Why it’s time to axe the Jim Harbaugh Football era

Why it's time to axe the Jim Harbaugh Football era

A 963-350-36 record, 16 national championships that are claimed and unclaimed, 42 conference titles, and a 21-27 bowl game record; this makes up Michigan’s all-time football achievements. Unfortunately, during the last five seasons, the only thing that has changed is the bowl record. Michigan’s bowl record in the last 5 seasons is 1-4 which dips the overall percentage lower. If you are a Michigan fan who likes to point fingers, the person you should point fingers at is Jim Harbaugh.

Jim Harbaugh took a rigorous job and knew his first goal would have to rebuild. The Brady Hoke era did not end well with Michigan finishing the 2014 campaign with a 5-7 record and missing the post-season. Harbaugh had been with the San Francisco 49ers at the time, who he took to a Super Bowl two years prior, was labeled as the perfect replacement for the struggling Wolverines. Fortunately, Harbaugh spent his college days at Michigan where he was the starting Quarterback before leaving to go to the NFL.

What Michigan needed at the time was a guy who could bring in talent, develop talent, win big games, and bring a title home. Only one of these has been done in the 5 years that Harbaugh has spent at U of M. Harbaugh has echoed that he will make Michigan a winning program and will take them to a national championship, yet he has only been close once. With the amount of talent that Harbaugh has brought in, it sounds like he is more of a con-artist than he is a football coach. It is clearly time for Michigan to move on and here are my reasons why.

To begin with, Michigan football is a monopoly. The amount of top-ranked recruits that Michigan brings in is no surprise to anyone anymore. Harbaughs biggest recruit he has ever brought in was perfect 5-star Rashan Gary. Gary is one of 5 all-time perfect 5 stars and had an interesting colligate career. As a freshman, he played in all 13 games as defensive end and never really had a breakout performance. However, he did have a game against Central Florida which landed him on the PFP All Big-Ten Defensive Team of the Week in a performance where he had 6 tackles and a 1 sack. His sophomore season would be his best year. In his sophomore year, Gary achieved 58 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. In his final year with the maize and blue, Gary only played in nine games due to injury and forewent the Wolverines bowl game against the Florida Gators. Gary would go to the NFL and be drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers but has fought several different injuries in his first two seasons.

Two other five stars that Michigan has brought in came with the 2017 recruiting class. These two recruits are named Donovan Peoples-Jones and Aubery Soloman. These two recruits have two very different stories.

Peoples-Jones was a highly touted Wide Receiver from Cass Tech in Detroit, Michigan. DPJ is arguably one of the best Michigan players during the Harbaugh era and has a bright future in the NFL. On the other hand, the stats say something quite different. DPJ was ranked number 12 in the country, other notable receivers in the past 15 years to be ranked high were Julio Jones, A.J Green, and Percy Harvin. The only one out of these four to not have more than 700 receiving yards in a season was DPJ. DPJ’s career-high came in his sophomore season when he caught 47 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns. His quarterback during this season was Shea Patterson who was one of the most hyped-up QB prospects of all time yet was the last person who was signed as an undrafted free agent in the 2020 draft class. Besides that, DPJ left after his third year declaring for the Draft and wasn’t drafted until the 6th round.

Aubrey Soloman’s time at Michigan was short. After 2 seasons with the Wolverines, Soloman decided it was best to part ways and entered the NCAA transfer portal. Soloman has found a new home at the University of Tennessee, but his career has never really lived up to the hype. He is still currently playing for the Volunteers but he has never had more than 28 tackles in a season and has only recorded 2 career sacks.

In addition to the talent that Harbaugh has brought in and not produced correctly, Harbaugh can never win out the big game that will set Michigan apart from other above-average teams. After this year’s trash-heap performance against the Wisconsin Badgers, Harbaugh is now 0-11 as an underdog. Obviously, as an underdog, you are not supposed to win but there have been plenty of other Big Ten coaches who can knock off opponents who are supposed to win. Most notably, Northwestern University. Northwestern is known as the underdog king and is a team that almost always covers the spread and ruins bets. Against the spread, Northwestern is 21-8 which is 10th among all FBS schools. Against Wisconsin, Northwestern has won 4 out of the last 7 with Wisconsin being ranked for almost every match-up. Michigan is only 2-3 with Harbaugh coaching against Wisconsin.

Ohio State has been the biggest thorn in Harbaugh’s side. Harbaugh has never beaten Ohio State, and it is now year six. Seems like a long time to wait for a victory in the biggest rivalry game of all-time. However, Purdue and Iowa have been able to upset Ohio State in an orderly fashion. Ohio State visited Iowa City in 2017 ranked number three and looking to build their resume before the playoffs. Well, Ohio State got fed fried Buckeye that day and it probably tasted bitter. Iowa ran right over the Buckeyes beating them by a score of 55-24. This is the biggest loss Ohio State has taken since 1994 in a 63-14 loss to Penn State.

