Joel Klatt: Jim Harbaugh could be pushing Michigan to ‘evolve’ by flirting with NFL


Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines have won 25 of their last 28 games, beaten Ohio State in back-to-back years and made back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances, so why is the head coach doing interviews from the nfl again?

Shortly after Michigan lost to TCU in the College Football Playoff semifinals earlier this month, Harbaugh interviewed with the Denver Broncos for the head coaching position and spoke with Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper about the coaching vacancy of this team. Last year, Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings, which came after Michigan lost to Georgia in the CFP semifinals. After failing to land the position with the Vikings, Harbaugh received a new contract from Michigan.

Why is he still flirting with the NFL?

On the latest edition of “The Joel Klatt Show,” Klatt stated that he believes Harbaugh is “doing everything he can to push his program, Michigan, in a positive direction” to get the college to evolve with other heavyweights of college football. And about taking those NFL interviews? “Well, life is about leverage in a lot of ways,” Klatt said, explaining that Harbaugh could use that NFL interest to get Michigan to deepen its investment in college football.

That’s because the sport is changing quickly, Klatt said.

“The point we’re at in college football is a fork, it’s a crossroads. There was a crossroads in the early 2000s in our sports and I think there’s a fork, now there’s a crossroads,” he said. ‚ÄúThose are the main points you have to make a decision as a program: Are you evolving with the sport or not?

“I believe Jim Harbaugh’s flirtation with the NFL is a direct result of his desire to move Michigan and its football program forward in the evolution of the sport.”

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh’s future in college football

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh's future in college football

Joel Klatt discussed the future of head coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan.

So what would it look like?

“Get more commitments in terms of investments in the workforce. Get more commitments in terms of investments in a collective and what’s happening with the NIL because the truth is if you look at the recruiting rankings they weren’t that good as you would. You’d probably expect a team that just finished with the second-best record in college football over the last 18 months,” Klatt said. “Well, part of it is because Michigan, in many ways, loves to rely on their reputation and their tradition, which is immense; they’re the winningest program in the history of college football. I get that. Michigan.

“And yes, you could and should rely on the tradition of your program, but that said, one of the reasons Michigan went through what they did the last 15 years before Jim Harbaugh came to Ann Arbor was because in the last inflection. period, they didn’t invest like other people did.”

Klatt also notes that Michigan has a handful of returning offensive starters for the 2023 season, including running back Blake Corum, offensive linemen Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter and wide receiver Cornelius Johnson.

Harbaugh, who played quarterback at Michigan from 1983-86, took over as head coach in 2015. In his eight years on the job, Michigan went a combined 74-25, winning the Big Ten and reaching the College Football Playoff in each of the last two seasons. In the eight seasons prior to Harbaugh’s arrival, Michigan went a combined 55-46.

The Wolverines went 13-1 this season, going undefeated in the regular season and beating Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Michigan was a well-oiled machine on both sides of the ball. He averaged 458.8 total yards and 40.4 points per game, every second in the Big Ten, while leaning on the run game; Corum and Donovan Edwards combined for 2,454 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan surrendered just 277.1 total yards (second in the Big Ten) and 13.4 points (third) per game. The Wolverines were also top five in the conference in four of those categories in 2021.

Klatt believes Harbaugh has a good grasp on the future of the sport.

“Now you have to get ahead of the individual player’s autonomy, and you have to be in line with where he’s going,” Klatt said. “And the teams and the programs this do will evolve, they will be the ones who will lead the sport for the next 10, 15 and 20 years. And those who don’t, who just rely on their tradition, will be left behind, so Jim Harbaugh knows that. He’s a very smart guy, and I’m not sure he likes NIL, but guess what? He knows this is a big time in college football.

“He knows what it’s taken to get to this point where they’ve made two straight playoff appearances. He knows what it takes to beat Ohio State twice. And he wants assurances that we’re going to invest in Michigan to move him. Move forward and evolve with the sport and not behind the sport”.

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