With Jim McElwain on board, the Michigan staff now has at least four cats with head coaching or play-calling experience at the major-college level on offense. That is no coincidence, given that Jim Harbaugh likes a lot of voices contributing to the decision-making on game day. But given how much regression has bitten the Wolverines on the scoring front and in the passing game since November 2016, is that necessarily a good thing?
Former Michigan and NFL running back Chris Howard and Land of 10 writer-columnist Sean Keeler favor a simpler approach. Although not necessarily the same one …
Q: WHO SHOULD CALL THE PLAYS FOR THE MICHIGAN OFFENSE IN 2018?
CHRIS HOWARD: LET JIM HARBAUGH CALL THE PLAYS ALONE
Michigan’s play-calling last season left a little to be desired and produced more head-scratching moments than a Head & Shoulders commercial. No one outside of Schembechler Hall really understands how the play-calling process works, or who even is calling the plays for that matter. At one point, the Wolverines staff had three offensive coaches with coordinator in their titles. Pep Hamilton (passing-game coordinator), Tim Drevno (offensive coordinator), as well as Greg Frey (run-game coordinator), who has moved on to his alma mater, Florida State. If Michigan’s play calling wasn’t confusing enough, then trying to figure out who was calling the plays certainly was.
Coach Jim Harbaugh shed some light on the confusion in October 2017 after the loss to Michigan State, where he was peppered with questions at his news conference about the play calling, and rightfully so. To his credit, he went on record stating that he and his staff call the plays together, but that he has the final say on what plays are called. That is not an unheard-of strategy for an offensive-minded coach with a veteran staff. Still, the Wolverines have yet to find a consistent offensive identity.
Could there be too many chefs in the kitchen? Should there be one person responsible for which plays are called?
Now that Jim McElwain has joined the staff, some are wondering whether McElwain should assume the role as lead play caller. Before the Florida debacle, McElwain was considered by many as an offensive genius who helped lead Alabama to two national championships as its offensive coordinator. I get it, and it seems like the logical choice.
However, this is Harbaugh’s offense. This is the offense he brought with him, and no one knows it better than he does. It is great to be surrounded by all these offensive ideas, options and suggestions from your staff — but I believe it can be overwhelming, even for a coach of Harbaugh’s caliber. It is like going to a restaurant that has 60 items on the menu and you’re uncertain of what to choose. Choose the wrong meal and you’re left unsatisfied and wanting. Choose the wrong play in football and it could cost you a game and lead to a fan base taking to the streets, calling for your job.
If this offense is going to produce the results that we expect, it must get back to the basics, simplify things and become great at executing them. Harbaugh has the pedigree and the head for the game, and he has to be the one giving this team its offensive identity. He has to be the man running the show.