Adapt or Die

It's time for Michigan Football to decide what they really want to be.

The Mood -

In this bizarre year of COVID, change, on so many levels, is accelerating. And for Michigan Football, the change isn't good. The Michigan program under Jim Harbaugh, it seems all of the sudden, is in real trouble.

But is it really all of the sudden? Anyone who's watched Michigan football with any regularity over the years could sense the shift. We felt it last year after the Wisconsin loss. After the last 4 bowl games. After pretty much any Ohio State game. And since you're reading this blog that exists in the outer rim of Michigan voices spewing content on the internet, being the die hard that you're well aware. You follow the program intensely. You know stats off the top of your Harbaugh's record vs Michigan State and Ohio State. 

It's 3-8, by the way. But you already knew that.

You probably turned on the Indiana game hopeful that Michigan would right the ship after an embarrassing outing against the Spartans a week ago. History says that's what should've happened. The MSU game was a massive let down. Michigan clearly has the talent gap to get passed a team like that with ease. Obviously, that loss was a flash in the pan...a fluke. Harbaugh and his assistants earning top-tier salaries would correct those errors during a week of spirited practice. One loss, after all, isn't a death sentence...there's still everything to play for if you could run the table.

Watch out, Indiana, here we come!

Or...not. Not even close. Lifeless, bloodless, effortless. I mean, look, Michigan has talent all over the field...even if some of it is young and untested, it's still talent beyond what the Hoosiers have. This is Michigan, fergodsakes! What we saw was a team that looked defeated from the they didn't even want to be there. Indiana did, though, and they dominated Michigan. 

Indiana. Dominated. Michigan.

Sure, Michigan did some good stuff at times. Joe Milton made some good throws, but he also didn't. The OL was...I don't even know what they were doing? Eighteen carries for thirteen yards??? Ope...I think the defense just jumped offsides again. I don't think this game boiled down to Indiana making a few more plays than Michigan did...they made way more. They were far more prepared. And when that's the case, you stop looking at the players making the plays, and start looking at the coaches calling them. But more than that, it was the effort and the attitude. Michigan had no juice. You would think a good team looking to make a statement after such an embarrassing loss would come out with a little more energy and fire? 

Nope. None at all.

That's coaching. That's culture.

I don't know what needs to be done with Jim Harbaugh. He seems lost to me. He's seems almost a shell of his former self these last 3 seasons. When he was at Stanford and San Fransisco and when he first got to Michigan, he had a coaching tenacity. He had an energy that we were told would wear people out. He was dynamic. But it seems more and more that he's lost that edge. Don't get me wrong, I think he runs a good program, but Michigan needs more than just a steward right now.

To me, it boils down to this – Jim Harbaugh is the quintessential "Michigan Man" that checks all of the righteous boxes set forth by the current athletic administration...runs a clean (and very profitable) program, he recruits the right way, he graduates his players...he runs a program that all of the U-M alums can be proud of – a program his mentor would be proud of. Unfortunately, in this modern age, that's just not enough to win championships. Maybe if Michigan were in the Big Ten west, or the Pac-12...but they're stuck in a conference where their biggest rival is a juggernaut – and you've lost 17 of the last 19 against that juggernaut.

But Brad, those teams bend and break the we really want Michigan, our beloved Michigan, going down that road?

Look, if you want to play with the big boys, then you play with the big boys. Michigan pays Jim Harbaugh 7.7M per year, 4th overall among CFB coaches, right up there with the big boys. To me, that says Michigan is serious about being among the elite. That says to me that the expectation is to win championships. 

Players come to Michigan to win and compete on the highest level. But when it's obvious the program isn't on that level anymore, the top talent (asst. coaches and recruits) goes elsewhere...which is exactly what's been happening. The sport of college football is evolving rapidly and Michigan is getting left behind. Being "The Leaders and Best" isn't enough anymore.

If Michigan just wants a "Michigan Man" to just coach the team and maintain a moral superiority, then by all means keep Harbaugh, or hire Scot Loeffler or Mike Hart or Nick Sheridan...or better yet just get Brady Hoke back, but pay them an amount commensurate with what those lower expectations are – 3 or 4M a year and hope for the stars to eventually align for that one banner year when you catch everyone off guard.

But if the honest to goodness expectation is to be elite and win championships, then it's time to rethink what Michigan is all about. There's some serious coaching talent out there and maybe it's time to take a page from the Don Canham playbook – to look outside the shadow of the Michigan bloodline. Bo wasn't a "Michigan Man", in fact he was an Ohio State man...a disciple of Woody Hayes. But he came in and resurrected an entire program not by doing things the way they've always been done...but by doing things the way they had been done somewhere else.

The thinking among Michigan fans has been "Well if Harbaugh can't make this work, who can?" has got to change. Harbaugh can't make this work because what this is isn't enough anymore. The old school Bo approach isn't enough. It worked back in the day...but those days are long gone. Yes, Bo built a foundation, sure, but you can't just keep adding to that same foundation. Sooner or later, you have to adapt to the environment.

Adapt or die.

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