Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh evokes divergent opinion, which makes him no different than any coach in Division I other than Nick Saban. We believe there must be a law in Alabama against saying anything bad about Nick Saban.
Harbaugh walks the sidelines wearing his khakis, Michigan baseball cap and intellectual eyeglasses and portrays an image some think is confident and others smug.
However, there was no doubting the disappointment on Harbaugh’s face last weekend when the Wolverines opened the season with a 24-17 loss at Notre Dame.
And there is no doubt the Michigan alumni is not too happy about all of this, either.
Now, this is not to say Harbaugh is closer to Brady Hoke or Rich Rodriguez than he is to Fielding Yost, Fritz Crisler and Bo Schembechler is terms of charisma and coaching acumen.
But Michigan is now 8-8 in its last 16 games and has lost four straight. No Michigan coach since Rodriguez has lost four games in row and that comparison in enough to make its fans nauseous.
Michigan hired Harbaugh, who quarterbacked him under Schembechler from 1983-86, in 2015 after he and the San Francisco 49ers agreed to part two years after he led them to the Super Bowl.
The alumni couldn’t have been more thrilled and they nodded approvingly when Michigan gave him a contract that still makes him the Big Ten’s highest-paid coach ($7,004,000) in 2018. Only Saban ($11,132,000) and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($8,526,800) make more.
The Notre Dame game represented a barometer for Harbaugh’s critics. It was Michigan’s first game against the Irish in four seasons and it was in primetime on national television. Now after the loss, his Michigan teams have lost six of seven against Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
One of Harbaugh’s promises was that he could bring a more powerful offense to Ann Arbor, Last season, Michigan’s offense was ranked No. 105 nationally. The program brought in transfer Shea Patterson from Ole Miss to play quarterback. Against the Irish, he was 20-of-30 for 227 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a game-ending fumble of the Wolverines’ final possession. He was also sacked three times and tackled seven other times for a loss.
That again brought the play of Michigan’s offensive line to the forefront, one that now features Jon Runyan Jr. at left tackle. Not only couldn’t the line protect Patterson, but it allowed for only 58 yards rushing. The team’s biggest play all night was a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by cornerback Ambry Thomas.
After the game, social media attacked Harbaugh for not being able to develop an offensive line in four years.
“Onward,” Harbaugh told the media Saturday night. “Just good old-fashioned resolve. There’s more we can do. This could be a very good football team. We have confidence in them.”
Worse yet, former Michigan football star Braylon Edwards, the program’s all-time leading receiver, a former player for Harbaugh with the 49ers and now a commentator on the Big Ten Network, let loose on Twitter. Not only did Edwards use the F-word, but he said Patterson looked scared and that center Cesar Ruiz was weak.
“F—ing Michigan offense so predictable … Michigan football is sadly one thing … Trash.” tweeted Edwards.
You can imagine on that sat with Harbaugh.
“No. 1, first of all, it’s not true,” Harbaugh told a packed press conference in Ann Arbor on Monday. “It’s not factual. There’s nobody in our program who thinks those things about any player on our team, let alone the two players that Braylon described. On the other level, it’s disappointing that a member of the Big Ten Network would choose to attack the character of two of our players. That’s disappointing.
“And, I’ll say if somebody wants to attack the character of anybody on the ball club, come after me,” Harbaugh said. “… It’s not true. And nobody in the program thinks that about any player on our team.”
After the press conference, Edwards was at it again.