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Do Jim Harbaugh’s recent years at Michigan make him good, but not great?

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Once the coach the 49ers shouldn’t have let go of, maybe it would have happened anyways.

There’s trouble in Ann Arbor. Big trouble. If you thought the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 were regressing at a rapid pace, you may have gotten a reminder of the season with the 2019 Michigan Wolverines.

After 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh “mutually parted ways” with San Francisco, he landed with his Alma Mater. What’s happened since? Well, an inability to beat Ohio State and now a 35-14 thumping at the hands of 13th-ranked Wisconsin. Michigan was ranked 11.

That Saturday is a bad day for the Wolverines, and knowing Jim Harbaugh’s competitiveness, it might have been the worst day of his life. This was the year Michigan was supposed to come out swinging. This should have been the culmination of all that recruiting and an opportunity for Harbaugh to prove he was worth one of the most lucrative contracts in college football.

This is year five. In year three, I wrote something very similar and nothing much has changed. Well besides the fact Urban Meyer is no longer coaching at Ohio State. Oh, by the way, the same rings true, Harbaugh is yet to beat Ohio State. And despite winning records at Michigan, that still seems sub-par for expectations from the program.

Michigan has little trouble against the filler or at least they did. This year they beat MTSU. Then they held on against Army and kept the game from going into overtime. Unranked Army. Unranked Army at Michigan.

Now they lost badly to Wisconsin. This isn’t Michigan getting caught off guard by a cute little team that is surprising people, this is something becoming telling of Harbaugh’s tenure as coach.

Does this change the landscape of when he left the 49ers? Harbaugh did take the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship games, but he was also gifted a roster of pro bowlers. Could it be that Harbaugh’s success in the NFL was more on the roster and the incompetence of the coaches before him than it was on anything he—or his staff did? If he was such a winning coach, the second coming of Vince Lombardi as we may have thought, wouldn’t he be hoisting a national championship?

There’s no denying firing Harbaugh was a bad move (the circumstances alone would dictate this), but it makes you wonder what the future would have been if Harbaugh stuck around. With Trent Baalke’s knack for bad draft picks and Harbaugh’s ability to make some strange strange decisions, maybe his record would continue to decrease.

The firing brought two years of hell, but it may have helped align things for what the 49ers have now. Looking back, I prefer Kyle Shanahan over Harbaugh. Has Shanahan won anything? No. But he’s taken a lackluster roster and turned it into a possible contender. Harbaugh’s regressed somewhat as time went on (13-3, 11-4-1, 12-4, 8-8) when given a much, much better roster to work with initially. Yes, a lot of his .500 finish in 2014 was due to injuries. Yes, 2014 was a [site-decorum] show off the field. On that same token, his offense grew more predictable by the year and was marred by very, very strange decisions (not running it in the Super Bowl comes to mind).

Harbaugh was fun. His sideline antics had me requesting a box in the corner of the screen so I could watch him flip out during games. He made several friends of mine 49ers fans just because of how crazy he could get, but when you look at what’s been happening at Michigan, you begin to wonder just how good of a coach he was. At Stanford, he had Andrew Luck, the 49ers he had that insane defense. At Michigan, he’s got...well...not much. Don’t forget in college he has more say, all the say even, in who comes to his team.

This isn’t so much of me saying Harbaugh is a bad coach—he’s been finishing with winning records. I think he’s a competent coach. But as the be-all, end-all, second coming of Vince Lombardi he was hailed as when he “mutually parted ways” with San Francisco, one has to wonder how much of that was true and how much of that was good situations. It was a bad move to fire him when he did, but his tenure at Michigan may indicate he wasn’t near as good as some of us pegged him to be.

Again, no one here is saying he’s a bad coach, but do you knock him a few pegs after the last few seasons at Michigan?