Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW J im Harbaugh has not coached a game at Michigan, but he is, ar- guably, the most famous person in Ann Arbor. Nationally he has created considerable buzz in his first six months on the job, thanks to a very public Twitter profile and a slew of newsworthy moments that have nothing to do with football, including his appearance as a first base coach for an Oakland Athletics spring training game and his heroics in aiding car-crash victims during a winter storm. The Harbaugh mania drew the attention of Sports Illustrated, which sent Michael Rosenberg to cover U-M's new coach. "He's not doing anything of real consequence, yet people are fascinated by him," said Rosenberg, who tried to explain why this is. "We all have eccentricities, but he just doesn't work very hard to hide his. He is comfortable with who he is, where the rest of us do a few things that are a little odd, but we don't let the whole world see them. "There are some folks that think he is so intense it's bordering on crazy. There are others that think he's fun, like his infamous tweet, 'Attacking the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.' "He's a bit like his mentor, Bo Schembechler, that he has a way with words that just sort of mesmerize people. And on top of that, he's just an incredible coach so he's someone people want to get to know more about." Harbaugh was the subject of a 15-minute HBO "Real Sports" segment in late April, with most of the talk afterwards centered on comments San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone made, saying Harbaugh drove the players past the brink of exhaustion, wearing out his welcome with a relentlessness. Boone's mention that Harbaugh "might be clinically insane" seemed to make a defining argument that Harbaugh, while a coaching savant, burns bridges, forcing early exits. Rosenberg disagrees, to some degree. "He's very approachable, easy-to-talk-to guy," said Rosenberg, who admits a little bias from a long-standing professional relation- ship with Harbaugh. "He has an unbelievable appetite for work, for pushing and competing. He never gets tired of his job. For that rea- son, he probably does wear some people out. "But if you look at it, there was no indication on the field that he lost the 49ers. That team competed right until the end. "I guess I'm not sold on the criticism of Harbaugh that he wears out his welcome with his players and the people around him, but if he does, he's better off in college because by the time he wears you out, you're a senior and you're gone." The other knock on Harbaugh is that he is restless, always look- ing for a new challenge, perhaps before he's accomplished what he initially set out to do. He spent three seasons as the coach at the University of San Diego (2004-06) before moving on to Stanford. From 2007-10, he went 29-21, including a 12-1 record in 2010, but he never won the Pac-12 title. Before he could claim a crown, he moved on to the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, going 44-19 from 2011-14 with three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship Game (2011-13) and a Super Bowl matchup with his brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, losing 34-31. "The short-timer thing, I don't buy that for a second because if you look at his career, he's at San Diego and went to Stanford, and every coach in the country makes that move," Rosenberg said. "He's at Stanford, having incredible success, and the NFL comes calling. Most coaches would have made that move. And then he wanted to stay in San Francisco but they wouldn't let him. So I don't buy that he jumps ship." Still, there are some factions of Michigan fans, former players and members of the media that would be surprised if Harbaugh is in Ann Arbor five years from now. "All I can tell you is that he is genuinely enthusiastic every day he goes to work," Rosenberg said. "I've just been around him too much — he's not faking it. "He didn't take this job because this was a place to land to bide his time or he's burned out on the NFL. He loves this challenge. "He is very excited about his kids going to school at the same place he went as a child, and going to Michigan practices like he did as a kid, and growing up like he did. We always forget that stuff, but this is not just a career, it's a life. And Jim has decided this is a great life for him. And his wife, Sarah, is excited to live in Ann Arbor. "I just don't buy that this will be a quick thing. Maybe down the road, who knows, but I can't see him leaving Michigan unless he has success here. And if he has success, and the program is in great shape, and then he decides to go somewhere else, then it is worth it for everyone. "So I don't think Michigan fans should spend 10 seconds worrying about that." SI Cover Writer Thinks Jim Harbaugh Is At U-M To Stay MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Michigan fans are not only eager for the Harbaugh era to begin, they hope it lasts a long time at U-M. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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