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January 13, 2018 – Coach Jim Harbaugh

Posted on January 13, 2018 by Barry Gallagher

Today’s post will look at some very recent Michigan Football History – the first three years of the Coach Jim Harbaugh Era. I have no doubt that James Joseph Harbaugh was born to be the head football coach at The University of Michigan. I also know that he is working under tremendous pressure to get Michigan back among the nation’s best college football programs. No coach ever arrived in Ann Arbor with higher expectations than Coach Harbaugh, that’s for sure!

Now, if you look at social media, you will find that many people are underwhelmed by what has happened to Michigan Football since Coach Harbaugh arrived. I, for one, don’t think things are as bad as most “sports mouths” and impatient fans make them sound. However, before I take a closer look at the Jim Harbaugh Era so far, I will take care of the “trivial” matters that must be addressed, first.

Part I. Trivia Question of the Day – January 12, 2018:

Who was the first Michigan Man to earn back-to-back honors as the team’s Most Valuable Player?

Part I. Trivia Question Answer for January 12, 2018:  Ralph Heikkinen

Ralph Heikkinen lettered at Michigan in 1937 and 1938. He was one of the toughest guards ever to play at Michigan. He was a super hard-worker and a fierce competitor who played almost every down in his last two seasons at Michigan. Ralph earned the respect of his coaches and peers which is why he was named Most Valuable Player of the 1937 and 1938 Michigan Football teams.

Ralph Heikkinen Michigan Football 1938 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Ralph Heikkinen was Fritz Crisler’s first All-American player at Michigan in 1938. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.


Part II. Trivia Question of the Day – January 13, 2018:

Who was Michigan’s first All-American running back?

Part III. Wolverine of the Day: Coach Jim Harbaugh

The book just closed on the first three years of the Jim Harbaugh Era on January 1, 2018. For some it has been disappointing and for others it was about what they expected. One thing we can all agree on is that Jim Harbaugh is not a miracle worker after all. He brought a lot of attention to Michigan, but not enough winning. He is an easy target in the media because he coaches at the winningest program in college football history and because he makes some very, very BIG bucks doing it! Many “fans” think he has “underperformed.”

The Harbaugh Era Numbers – 2015 to 2017

The purpose of today’s blog is simple. I just wanted to take a moment to look at how Jim Harbaugh’s first three years compare to some of Michigan’s recent head coaches. So, let’s take a closer look at the Coach Jim Harbaugh Era. I will keep this focused on the “BIG” picture, which will be wins, losses, winning percentage, and Big Ten Championships, or shares.

Year Won-Lost Win % Big Ten Title/Share?
2015 10-3 .769 No
2016 10-3 .769 No
2017 8-5 .615 No
Total 28-11 .718 None

The First Three Years of Michigan’s Last Six Head Coaches:

The numbers displayed above reflect the “balance sheet” for the first three years of the Jim Harbaugh Era. To put things in perspective, here are the “three-year” numbers of the six men who came before Coach Harbaugh.

Coach Years Won-Lost-Tied Win % Big Ten Title/Share
Hoke 2011-2013 26-13-0 .667 No
Rodriguez 2008-2010 15-22-0 .405 No
Carr 1995-1997 29-8-0 .784 Yes (1) + 1 N/C
Moeller 1990-1993 28-5-3 .819 Yes (3)
Schembechler 1969-1971 28-5-0 .848 Yes (2)
Elliott 1959-1961 15-12-0 .556 No
Totals 1959-2013 141-65-3 .681 6 BIG + 1 N/C

If you look at the charts above, you see a lot of good news and, of course, some bad news. It was no big surprise to learn that Bo Schembechler’s first three years set the “modern standard” for everyone who followed him. Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr were certainly impressive in their first three years, but Carr was spectacular with that 1997 season. Yes, things were not as good for Michigan Nation during the Rodriguez and Hoke Eras.

Coach Jim Harbaugh has not started as well as Bo, or Mo, or Lloyd Carr, but he did do better than Bump Elliott, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. If you look at the win percentages, Harbaugh has exceeded the “totals” average (.718 to .681). However, there are no Big Ten Championships, or National Championships to celebrate, yet!

Coach Jim Harbaugh Michigan Football | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Jim Harbaugh was an All-American quarterback at Michigan in 1986. He is now trying to develop a dominant team at Michigan, just like Bo did! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

The Best is Yet to Come:

Yes, the biggest room in Schembechler Hall is still the “room for improvement.” There is plenty of work to do in the Jim Harbaugh Era, starting in 2018. I know that Coach Harbaugh is up to the challenge and I believe that the best is yet to come. Of course, it can’t come too soon for Michigan Nation!

I am also optimistic about the 2018 season because we have so many returning starters. However, I am also realistic. We have a brutal road schedule and we still don’t have a proven quarterback and a “nasty” offensive line that knows how to win in places like South Bend, East Lansing, or Columbus. I believe that 2018 will be a “trying” year because James Joseph Harbaugh will keep trying to live up to the enormous expectations that come with being the head coach at Michigan. Good luck to Coach “Jackhammer” and the Michigan team in 2018! Go Blue!



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