What's Wrong With Michigan?

Michigan isn't close to being a bad team, but just about everyone would agree that something seems a bit off.
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Michigan is now 1-1 on the year after an unforgivable loss to Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh is in year six and is now just 3-3 against the Spartans and is obviously 0-5 against Ohio State. The Wolverines haven't sniffed a trip to Indy and in turn has also never been in the mix for the playoffs. Throw in four consecutive bowl game losses and an inexplicable lack of talent at a few key positions and something is amiss in Ann Arbor.

After rounding up opinions from people very close to the program, high school coaches, former players and other people within the media market, it's very clear that there are several problems within the program under Harbaugh.

Source 1

"From the start, Jim Harbaugh has never been able to establish a culture about the team. Maybe that’s unrealistic in 2020 given the pandemic, but you have to try and he has fundamentally failed because even though he talks about meritocracy and accountability, he has routinely failed to back up such bluster. He plays players with attitude problems that aren’t willing to sell out for their teammates. He plays players that got outworked in the offseason. He plays players that on Saturdays don’t perform like some of their fellow Wolverines. Why? Only Jim can answer that. Maybe he’s too much of a players’ coach. Maybe he’s made promises on the recruiting trail. But he has too many ‘me’ guys and has never been able to rid his locker room of them.

"He also never holds himself accountable, at least not publicly. Maybe he does privately, or maybe he thinks he’s so accomplished that nothing can ever be his fault. But to bring the weak ass comments he does after his team got boat raced by Wisconsin a year ago or loses to a pathetic Michigan State team says to me he’s someone that doesn’t think he’s part of the problem, but that his players simply don’t execute like they’re supposed to.

"Equally concerning, he refuses to play football in 2020. His offensive philosophy belongs in 2010. His play-calling belongs in the 1970s. He can put that on Josh Gattis as the OC, but this offense has Jim Harbaugh’s fingerprints all over it."

Source 2

"It's coaching, without question. Rotating four backs and preventing any of them from developing a rhythm and/or feel for the game is on coaching. Remaining in man-coverage when its clear your corners need help is on coaching. Sidelining a 6-5, 245-pound QB in the red zone and opting for a wildcat formation is coaching.

"Time and time again, this 'elite' coaching staff is outcoached by the opposing sideline. We've seen other programs and coaches accomplish far more with much less.

"There isn't a talent issue in Ann Arbor, there's a coaching issue."

Source 3

"Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis craft a game plan all week but at the first hint of adversity, Harbaugh begins to overrule mid-game and decide run/pass. There seems to be obvious friction between the two of them that is starting to reach the players.

"Don Brown has been left to coach the defense independently for a long time and it seems like even Harbaugh is tired of covering for his lack of flexibility."

Source 4

"I just think they are not in touch with how things work relationship wise. Michigan should dominate at recruiting the top players in the state and build off of that. They got rid of all the Michigan people that high school coaches knew like Tyrone Wheatley, Chris Singletary and Pep Hamilton.

"Also, if a coach is known for coaching quarterbacks, I think you should see great quarterback production. All the best quarterbacks Harbaugh has had have come from other programs. The only one that he's recruited and looks to have a future with is Joe Milton and he may have started him a year too late. 

"As for this last game, you just can't lose to a rival with inferior talent in The Big House. Not to mention Ohio State took a knee rather than hang 70 on Michigan last year. It now just feels like it's okay for Michigan to lose to Ohio State and now Michigan State is beating U-M too. That is what is most disturbing and Harbaugh is getting $8 million per year to do it all."

Source 5

"The coaching staff has absolutely gone stagnant since the 2018 Ohio State beatdown. The lack of adjusting in game is baffling beyond belief. Don Brown putting that secondary on an island the entire game the way he did was almost as shocking as the crossing routes that we still hear about from that Ohio State game. It feels like this year was the last chance to make a push in the Harbaugh era, whether it be this year or at least to set up for next year. That’s all out the window. It really feels like it’s over."

Source 6

"They seem to have the right guys at the right spots but they didn't have near the same level of execution against Michigan State as they did against Minnesota.

"There were too many missed opportunities. If they figure that offense out, I think they are a dangerous team. If they don't, it's going to be a long season."

Source 7

"Honestly, Michigan’s biggest problem is that fans, alumni and former players all think Michigan should be competing with Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson when Michigan’s ceiling is more comparable with Wisconsin.

"I think it comes down to how you run the program. If Michigan wants to be Ohio State, you have to accept that the players are basically professional athletes. No school at all, just football. Michigan doesn’t want to do that so they’ll always be a bit behind. It wasn't like that before but it is these days."

Source 8

"I think Don Brown's stubbornness is the biggest problem. His ego seems to get in the way. He can get away with his man-to-man coverage and blitz from everywhere defense against lower quality teams but he needs to switch things up and make elite quarterbacks actually read a defense. 

Source 9

"In that Michigan State game, it's early in the 4th quarter, Michigan is down 20-17 and they're running inside zone. I got up and wanted to throw my TV across the room. 

"It is one thing to come up with a game plan that you think is going to work because you’ve spent all week putting it in, but if you’re unwilling to make a change at that point it’s only because of two reasons — one, you’re too stupid to make a change or two, you’re too arrogant. 'We’re the smartest guys in the room and it’s just going to work because we want it to.' 

"For example, everyone I’ve spoken to has destroyed the decision to use the wildcat. Why do that? It's unnecessary and it didn't work. It almost did, but it didn't. So many decisions like that don't make sense. Again, too stupid or too arrogant."

Source 10

"They are either the worst self-scouting coaching staff in the country or they’re just so incredibly arrogant that they think no one will come up with a game plan that will work against them. To have no idea that Michigan State is going to do what they did, just means you don’t know what you’re doing."

Source 11

"Michigan flat out got their asses kicked and Mel Tucker coached circles around Jim Harbaugh, which is just unacceptable. I've heard that Harbaugh really took the loss hard and he should. There is no excuse for losing to that team given the situations of both programs. Harbaugh in year six and with a lot of talent, vs. Michigan State in year one under Tucker with a very depleted roster. It just doesn't make any sense."