaguered opponents, and Rutgers is Exhibit A.

In 2016, Michigan beat the daylights out of Rutgers 78-0. In 2018, Michigan beat Rutgers 42-7. In 2019, Michigan beatdown Rutgers 52-0. Do you see the pattern? Don Brown and Jim Harbaugh expended a great deal of energy beating 3 different Rutgers teams whose cumulative won/lost record was 5-31, by a cumulative score of 167-7. Is there dignity in dismantling a hapless opponent?

Meanwhile, when evenly matched, Don Brown’s “Blitzes” are more nuisance than dominating. In 2018, Don Brown yielded 62 Points in a loss at Ohio State, and in 2019, Brown yielded 56 points losing at home to Ohio State.

But, most note worthy is the fact that Don Brown yielded 42 points at Rutgers last Saturday.

After all, in terms of money, resources and recruiting, Rutgers isn’t on the same planet as Michigan. Keep in mind, Greg Schiano, took over a football program that registered 21 consecutive Big Ten losses prior to this season. Greg Schiano also inherited a roster built upon recruiting classes ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten.

Yet Greg Schiano posted 42 Points last weekend vs Don Brown’s “Blitzing”, Defense, and it’s pretty clear Don Brown is out of tricks!


Josh Gattis and the “Speed in Space” project

Meanwhile, Josh Gattis arrived at Michigan last season as Jim Harbaugh’s newest Offensive Coordinator,

Prior to Josh Gattis, multiple coaches dabbled in Michigan’s Offensive scheme including but not limited to Tim Drevno, Dan Enos, Jedd Fisch, Jim McElwain, and Pep Hamilton. Confusing? It should be.

Does anyone know what Offensive scheme Harbaugh is deploying? Is it Spread? Power? Hybrid? In 5 years, Jim Harbaugh has tried them all yet never won a Championship.

Anyhow, when Gattis arrived at Michigan he brought with him a concept he refers to as “Speed in Space” which is a clever name for getting a team’s fastest players in open space vs opposing Defenses. But c’mon, that’s a basic concept of every Football coach starting with Pop Warner isn’t it?

Yet, in the game of chess, whereby Offensive Coordinator is matched against Defensive Coordinator, getting “Speed in Space” isn’t a simple proposition. This season when matching wits against Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin, Josh Gattis and his “Speed in Space” scheme posted just 56 points total, or an average of just 18.6 Points per game. In fact, Wisconsin held Michigan to just 47 Yards Rushing, 172 Yards Passing and just 11 points.

And speaking of Rushing Offense, remember when Michigan boasted a stable of productive Running Backs? Well, Running the football is obviously not a component of the “Speed in Space” scheme because Michigan’s Rushing Offense is currently ranked #102 Nationally, and #11 Big Ten, which means Michigan is essentially a Pass first, and run if you can Offense.


At the bottom line (a participation trophy is all they got):

Jim Hackett took the easy path but not the most productive path when he hired Jim Harbaugh prior to the 2015 season.

Of course, Jim Hackett was acting AD at the time and he was quite smug when he proudly unveiled Jim Harbaugh as Michigan’s Head Football Coach. Yet it was downplayed that Jim Hackett spent $49 Million to stake his claim, thereby making Jim Harbaugh one of the Top 5 highest paid coaches in the land.

In spite of Hackett’s cryptic news conferences at the time suggesting he was sorting through all manner of candidates, let’s be clear, he was focused exclusively upon hiring Jim Harbaugh, so I don’t know how it could be construed as a coaching search, it was more like a targeted bounty hunt.

At any measure, Hackett was fixated upon hiring a “Michigan Man” and he was fixated upon hiring Jim Harbaugh, and in so doing, he summarily overlooked a number of rising stars in the coaching fraternity.

Immediately below is a short list of coaches who were in some manner of transition when Jim Hackett hired Jim Harbaugh 5 years ago. I have included their coaching record and championship titles.

  • Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, 5 years, 54-17, 3 Big Ten West Titles
  • Kirby Smart, Georgia, 4 years, 49-14, 3 SEC East Titles
  • Luke Fickell, Cincinnati, 4 years, (30-5 last 3 years), 1 AAC East Title
  • Mario Cristobal, Oregon, 3 years, 24-6, 1 PAC 12 Title
  • Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma, 4 years, 42-8, 3 Big 12 Titles

And for good measure, Ryan Day was a rising star in the NFL in 2015, yet I’m certain he wasn’t on Jim Hackett’s radar. Nevertheless, Ryan Day was certainly on Ohio State’s radar.

Ryan Day was hired as Ohio State OC/Quarterback Coach in 2017 and became Head Coach last year, and since has posted a 20-1 record, including 1 Big Ten East Title.

At any measure, what is the takeaway from the preceding list?

Every coach listed has accomplished more, and is paid considerably less than Jim Harbaugh. Yet, Jim Hackett ignored them all. We will never know  if any of the preceding coaches would have accepted a coaching job Michigan but one thing is certain, if a program doesn’t conduct an interview, then the rest is self evident.

Michigan is no longer a Dream Destination, rather it is a problematic coaching destination where administrators meddle in Football business. It is also considered a culture of unbridled Arrogance. After all, Rich Rodriguez got called upon the carpet in front of University Administrators for using the word “Ain’t” in a press conference.

And while the word “Ain’t” is stigmatized and nonstandard, and while Ain’t is not considered proper form of Kings English, and while its usage may not be approved by the English Department at University of Michigan, nevertheless getting called in front of University Administrators for such indiscretion is way over the top, after all the use of the word Ain’t could hardly be construed as malfeasance. Yet those rules don’t apply to Michigan Men like Jim Harbaugh.

So, administrative meddling resonates loudly throughout the Coaching fraternity, and most coaches if offered the job would say “thanks, but no thanks: who needs it? Who wants it?”.

Now Michigan is in a Catch-22, because the $49 Million Michigan Man project hasn’t worked out unless of course Michigan is satisfied with “Participation Trophies”. No other “Michigan Man” prospects are hiding in the wings who can render National Championships, and moreover, Michigan administrators including the AD are incapable of identifying successful candidates outside their boundaries.

Michigan has 3 games remaining vs Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State and while Michigan is a 2.5 Point favorite vs Penn State this weekend, don’t buy it.

While Penn State is struggling with an unprecedented 0-5 winless record, nevertheless Penn State appears to be more schematically sound than Michigan.

One thing is certain, when the 2020 season comes to a close, University of Michigan can mark 16 Years since their last Big Ten Title in 2004, and Jim Harbaugh is still empty handed except for a “Participation Trophy”.


Thank you for reading and Happy Thanksgiving to all.