UM mailbag: Jim Harbaugh may leave someday, but not today
It’s that time of year. It annually falls right about now, in that purgatory stage between the end of the college-football regular season and the bowl games. This is when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who led the Wolverines to a 10-2 record in this, his fourth season, is suddenly linked to NFL vacancies by “sources." Lots of sources, perhaps of the don’t-actually-exist types of sources. Maybe the kind of source who, over a couple glasses of whiskey, says, “Hey, how about Jim Harbaugh coaching Brand X NFL team?” And off goes the rumor and speculation.
It happened again this week, with various media members citing sources that Harbaugh is interested in the Packers and Browns. Michigan’s annual football banquet is Sunday and that will be prime time for Harbaugh to address this talk, just as he did two years ago at the bust. That’s when he said the people spreading rumors about his departure to the NFL were “jive turkeys.” Wonder how he’ll top that? Jive nervous chickens?
But the Harbaugh speculation has been a hot topic in the mailbag, so let’s get to it.
►Question: Will Harbaugh still coach the bowl game after he takes the Packers’ job? I mean, Cris Carter hinted at it so it MUST be true (wink emoji)… — @GregPoterala
►Question: Harbaugh to — insert NFL team here — Another nonsense rumor, or is there something to this? — @jaronoff38
►Answer: Greg and Joe, clearly you already know the answer to the questions you sent. It was laughable even before Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said so in so many words Thursday morning during an interview on WTKA. Now, I’ve said this before and will say it again — and this is purely hunch — I’m not saying he’s a lifer at Michigan. I don’t know that he isn’t, but it’s quite possible he will get the itch to coach again in the NFL and try to win a Super Bowl. He’s about to turn 55 and has a lot of coaching left. Using Mack Brown and Les Miles as examples, if you’ve got the desire, and you can coach, then age is not an issue.
So if Harbaugh eventually wants to get back to the NFL, he likely will have that opportunity. But he has unfinished business in Ann Arbor. He’s too competitive a guy to leave before the Wolverines have reached their goals on a consistent basis. Not saying he has to win a Big Ten title and be in the playoff mix every year, but that's kinda what he has to do. Until that happens, it seems he’s going to be sticking around at Michigan.
►Q. Who are the 3 realistic options for an OC? And will Coach Harbaugh ever relinquish control of the offense? — @VincentLIFE
►A. Tim, seems like Matt Canada could be an option and former Michigan pass-game coordinator Jedd Fisch, now with the Rams, would be an easy transition to offensive coordinator. I’ve been harping for a while that Michigan needs a designated offensive coordinator and now is the time to make that move.
Will he ever relinquish control? Look, I think he can have his fingerprints on the offense, and he can stress what he wants it to look like, but someone with fresh eyes needs to be the one calling the plays. Perhaps he will come to that conclusion. Might be a good idea to, because it’s the correct one.
►Q. Shea has to come back now, right? I mean no way he’s getting ready for NFL. Getting bad advice if he leaves. — @leidlein
►Q. Odds Patterson returns and thoughts on others leaving early? — @JMacGreenwood
►A. Jeff and Jim, I’ve got to think Shea Patterson returns, and after talking to Todd McShay, an ESPN college football and NFL draft analyst, it seems the general feeling is he needs another year under Harbaugh to be best prepared for the next stage. He has to see how much is returning around him for next season, too.
The receivers, including a healthy Tarik Black, could be dynamic if utilized properly. And he also has to see the rivalry games are at home, and, like every other guy and coach on this team, Patterson is uber-competitive and probably wants to avenge those Notre Dame and Ohio State losses.
As far as others leaving early, it seems linebacker Devin Bush is the only one who seems ready. It doesn't hurt to get an NFL grade, but it will only help the guys dipping their toe in the NFL conversation to return for another season.
►Q. Will Harbaugh lose to Ryan Day next year? When will McCaffrey or Milton be the starter? — @CapitalBanker
►A. I put my crystal ball away after the season because it was clearly damaged as evidenced by my college football picks. Dreadful. Anyway, Michigan has all its rivalry games at home next season, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State, so that’s an advantage. Obviously, Ohio State has been able to win in Ann Arbor recently, so how much of an advantage is left to be seen.
Ryan Day was 3-0 as interim, and he obviously had a great offensive game plan against Michigan’s top-rated defense a few weeks ago. Does that mean Ohio State wins again? Assuming Dwayne Haskins is gone, I'd say advantage Michigan.
►Q. What is so compelling about the Florida Gators that the powers that be scheduled them AGAIN in the bowl game? — @GDSPE
►A. Gregory, when you find out, will you tell me? Gators fans aren’t thrilled about this, nor are Michigan fans, as you know. I will say this, though, the Gator mascot is awfully cute. OK, I'll also say this — Dan Mullen is a fine football coach and the defense is solid, but offensively the Gators still have plenty of room to improve. Michigan is 4-0 against Florida and this FEELS like the Wolverines could go 5-0.
►Q. Has Don Brown met with any of the media to discuss the defense performance vs. Ohio State? Would like to hear his assessment. — @mdh2959
►A. Mark, we have not had that opportunity to speak to Don. My understanding is he took the defeat and the defensive performance very hard, as to be expected. This will probably be a lot like the aftermath of the 2017 Penn State game for him — he said he woke up every day after that loss haunted by how poorly the defense played.
I’m thinking he probably has not slept much since Nov. 24 in Columbus and won't again until next year's game.
►Q. What are you mom’s thoughts on Urban retiring? What does Harbaugh need to do to upgrade the offense? — @poppaTman
►A. Mom has not been a big Urban fan and took exception to Big Ten Network apparently referring to him as one of the great coaches. I tried to explain that he really is a great coach, but she didn’t want to hear it. As far as upgrading the offense, sort of discussed this above. I think and have thought Michigan needs an offensive coordinator, someone who can take Harbaugh’s offense and update it and make it more dynamic. That can be done without shaking things up too much.
►Q. What will I do with my Saturdays without football? — @oldmancoyote
►A. This will be a dilemma for all of OMC, but I’d suggest a few things — binge watch a TV show; take up knitting again, because I know that’s something you’ve missed; or maybe you could write a novel. Imagine that. What a novel idea.