When Jim Harbaugh was hired in 2015, everyone just knew that he would take Michigan to the highest heights within a few years. Local media, national pundits and college football fans across the country envisioned Harbaugh's Wolverines being competitive with and beating the Buckeyes from time to time, reeling in a couple of Big Ten Championship trophies and participating in the College Football Playoff.
Instead, he's done none of those things and, as of last year, is losing games he has no business losing. That led many people to believe that last year was shaping up to be his last in Ann Arbor. Instead, he received a contract extension and is now gearing up for year seven.
Because of how things looked in 2020, Harbaugh completely overhauled his coaching staff by bringing in a new defensive coordinator, linebackers coach, safeties coach, cornerbacks coach, running backs coach and quarterbacks coach. He also reshuffled a couple deck chairs resulting in two coaches from last year — Jay Harbaugh and Sherrone Moore — coaching new positions this year. All of that has many experts across the country watching what's going on in Ann Arbor very closely. Brad Crawford of 247Sports recently published an article outlining several coaches who are feeling some level of pressure heading into the 2021 season and Harbaugh is on the list.
Jim Harbaugh has support from his administration and that's half the battle, but he was brought in for two reasons — to win the Big Ten Conference and beat Ohio State. He hasn't done either yet and is starting to slip a bit nationally in terms of title contender. Harbaugh is 49-22 in six seasons at Michigan and 34-16 in Big Ten play, but his showing in rivalry games and in the national spotlight has missed the mark. Harbaugh is still recruiting at a high level, but Michigan isn't accomplishing enough on the field in barometer matchups to shield him away from detractors.
Harbaugh certainly has a lot to prove this season. There is a big question mark at quarterback coupled with key position battles on both lines. Most positions are stocked with talent, but much of it is unproven and learning a lot of new stuff from a lot of new people, who themselves are doing a job for the first time in some cases. Generally speaking, necessary change is good, however when you have that much of it at once, it can be hard to make it all work. Throw in the fact that some see Michigan's schedule as one of the hardest in the country with six potentially ranked opponents, and 2021 might end up being an expanded version of 2020.
After last year's campaign, Harbaugh's salary was cut in half and his buyout was essentially eliminated making a removal much easier after 2021 than it would've been after 2020. Crawford doesn't specifically spell out what type of pressure Harbaugh is feeling heading into the fall, but all signs point to a drastic change in leadership if there isn't a drastic change in performance on the field.