As for the Purdue game—now that was fun to watch. Nobody saw Purdue coming within 30 points of Ohio State but miracles happen. It was 2018 when Ohio State traveled to Purdue to play a game that would be national televised on ABC. Under the lights, Ohio State fumbled under pressure. Purdue put up 49 points on number 2 OSU beating them by a final score of 49-20.

Another struggle that Michigan continues to have is bowl games. Michigan has found its way to five great bowl games under Harbaugh but has only won one out of the five. This one win came in 2015 when Michigan whooped the Florida Gators by a score of 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl and Florida would never forget that game. In 2016, which was Harbaugh’s best year, Michigan played Florida State in the Orange Bowl. This game was a New Year’s Six Bowl, which is one of the most highlighted bowl games. Michigan had several players opt out of the game on game day, which was a surprise to many, but this team had depth. Well, Florida State wasn’t going to let that affect the game. Florida State had a game-winning drive within the last two minutes of the game that put the dagger in the heart of the Wolverines. The final score was 33-32 in favor of the Seminoles, and this is when I knew Harbaugh was not the answer Michigan needed.

The next three bowl games for Michigan all ended with the same outcome. Three different bowl games, 3 different SEC teams, 3 losses in total. The first loss came in 2017 when Michigan was invited to play in the Outback Bowl versus the South Carolina Gamecocks. Michigan went up quickly taking a 19-3 lead. In true Michigan fashion, Harbaugh and the Wolverines ended up losing the game 26-19 letting up 23 straight points to the Gamecocks.

The following year Michigan would face a familiar opponent, the Florida Gators. The last time Michigan played Florida in a bowl game, Michigan blew them out. As stated before, Florida would never forget what happened three years prior. Florida would put up 41 points on a Michigan defense that was widely recognized as one of the best in the country that year. The final score of the game would be 41-15 Gators as Michigan would finish that year with two of the most disappointing losses in the Harbaugh era. Michigan was one game away from going to the Big Ten Championship to have a date with the Northwestern Wildcats, but those hopes were spoiled because of Ohio State. Ohio State would blow out Michigan by a score of 62-39.

In 2019, Michigan was supposed to be on a revenge tour against Ohio State after they narrowly beat a ranked Iowa team and dismantled a ranked Notre Dame. Ohio State would once again show who the little brother in the situation was and won the game 56-27. The bowl match-up for Michigan would be against an injured Alabama in the Citrus Bowl. With backup Mac Jones taking the helm, Alabama clobbered Michigan by a score of 35-16.

Michigan will not lose a bowl game this year because they have a 2-4 record and with their last game being canceled, they are now ineligible for the postseason.

Finally, we can talk about the reason Harbaugh was brought in; to win a national championship. When Harbaugh signed his 52.1 million total contracts, he also signed for incentives that he would be awarded if he won a national championship within the seven years his contract would last. If Michigan was to win a national championship, Harbaugh would get a $500,000 bonus. Other incentives include the $300,000 bonus for a semi-final appearance, and $125,000 for winning the Big Ten East then another $125,000 for winning the Big Ten Championship.

Unfortunately, Harbaugh has not done any of these. Maybe it’s because of the inability to win big games, but it could also be due to the fact Harbaugh does not get along with his assistant coaches. It is now year 6 at Michigan for Harbaugh, and he has had to hire 23 different assistants. That’s almost a 4 per year average which even a 1 per year average is alarming to a program. I get it, some coaches get a better opportunity from a different school and get better pay. It is unnecessary to have this many coaches leave a program like Michigan. You can say they were not fit for the system, but how can a guy who took a team to a Super Bowl not have a suitable system for any offensive or a defensive coach, especially since defense as this is Harbaugh’s specialty, yet it seems he can not keep any of his guys.

It’s time to stop firing the assistants and pin the tail on the donkey and kick him out of office. Harbaugh is the true problem at Michigan, and it is time for him to go. I’m not even a Michigan fan nor am I a State fan, so this is the least biased article you will read (besides the part about Northwestern because that’s my favorite team). I say that part because I am sick and tired of watching one of the greatest programs in the history of college football fall apart at the helms of a bad college football coach. Michigan needs to make changes now and they need to realize this 2020 season is not a fluke. Just because it’s 2020 doesn’t mean everything is as crazy as this year has been. It is time to ax the Jim Harbaugh football era at Michigan.

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