Michigan football mailbag: With Jim Harbaugh staying put, what happens now?

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

There’s been nothing to discuss regarding Michigan football lately. Nope. Players are in winter conditioning. Spring practice will start soon. Nothing to see. Move on.

Yeah, well, we know that’s not been the case with this latest, “Is Jim Harbaugh going to the NFL?” situation, so let’s get to the questions in this Michigan football mailbag.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh had discussions regarding the Minnesota Vikings' head-coaching vacancy.

Question. Where does the last 24-48 hours rank on the all-time crazy train of Michigan football? — @mattdepoint

Answer. Right up there at the top. Coaching searches are a grind, and reporters will joke (sort of) about not being able to shower or change clothes because the situation is so fluid. The phone is always ringing and text messages flying. This felt like that in a compressed form. When I saw the tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter about Harbaugh's decision, I did a double-take, a triple-take, and I made sure it was verified, because that was not the tweet I expected to see Wednesday night.

Q. So, now what? (That’s it — that’s the question) — @Ryan_J_Lewis

A. Ryan, there are plenty of layers to this, but let’s focus on two. Now what for the players? There is zero doubt in my mind Harbaugh has some work to do here, and it absolutely needs to be his first order of business. Trust is a big thing in any relationship and that holds true for head coaches and players. Yes, Harbaugh was forthcoming when players and recruits asked about his NFL interest. But this dragged on for nearly five weeks when the glow should have been on the players and their 12-2 season. It must have been confusing, too, for the players to see Harbaugh in the office, business as usual, until the moment he left for his Vikings interview. For the fans, some are elated Harbaugh will be coaching in 2022, while others feel the limbo of the last month-plus of waiting for his next move have tarnished their opinions of him. Harbaugh had seemingly generated a great deal of goodwill this past season. He will have to work to get that back. How? Don't know. 

Q. Why do I still root for this stupid program?” — @dangoldss

A. Probably, Dan, because you’ve rooted for Michigan even during the lulls, and there have been plenty of them. And you’ll do it again. Same reason I’ve been a Bengals fan my entire life.

Q. Do you think this is the last time Harbaugh will flirt with the NFL? — @LLwaverider

A. I will always believe, as I have said since he took the Michigan job, he has an interest in coaching in the NFL again. He wanted this Vikings job. The question is this: Will the NFL ever come calling again? At this moment, hard to see that happening. The window for Harbaugh-to-the-NFL isn't fully closed, but it's close.

Q. Is Harbaugh’s contract staying the same or will they renegotiate a new one? — @HPMike65

A. Well, Mike, you and @jimmyfredal and @flemgoblue asked about Harbaugh’s contract, so here goes. Michigan isn’t going to renegotiate a renegotiated contract that was sitting there waiting for Harbaugh to sign. What Warde Manuel offered, I believe, is what Harbaugh will sign, if he hasn’t already. It’s a fine contract. Will it blow you away like the screaming headlines for Mel Tucker’s 10-year big-money deal? Probably not. But it’s more than I make.  

Q. For “some reason” we haven’t seen much progress on the DC front. Could this Larry Foote thing really happen? — @MarcCarmanSr

A. Marc, this one is for your mom. Lots of questions about the defensive coordinator vacancy and not to be repetitive, but I’m sticking with the name I mentioned last week: Jesse Minter, who was a first-year defensive coordinator last year at Vanderbilt after four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Mike Macdonald left Michigan after one year as defensive coordinator to return to the Ravens as DC, and Harbaugh would like to have some continuity on the defensive side. Minter, 38, was on staff with Macdonald at Baltimore, and he’s a guy who seems to prefer the college game and has a year of experience calling the defense. This doesn’t mean I’m snubbing Larry Foote. Not at all. I just think Minter is familiar with what Macdonald brought to Michigan, and that’s a huge plus.

Q. I’m up in Calgary and feel out of the loop but did Harbaugh taking interviews negatively impact commitments with it happening on National Signing Day? — @pjcalverley

A. Paul, Michigan didn’t have any recruits planning to sign on Wednesday after inking everybody during the early signing period in December. I spoke to one incoming freshman who said he and his fellow freshmen were not panicking. Was there and will there be negative recruiting? Bet there will be.

Q. What’s new on the 2022 radio booth? — @freehan11

A. Not a secret that Jon Jansen more than likely will be the radio analyst for Michigan games, and if I had to pick right now, I’d say Doug Karsch will handle play-by-play. 


Twitter: @chengelis