There’s little secret that around the Michigan football program there are a lot of people who see Jim Harbaugh as the savior of a Wolverines team that is down in the dumps. Just don’t count Harbaugh as part of that group, as he was asked about feeling like a savior and masterfully nixed those thoughts.
One intrepid reporter asked Michigan’s newest head coach, “I wonder how comfortable or uncomfortable you are with this perception that you’re the savior of Michigan football?”
“I’m not comfortable with that at all,” Harbaugh shot back with a wry smile.
However the words surrounding Tuesday’s press conference and media frenzy had an eerily familiar sound to them. It was almost as if we’ve heard most of the platitudes and glowing reviews of a new head coach coming to Michigan’s rescue before.
In fact, there is this one other time. So, sit back and let me tell you a tale as old as…well, four years ago, and it goes something like this:
“Michigan got it’s ‘Michigan Man’.”
“[He] understands Michigan and he wanted this job because it has been his dream job,” Brandon told The AP. “We won’t have to teach him the words to ‘The Victors’ and I believe our players will respond to him because I got 100 percent positive feedback…”
Guess who those words were written about? Those weren’t about Michigan’s new head coach Jim Harbaugh, but rather words spoken and written about Brady Hoke when he was hired ahead of the 2011 season, via ESPN.com.
So, what’s the point?
Those words spoken four years ago should serve as a cautionary tale that just being a “Michigan Man” and having a good pedigree aren’t enough to guarantee success. Something more is required to right the ship of one of the true bluebloods of college football.
Michigan may need Harbaugh to be the savior, but don’t expect him to put that kind of pressure on himself. Those platitudes will come with winning and achieving excellence like Harbaugh remembers mattering at the University of Michigan.
Comparing Harbaugh and Hoke may be a bit unfair because they certainly aren’t the same people. However, the scenarios and expectations upon coming back to Michigan are very similar.
There are also significant differences in the pedigree of the two coaches, and their ties to the University of Michigan are a bit different too.
Obviously, Harbaugh was a star quarterback, while Hoke was never a student-athlete, but was an assistant under Lloyd Carr for eight years. Harbaugh’s family has had ties to the Maize ‘N Blue since his father first accepted an assistant coaching position there in 1973, and Hoke’s roots are just his own in the coaching world alone.
So, perhaps Harbaugh gets it a bit more deeply than Hoke does or did. But, that alone doesn’t mean you’re a winner. What does separate Harbaugh and Hoke is the fact that Harbaugh has actually won championships and done it for multiple years at multiple levels.
Winning 12 games at Stanford is no small feat, but winning 11 games twice at a place like the University of San Diego is nothing short of miraculous. Hoke taking six years to win 10-plus games at Bowling Green, not quite as impressive and neither is coming to Michigan after going 9-4 in year two at San Diego State.
There’s little secret that Harbaugh cares not for feelings or personality contests, he simply cares about winning. Just look to the press conference on Tuesday and count the times that one word “winning” was mentioned. Chances are you will lose count, because it was used so often.
Harbaugh said and did all the right things on Tuesday in his homecoming to Michigan.
Yet, the point is, declaring that all is right in the world of Michigan football because they hired a “Michigan Man” is a bit of a stretch.
Call it the “fool me once” memory or whatever you’d like, but it wasn’t that long ago and many were talking about Michigan football being “back” under Brady Hoke.
Harbaugh has all the pedigree to indicate he can make Michigan great once again, but let’s actually see him do what the last “Michigan Man” couldn’t do.
Michigan has a great chance with the hire of Harbaugh, but even Hoke was able to pull out one 11-win season. In order to be a “savior” of the program, Harbaugh is going to need to be a 10-year man with multiple championships.
Now, let’s just see if Harbaugh can turn this ship around as quickly as he has at all three of his last stops. If he does, this well could be the last stop on his head coaching journey and the title of savior will be more than deserved.