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Jim Harbaugh on NFL speculation: 'I’ll let my actions speak as they have in the past'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

An upbeat Jim Harbaugh, his team coming off back-to-back losses and with outside heat rising on his job security as he coaches his sixth season at Michigan, is not listening to the annual NFL rumors or any of the outside chatter.

In an exchange during his Monday news conference, Harbaugh was asked about recent speculation linking him to NFL jobs and whether he intends to be at Michigan for a long time. His contract expires after the 2021 season and earlier this season said there are “bigger fish to fry” in terms of negotiating an extension during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Harbaugh

“Again, it’s your willingness and interest in listening to what they say,” Harbaugh said Monday. “I don’t really have anything to say because I don’t have any real interest in listening to that kind of stuff. I think you know me by now. I always let the actions speak for what you have to say. I’ve always thought this, that your actions speak so loudly that people can’t even hear what you’re saying. I’ll let the actions speak as they have in the past.”

He was asked if the interpretation of his actions suggest that he intends to coach at Michigan for a long time.

“Yeah, those are the actions,” Harbaugh said. “And no matter what I say to you, I’ve been here for five and a half, almost six years, and I’ve experienced this, (that) no matter what I say, the next day, something else is said or the next year the same thing comes up.”

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When he was asked if he intends to work on a contract extension, he interrupted to make his point.

“No matter what I tell you, tomorrow something else will be written by somebody else,” Harbaugh said. “I’m going to let my actions speak loudly and, hopefully, you know me, my actions have been consistent.”

Harbaugh has been patient in working with a young team this season, breaking in a new starting quarterback behind an offensive line that has four new starters. He has been upbeat even after the losses, explaining that there are small things to tweak.

He made clear his exasperation with the annual Harbaugh-to-the-NFL rumors. The questions have fatigued him as the years have gone on and maybe more so in this year. That might explain his response when asked how long he will be at Michigan.

“We’ve been doing this for six years, that’s my point,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not answering that question. Our focus is, win the next game. You write whatever article you want because I know that has been happening for the last five and a half, six years, since the day I got here.”

Offensive lineman Andrew Stueber said Monday that the players see Harbaugh's passion for the program on a daily basis.

"His whole life is Michigan football," Stueber said. "It’s noticed in how he talks to players, how he carries himself, how he jumps into the meetings. He’s always the one sitting in the meetings, whether he’s in the corner or the front row, he’s always jotting down his notes.

"He cares about it. He always talks to the team whenever he can. His commitment to the team is unquestioned. He’s committed to every single player here. The players are confident in him too. We trust his ability his call-making ability his decision-making capability. It’s unquestioned how much he loves Michigan football and coaching here."

Stueber said he avoids social media but some of his teammates follow along and read criticism of Harbaugh. He said they focus on all who are in the football building, working to improve the program on a daily basis.

"While that might get you angry for a little bit, might get you frustrated, when you come back in here, it kinda all goes away," Stueber said. "It’s about us in the building."

Harbaugh said his attention is on getting his team back on track and preparing for Wisconsin this Saturday in primetime at Michigan Stadium.

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Michigan is 1-2 and coming off back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Indiana. Wisconsin has not played the last two weeks because of issues related to COVID-19, and as far as he knew on Monday, Harbaugh said he expects the game will be played.

There have been a bevvy of issues for Michigan, which dropped from the AP Top 25 after the 38-21 loss at unbeaten Indiana.

The Wolverines are ranked 81st nationally in rushing, averaging 140.3 – they had 13 yards on 18 attempts against the Hoosiers. Their pass defense has been exposed, particularly the inexperienced cornerbacks, and rank 104th nationally in passing yards allowed (287.3) and are 96th in red-zone defense.

Also significant are their penalty issues. Michigan is 105th nationally in penalties per game (8.33) and tied for 118th in penalty yards per game (85.0).

Harbaugh said they continue to work.

“Our expectations are to win this game,” Harbaugh said, adding there are “tweaks” and not “major things” to fix.