Jim Harbaugh... A Michigan Man

The Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan football will always be remembered fondly. Let's take a look back at a timeline of his tenure.
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

It is hard to believe that Jim Harbaugh was hired in 2014 and coached his first season of Michigan football in 2015. As the old expression goes, time flies when you are having fun and oh boy, did it ever. For perspective, I fell in love with Michigan football while Lloyd Carr was the coach, I always remained loyal through the Brady Hoke/Rich Rod years, and the last 10 years coached by Harbaugh have been the most fun I have ever had as a Michigan fan. With Jim deciding to go to the NFL, a look back at the last nine seasons in Ann Arbor is only right.

The Michigan football team in 2015 had a completely different energy surrounding it compared to the 2014 team. There was a new mentality and confidence the team had when taking the field. They were not taking the field anymore hoping to win, but rather expecting to win. They expected to not only win but physically dominate their opponent in the process. There were some great moments and not-so-great moments, but overall, the team played with a confidence we had not seen in a long time. They capped off a 10-win season with a blowout victory over Florida. Confidence was high heading into the 2016 season and that confidence was backed up by play as the Wolverines dominated their opponents up until the last few weeks of the season. An upset loss at Iowa and a double-overtime loss on a questionable loss to Ohio State put a bitter taste in our mouths after a pretty sweet season.

That brings us to 2017, 2018, and 2019. Firstly, I want to say Michigan football was very good during these three years. For some reason, a lot of the national media wants to lump these years in with the COVID-19 year and say these years were disastrous. Michigan finished 8-5 (riddled with injury, including being down to their third-string quarterback), 10-3, and 9-4 for a combined record of 27-12. They were good during this time but just not good enough. I think that is a fair assessment of the program during this time. Oh, and one very important factor...they could not get over the hump and beat Ohio State. Michigan had turned into a more spread-style offense with a stubborn defensive scheme of playing man in the back end. This proved to ultimately be the nail in the coffin, as change was inevitable because fans were tired of just being good... greatness is what the Michigan faithful wanted.

The 2020 COVID year for Michigan was somewhat of an oxymoron. It was one of the most disastrous seasons and also one of the most important seasons for future Michigan football success. Michigan football went 2-4 including a 49-11 beatdown handed out by Wisconsin that was the most difficult game I have ever watched as a fan. It was clear something needed to be done... and Harbaugh went to work. It culminated with a speech that will go down in Michigan football history.

Jim Harbaugh's glory years with Michigan football

Onto the glory years....and boy were they ever glorious. 2021-2023 is the best three-year stretch in the history of Michigan football. 40-3 overall record, three straight Big Ten Championships, three straight College Football Playoff appearances, a Rose Bowl win, and a National Championship.

2021 was the first year Michigan football beat Ohio State since 2011. It was a cinematic experience as snow fell on the Big House in Ann Arbor. Aidan Hutchinson lived in the backfield sacking CJ Stroud three times and the Wolverines took down the Buckeyes 42-27. That gave Michigan a taste of what it was like to beat Ohio State and they were hungry for much more. Michigan went on to dominate Iowa in the Big Ten Championship to claim their first conference title since 2004. A great Georgia team stopped Michigan's magical run, but it was clear this was not the last time the college football world would hear from this Michigan team. The 2022 team stepped onto the field from the very beginning with confidence and swagger unlike any year prior.

A big part of that came when in week 2, J.J. McCarthy was named starting quarterback. Michigan rolled through everyone and entered Columbus to face the unbeaten Buckeyes in the final week of the season. Big play after big play-capped off by two Donovan Edwards fourth-quarter touchdowns led the Wolverines to their first road victory in the rivalry since 2000. They went on to beat Purdue and capture their second straight Big Ten Championship. Michigan lost a heart breaker against TCU in the playoff that sent a shockwave through the fanbase. In hindsight, it may have been the best thing possible for the team. It lit a fire under them and guys who could have declared for the NFL decided to stay for one more year. The mission was clear... win the national championship.

2023 Michigan football will go down as one of the most dominant football teams in the history of college football. A defense that gave up only 10.4 points per game and did not give up a single play inside the 10-yard line until week 11 vs Maryland is just one of the unbelievable stats from this defense.

Michigan went on to beat the Buckeyes and win the Big Ten Championship for a third straight year. This team walked into the College Football Playoff with one singular focus... to win. They beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl and then went on to beat Washington in the National Championship. This team climbed the mountain, and it was all led by Jim Harbaugh. He instilled his toughness mentality onto the team in 2021 and they rode it all the way to winning it all in 2023.

Jim Harbaugh will forever be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in Michigan football history. He brought Michigan back to its rightful place at the very top of Michigan football. He did it with tough, discipline, fundamental, old-school football.


We should all be grateful we were able to experience the Jim Harbaugh era as Michigan football fans. We will one day be old and gray, telling our grandchildren about how special the rise to glory was under him. Now, we get to look forward to the Sherrone Moore era. There is nobody better to take over the program than him and I cannot wait to watch him carry on Harbaugh traditions while also adding his own twist on it. Go Coach Moore, Go Coach Harbaugh, and Go Blue!