As of right now, I’m hearing that Jim Harbaugh will not be the next coach at the University of Michigan. What seemed like a lock last week suddenly fell apart over the weekend. Reasons why Harbaugh turned down the job – reminder: college coaching situations can be very fluid – remain unclear but his decision sets Michigan AD Dave Brandon up for a hectic week in Ann Arbor.
As the media and bloggers have been speculating for weeks, all signs point to Rich Rodriguez getting fired very shortly. His poor performance down the stretch made it an easy choice for Brandon to fire him. If the Wolverines had shown any life against Michigan State (34-17), Ohio State (37-7) or in the bowl game against Mississippi State (52-14), perhaps Brandon could have gotten away with keeping Rich Rod for one more year and letting him fire defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. That wasn’t the case.
The gutless showing by Rodriguez, combined with the Harbaugh perfect storm – his meteoric rise in Palo Alto, Stanford’s immense senior class departing, his star QB leaving for the NFL and most importantly, him being a Michigan Man – should have made this a seamless transition. The vocal Michigan fan base was foaming at the mouth at the idea. The dominoes were falling – Harbaugh was on board, Michigan lost its bowl game, Stanford would play 48 hours later, then Michigan would fire Rodriguez, and all that would be needed to finalize Harbaugh was a signature. A press conference later this week would usher in a new era.
Then Harbaugh got cold feet. Was his wife – who just gave birth – more comfortable on the West Coast? Did Harbaugh have misgivings about his pro-style offense working with spread weapons in Ann Arbor? Did he really want to sign a lucrative contract – that would be a matter of public record – to be one of the highest paid coaches in the country while living in one of the most distressed states in the country? Maybe the idea of coaching at the highest level, against his brother, was more attractive than something that might have been a rebuilding job.
Peter King reported on Sunday Night that Harbaugh would take either the Michigan job or the 49ers job. Harbaugh’s brother thinks he could stay at Stanford. Last week, we would have guessed 97% Michigan, 1% SF, 1% Stanford, 1% Other. Today, we’ve re-adjusted that to 50% SF, 20% Stanford, 15% Other, 15% Michigan. This is liable to change again later in the week.
If Harbaugh doesn’t have a change of heart and pick Michigan, expect Brandon to catch a lot of heat this week. It seems Brandon went all-in on Harbaugh and didn’t have a backup plan. Unless Brandon decides he no longer wants to fire Rodriguez – think about the Tom Coughlin scenario with the NY Giants, who twisted in the wind for a couple weeks before being retained – where can he find a coach on such short notice without this turning into an embarrassing circus that spans a few weeks?
TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boise’s Chris Petersen are obviously impressive names, but neither has ties to the Midwest. Is a guy like Brady Hoke from San Diego State – he’s a Michigan Man – really ready for this kind of job? He’s already said he wants it.