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O.J. Simpson says Jim Harbaugh is ‘elixir’ for Cleveland Browns’ woes

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With the Cleveland Browns scuffling after an offseason overloaded with hype, one former Heisman Trophy winner’s stab at turning that NFL club around has a connection to the collegiate game.

O.J. Simpson, the 1968 Heisman winner at USC who infamously went on to be found not guilty (winkwink nudgenudge) of a double homicide involving his ex-wife, joined Twitter in July of this year, less than two years after he was released from prison after serving nine years for a botched Las Vegas robbery.  Since joining the Twitterverse, the Juice has not been shy in dispensing football wisdom to his nearly one million followers.

Monday, Simpson utilized the social media site to suggest that the Browns, who have gone 2-5 under first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, should look north to Ann Arbor for a replacement if Kitchens is a one-and-done.

Speaking of Cleveland, you know, a lot of college coaches don’t do well in the pros — Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carroll the exception(s). But there is a guy that was a good college coach that I think was better as a pro coach and he’s right next door to you, Cleveland. His name is Jim Harbaugh and I think he’s the elixir to all of your problems. I’m just saying. Take care.

The fire underneath Harbaugh’s seat had grown increasingly warm through the first half of the season, although the upset of Notre Dame last weekend has cooled it back down a bit.  Still, the Michigan head coach was forced to deny a report last week leading into the game with the Fighting Irish that he was eyeing an exit strategy from U-M that would get him back into the NFL, labeling the rumor as “total crap” in a letter to the parents of his current Wolverine players

Harbaugh has been connected to the Browns in the past, with it being reported in 2014 that he was very nearly traded from the San Francisco 49ers to Cleveland.

Jim Harbaugh labels rumor of NFL exit strategy ‘total crap’

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Jim Harbaugh may have the opportunity for a return to the NFL, but, if he does, it seemingly won’t be of his own volition.

With the heat seemingly smoldering underneath Harbaugh’s seat because of the failure thus far to live up to expectations he brought with him to Ann Arbor, a report surfaced earlier this week that the Michigan head coach’s “representatives have their eye on getting their client back in the NFL.” Harbaugh, of course, was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14 before returning to his alma mater in late December to 2014.

With the speculation of a return to the NFL serving as fodder for rival coaches on the recruiting trail, Harbaugh has reportedly sent a letter to the parents of his current players in which he blasts the rumor of an exit strategy as “total crap.” The coach goes on to point out that he doesn’t “even have an ‘agent or representative'” and he’s “committed to your sons, their education and to their development as football players and people.”

While the letter was directed at current players, it’s no doubt intended to reach the parents of potential future players as well.  Whether it will hit its intended target remains to be seen — as will whether or not Harbaugh will get a sixth season with the Wolverines as well.

Is it creeping closer to time for Michigan to pull the plug on Jim Harbaugh?

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After four-plus seasons, this is what all of the hope and hype was about?

When Jim Harbaugh was introduced as Michigan’s new head football coach to great fanfare on Dec. 30, 2014, it was thought that the former Wolverines quarterback was the elixir for what ailed the storied program.  Here comes the Michigan Man, riding in on his white horse to save the day and rescue the football damsel in distress.

Except, that hasn’t even remotely happened.

In the four year’s prior to Harbaugh’s arrival, all under Brady Hoke, the Wolverines went 31-20 overall and 18-14 in Big Ten play; under Harbaugh in his first four, it was 38-14 and 26-9.  Seven more wins overall for a coach who, last season, was the third-highest paid head coach in college football at $7.5 million?

But, the deeper you dig into the numbers the more distressing the all-too-familiar big-game failures become if you’re a fan of the program.

In games vs. ranked teams, U-M is 8-10 under Harbaugh; take out his first season in Ann Arbor, and the record is 5-8.  When his team is an underdog, Harbaugh is 0-7, including the Week 4 shellacking by Wisconsin.  In the postseason, the Wolverines have lost three straight bowl games.

Most distressful?  Harbaugh, the khaki-clad savior, is 2-6 when facing U-M’s biggest rivals, including going winless against archnemesis Ohio State.

And, again, U-M paid Harbaugh $7.5 million in 2018 and will likely cough up even more in 2019.

“I’m hurt.  I’m hurtin’. I need some words of encouragement if you would. Somebody give me something,” current FOX Sports college football analyst and former U-M great Charles Woodson, seated next to a smirking Meyer on-set Saturday afternoon, lamented. “That [hurt] real.”

The murmuring surrounding Harbaugh and his inability to get the Wolverines back onto the national stage and into the College Football Playoff discussion on any type of regular basis has grown louder over the past year or so.  Getting pushed around and embarrassed by Wisconsin Saturday, and was preceded by the near-defeat in double overtime at the hands of Army in Week 2, has only seen the drumbeat for change grow.

