Joe Milton came out firing in Michigan's season opener against Minnesota. The 6-5, 243-pounder went 15-of-22 for 225 yards and a score and also ran one in that night leading Michigan to a 49-24 win on the road to kickoff the 2020 campaign. It looked like the Joe Milton Era had begun.
The hype was short lived as U-M fell to Michigan State the following weekend, followed by two more losses against Indiana and Wisconsin. With Milton struggling, Cade McNamara got some run against the Badgers before getting the start against Rutgers. McNamara showed flashes of promise but got dinged up, which resulted in Milton being put back in to the lineup. After another bad loss against a winless Penn State team, Michigan finished the year on three cancellations with no real direction at quarterback.
Rumors began to swirl that Milton was extremely unhappy and was considering a transfer, and also that he even started badmouthing Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Jalen Mayfield's mother publicly stated on Twitter that Harbaugh and U-M set Milton up for failure. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it did seem like the coaches put the big quarterback in a position to fail rather than succeed too often. Wherever the actual truth lied at the time, it seemed like Milton's meaningful career was over at U-M even if he did remain on the roster.
With Harbaugh extended and new offensive coaches potentially joining the staff before football begins in 2021, Milton seems to have a new-found focus. Per his Instagram account, Milton appears to be refocused and ready to attack 2021.
Milton has never lacked confidence and has all of the physical tools to be really good. With that said, there's obviously a lot more to playing quarterback than being able to run and throw the ball far, which Milton can do as well as any quarterback in the country. Being able to read a defense, make wise decisions, vary throws and lead a team are far more important and much more difficult to master and identify, and that's where Milton needs to develop in a big way and in a hurry.
A lot of Michigan fans are over Milton. A lot of fans also don't seem to think McNamara is the answer. So many seem to believe that incoming freshman JJ McCarthy is going to be the savior, but I just don't think that's realistic, likely or fair.
As Harbaugh prepares for year seven, he has a massive question mark at quarterback. Is it a refocused Milton, a healthy McNamara with starting experience or the highly touted newcomer McCarthy? Honestly, none of the options are ideal, but it's up to Harbaugh to figure it out in a year where he's essentially coaching for his job.
Good luck, coach.