Hell, no, it’s not fun watching Urban Meyer turn Columbus into the northern-most outpost of the SEC. There’s zero joy in James Franklin somehow riding the best tailback-quarterback combo in the league all the way to Indy. To your mind, Mark Dantonio’s stay in football purgatory was too damn brief.
But if you’re among the Michigan faithful trying to process the news of Tuesday, here’s another thing you don’t want: To be a program that runs coaches out on a rail for going 9-3.
Two words: Bo Pelini.
Or to put it another way, chief, have you seen Nebraska lately?
We mention this because on the same day that the Wolverines (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten) slipped out of the College Football Playoff top 25, FOX Sports analyst and former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn plopped this log onto the fire:
— Mike Sullivan (@MikeSullivan) November 21, 2017
“I talked to someone who’s kind of an insider within that program, and we had a long, drawn out conversation,” Quinn reportedly told Jonas Knox of FOX Sports Radio. “What he told me was they’re working on a lifetime contract. I swear to you, that was his words.
“I kind of pressed him on it and said, ‘Really? A lifetime deal? What would that even look like? He couldn’t give me particulars, but he said that’s one of the things that they are talking about. That’s how confident — that’s how good they feel about Jim Harbaugh and how glad they are to have him there. So maybe that’s something that Harbaugh wants.”
From a recruiting standpoint, there’s no maybe about it. Any rival assistant coach worth their Nikes is going to take every Harbaugh-to-the-NFL headline that’s out there, fiction or otherwise, and weaponize the living snot out of it.
He won’t be there all four years for your boy, they’ll whisper to Mom in the living room. The man’s muse is too flighty. The lure of another Super Bowl’s too strong.
Granted, a 10-year or 12-year extension doesn’t necessarily take that particular drop of snake oil off the shelf. But it does put an excellent and forceful rebuttal out there, by all parties, for all to see.
When someone waves the latest whatsit from Adam Schefter’s notebook under a 5-star’s nose, Captain Lifetime Contract would have something to wave back.
If you’re already pushing the envelope on dollars — Harbaugh is the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten ($7.004 million), and No. 3 nationally behind Nick Saban at Alabama and Dabo Swinney at Clemson — then the next logical carrot to dangle is length. It’s sound business. On every front.
Now the counter-argument is the body of football work in 2017 to date, a honeymoon of warm feelings that seems to have peaked with Papa Francesco and has been tumbling, slowly, down the Spanish Steps ever since. We won’t dicker with the elephant in the room, and 1-4 is 1-4.
Yet this is also a season that’s played out over 11 games largely how it was earmarked by the punditry in June and July, and those summer narratives — young, raw, brutal and unforgiving division, and just wait ‘til 2018 — were laid out well before Tarik Black and Wilton Speight got hurt.
Harbaugh’s sfrigolare rarely channels lukewarm responses, and digs about “a lifetime extension for 3rd place in the East,” is the Twitter price of Meyer and Dantonio piling up so many Maize and Blue scalps inside their respective trophy cases. Again, 1-4 is 1-4.
Who else wants to see Jim Harbaugh beat Ohio State once or twice before we start talking lifetime contract. I mean even Hoke beat the Buckeyes once. #GoBlue
— GBM Wolverine (@GBM_Wolverine) November 22, 2017
Reports are that Michigan is working on a lifetime contract for #JimHarbaugh. Are they out of their freaking minds?
— Walt (@TallyChop) November 22, 2017
But there’s an alternative to stability and a weathering of the occasional 4-loss storm — and it’s been playing out in Lincoln for the last decade and a half.
In trying to chase the ghosts of glories past, Nebraska keeps throwing coaches and approaches into an open grave. Mike Riley is expected to give way to the Cornhuskers’ fifth full-time boss since 2003, all while putting a bow on a 19th consecutive autumn without a conference championship.
Out with the option, in with the west coast offense. Out with the west coast offense, in with the take-no-crap tough guy. Out with the take-no-crap tough guy, in with #Calibraska and Mr. Nice.
Only Mr. Nice has managed to already lose 7 games twice within his first two seasons at the controls, something no Huskers coach had managed to pull off since William Jennings in 1957, ‘58 and ‘59 B.D. — Before Devaney. The whole thing smells like Indiana hoops, minus the candy stripes, and even the ghosts are leaving Memorial Stadium at halftime.
So, yes, you might argue that the Wolverines can find better long-term options than Harbaugh with all that money and gravitas. But you’d have an awfully hard time stretching that list past a baker’s dozen.
The pool of much, much worse recourses is far deeper, and a slew of them, “name” guys, are going to be free agents awfully soon. Riley included.