Certainly there’s time for Harbaugh & Company to right the listing ship, but, if that doesn’t happen, the university’s administration will have to look long and hard at season’s end at the nuclear option of pulling the plug on the Michigan Man’s tenure after five seasons.  In order to get back on track and make that option moot, U-M will face a schedule that includes four games against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 — No. 18 Iowa, No. 13 Penn State, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 6 Ohio State — as well as one versus a Michigan State team that could very well get back into the rankings when Nov. 16 matchup rolls around.

If U-M does opt to move on from Harbaugh, it wouldn’t be as cost-prohibitive as one might think as the university would owe the coach a buyout somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million if he’s fired without cause.  Given the ATM that is the Big Ten Network as well as other conference revenue streams, coming up with the funds to shed themselves of Harbaugh and his staff — and pay his replacement as well —  shouldn’t be an issue.

Even if U-M decides to stick with Harbaugh, there’s the fact that he has just two years remaining on a contract that runs through 2021.  Knowing that will be used against him on the recruiting trail — and how that could adversely affect the program down the road — do university officials extend him, thus making it even more expensive to get out from under the coach?

One way or another, the University of Michigan will have a decision to make, one that will decide the football program’s course for several years to come.

Jim Harbaugh fires back at Luke Fickell over James Hudson’s waiver denial

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Michigan at Notre Dame
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The last Ohio State head coach to lose to Michigan and the current Michigan head coach who has never beaten Ohio State have found themselves entangled in a very public beef that, ostensibly, has absolutely nothing to do with The Game.

The very extended backstory, for those unaware:

After James Hudson transferred from Michigan to Cincinnati late last year, the offensive lineman cited “mental struggles” that arose at U-M as the basis for his appeal for an immediate-eligibility waiver that was denied by the NCAA, a denial that was in very large part based on Hudson never speaking up about the mental health issues while at U-M.  That could’ve been the end of it… except Jim Harbaugh decided to weigh in during the Big Ten Media Days on mental health claims by transfers seeking waivers through the NCAA.

“And the other piece that bothers me about it is, the youngster that says ‘this is a mental health issue, I’m suffering from depression.’ Or that’s a reason to get eligible,” the Wolverines head coach said in July. “And once that’s known that ‘hey, say this or say that’ to get eligible. The problem I see in that is you’re going to have guys that are ‘OK, yeah, I’m depressed.'”

The intimation that some transfers lie about mental health issues didn’t sit well with either the offensive lineman’s mother or his new head football coach Luke Fickell, with the latter very passionately stating in a very well-done piece that appeared in The Athletic this week that U-M could’ve gone to bat for its former player in the appeals process but chose not to.

“Here’s what I believe in the whole waiver process: the number one, most important thing, and all the power, comes from the school that a kid is leaving. No matter what,” Fickell told website. “(Michigan) didn’t back the waiver. They can say what they want to say, but the only thing they said that was positive was that if the NCAA chooses to make (Hudson) eligible, then they would accept it — that they didn’t have an angle. They are just trying to cover their ass. And I’m really, completely disappointed in it. …

“All the power is in the hands of the school a player is leaving. If they want to help, they can help them become eligible. … They can say they didn’t undermine it, but they didn’t work to help the kid out. ”

Tuesday night, Harbaugh fired back at his fellow head coach.  From mlive.com:

Unless I’m reading them wrong or mistaken, I believe [Fickell’s] under the impression that these waivers are decided coach-to-coach in some kind of deal fashion. That is not the understanding I’m under. I’m under the understanding that the NCAA decides these waivers.

“Unless he has something that he has and can bring forth and share, enlighten us and the entire football world, I would really like to know what that is. …

“And I told him, ‘Coach, I believe in telling the truth. Forthright, honest. What I told James, what I tell you, what I tell compliance is going to be the truth. I read the article. He asked the question in the article: ‘What’s most important, your personal beliefs or what’s in the best interest of the kid?’ And I can answer that: What’s most important is the truth.

“I’m astounded that he’s gotten to where he’s at by not knowing the answer to that question.

Bottom line?  Harbaugh and the U-M football program could’ve done something above and beyond to help Hudson in the waiver process but chose to do the absolute bare minimum, which is absolutely their right.

Juxtapose that, though, with Ohio State supporting and actively assisting Blue Smith‘s appeal for immediate eligibility at Cincinnati even as the wide receiver will potentially, after being granted a waiver, face his former team this coming season as the Buckeyes and Bearcats will square off in Week 2 of the 2019 campaign.  And then there was Alabama earlier this offseason supporting a run-off waiver for Kyriq McDonald, who was granted an immediate-eligibility waiver months after transferring from the Crimson Tide to the Bearcats.

“What Alabama did, what Ohio State did, they didn’t have to,” Fickell said in The Athletic piece.

There’s one way to handle these situations and there’s another way a classy program wouldn’t.  There is a right way and a petty way to do it.  Here’s to guessing that prospects on the recruiting trail, with the aid of rival coaches, will figure out which is which.

As of now, Jim Harbaugh plans to play Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game

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Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.

Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.

“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”

Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’KornBrandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.

Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.