Michigan has taken back the unfaithful Jim Harbaugh with open arms and tear-filled eyes. It’s not that he cheated on them, but it’s also not for lack of effort. It is almost a little more embarrassing that way for both parties — come on, guys, stand up for yourselves a little! He tried to leave you!
The Harbaugh-Michigan relationship isn’t a toxic one, but sometimes it feels like they’re both settling. Maybe they’re scared there’s no one else better out there and this is the best they’ll ever get. Maybe they’re just so comfortable in their relationship that, despite it’s distinct averageness, it’s just too much of an effort to break up. After a single venture out into the world, Jim has come running back, unsuccessful. “I’ll never do that again! I’ll never even consider it again! It was only one time, I swear!”
(The actual quote, per ESPN: “Warde, this will not be a reoccurring theme every year. This was a one time thing. I told Warde, ‘From here on out, I’m working at the pleasure of the University of Michigan, because that’s, in my heart, where I want to be.’”)
But had the Vikings actually been interested in hiring Harbaugh as a head coach, this lovely little reunion wouldn’t be happening. He told the Detroit Free Press that he didn’t feel the pull he felt toward the NFL was reciprocated by the Vikings, so now Michigan is back under the Harbaugh reign for as long as they both shall live.
Yes, I realize Michigan went to the CFP this year. They fielded an excellent team, they were well-coached on both sides of the ball, they beat Ohio State and lost a close (and maybe questionable) one to Michigan State. The Wolverines excelled under Harbaugh this year — but it’s those last two words that are important.
We saw the potential that the Wolverines program has during the 2021, but we also saw the limits that potential will hit under its current coach. Harbaugh is 1-5 against OSU and 3-4 against MSU. He had one — ONE singular — stellar year, and immediately was ready to leave town and shake Ann Arbor’s dust off his feet.
And I may be proved wrong and eat my words — God knows it’s happened before — but from where I see it, Harbaugh and Michigan are back in the weeds of their mediocre relationship, too scared to try getting out of their comfort zone and going for something great, accepting the minimum of what the Michigan football program could actually have to offer and pretending that’s what happiness looks like.
A single victory over Ohio State does not a happy marriage make, and quite frankly, if he does end up repeating this year over the next one or two seasons, I don’t believe his claim that he won’t venture back out into the NFL coaching pool. I think that if the invitation to interview comes again, he’s going for it. He’s seen what’s out there, and it may not take much to pull him back next time, despite his promises that he’s with Michigan for good this time.
The fan base and the administration, love him though they may, are accepting less than they deserve with him — in fact, he’s probably in the better situation here, as his victory over Ohio State this year will have him going down in history at the school. Even if he never wins another one, they’ll always have 2021 — the field rush, the CFP appearance, the Heisman candidate. He’s already secured his beloved status there, and he can keep on finishing in the top 20 and dropping the big ones for the rest of time. Michigan, I say this out of love — you can do better. But you have to take the leap and leave this guy, or you’ll be stuck settling with 10-2 at best for a long, long time.