Michael James: I Won't Say Jim Harbaugh Must Go, But Something Needs to Change At Michigan

September 21, 2019, 6:07 PM

Jim Harbaugh (file photo)

Michael James of The Tribe Sports has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism at The Detroit News, New York Daily News and ESPN. This column is republished with permission.

By Michael James

After watching Michigan get absolutely spanked, 35-14, on the road by the Wisconsin Badgers in their Big Ten opener, it would be far too easy to join the chorus of those now fervently chanting, “Jim Harbaugh’s Got To Go!”

So, I won’t say it.

What I will say after seeing Harbaugh’s team – now into their fifth year under his stewardship – fail like it always does in big games is this: Michigan has to do something.

I’m being intentionally vague as to exactly what I feel Michigan’s president and athletic director need to do, because any time anyone tries to state the obvious when it comes to mussing a single hair on the head of St. Harbaugh, they are told by fellow Wolverines faithful that they are not “real” Michigan fans.

What’s more, on sports television networks, the experts constantly bombard us with the perspective that we simply aren’t smart enough to properly decipher what our eyes are telling us almost every time a Jim Harbaugh-coached Michigan team appears in a “big” game.

And since all of those talking heads either played or coached the game of football at some level, we are expected to believe that they know better than us, right?

Here’s the thing: After one of the most embarrassing performances by a Wolverines team that I have ever seen in the decades of watching Michigan football, I simply cannot be told that Jim Harbaugh is not a significant part of the problem. And you shouldn’t, either.

I won’t bore you with the specifics – because if you’re a Michigan fan, you should know – but overall, can you name even one “showdown” game in the five seasons that Harbaugh has been in Ann Arbor where the Wolverines truly seemed prepared to play?

Before Harbaugh pulled Shea Patterson in favor of backup Dylan McCaffrey to start the second half down 28-0, can you name a single game – even one still hanging in the balance – where Harbaugh pulled a struggling quarterback to give his team a spark?

I’ll bet you can’t, which is why Harbaugh mercifully pulling Patterson at halftime against the dominant Badgers reeked of desperation. When McCaffrey entered the game, you got the feeling that even Harbaugh knows that something needs to change at Michigan.

Late in the Game 

It’s late in the game for Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor. He’s been back home for five years now. Every season has been one excuse after another. Season after season, Michigan continues to be proven overrated. Against Wisconsin, like clockwork, and as suspected – and expected, by those not wearing Maize and Blue glasses – the Wolverines once again failed on the biggest stage.

If allowed to venture back to Harbaugh’s hiring and first season in 2015, we expected to see an offensive innovator and quarterback whisperer.

That didn’t happen.

We expected to see well-prepared teams that reflected the fiery personality of their coach.

That didn’t happen.

We expected to see Michigan once again become a perennial contender for the Big Ten championship as well as for the national championship.

That didn’t happen.

Where's the Change?

We expected, by now, to see a whole lot of things occur that have not happened and now, after five years, there is little reason to believe any of it will happen.

So, with all this in mind, and another pit in our stomachs after watching another catastrophic failure in a big game, I won’t pile on by saying that Jim Harbaugh has to go. What I will say is that something must change.

There are very smart people running the university and athletic department at Michigan. I’m fairly sure that they know exactly what that something is.

Read more:  The Tribe

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