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Roundtable: Discussing Jim Harbaugh’s return to the NFL, what’s next for Michigan

The Wolverines are turning the page to a new chapter.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Championship-Iowa vs Michigan Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now with the news official that Jim Harbaugh is the new head man for the Los Angeles Chargers, there are plenty of questions left to be answered as it pertains to the future of the Michigan Wolverines’ football program.

While we don’t have those answers just yet, we can certainly talk about them. In this special edition of the Maize n Brew Roundtable, we talk about how we feel now that Harbaugh is off to the NFL, what the future may hold for the Wolverines — specifically with Sherrone Moore — and much more.

What were your initial feelings/reaction to seeing Jim Harbaugh was officially heading to the Los Angeles Chargers?

Von: So many feelings — but if I’m being honest, but initial feeling was that I am glad the rumors and constant offseason storylines are over. However, I am also certainly disappointed Michigan isn’t able to build a dynasty under Harbaugh’s leadership. This was a long time coming, but now feels like the exact time for him to go back to the NFL. He won the National Championship at Michigan, and now he has one final goal to check off his to-do list: win the Super Bowl. I commend him for trying to go for it before he retires, and I will be rooting for him along the way to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in the near future.

Matt Eifert: My initial reaction was anger for about two seconds before the appreciation rolled in. I understand Harbaugh wanting to win a Super Bowl. Maybe it’s just the Michigan homer in me, but I’d much rather coach in front of one of the largest fanbases in America where I’m universally beloved than in Los Angeles where the stadium is half filled with opposing fans. That said, Harbaugh has earned the right to do whatever he pleases. He brought Michigan to the mountaintop, and for that I am eternally grateful. This was a true riding off into the sunset moment.

Matt Hartwell: My initial thoughts are it’s good to finally have some closure on what has been a long road in the Harbaugh-NFL saga. Having just recently won college football’s ultimate prize, I look at it as somewhat of a best-case scenario for the Michigan football program. Harbaugh’s interest in the NFL was clearly not going away and I’m happy to see him go out on a high note. With Sherrone Moore proving himself as a capable replacement over the course of Jim’s absences during the 2023 season, I also don’t know if there’s a better time or situation he could have chosen to leave the team in.

Kellen: I was very sad. Throughout all these NFL rumors, I was hoping Michigan would give him what he wants so he can stay in Ann Arbor, living next to his parents and continue to keep Michigan on the mountaintop. As the night went along, I got more and more happy for him.

Andrew: Relief. Both sides finally have direction and certainty, and can move forward.

I know this was asked in the post-National Championship roundtable, but do you believe Harbaugh is the GOAT head coach at Michigan? In other words — what is his legacy?

Von: I still firmly believe Harbaugh is the standard now when it comes to Michigan head coaches. No one is greater than him simply because of this past season; had Michigan not won the National Championship, there would certainly be some debate, especially from the Bo truthers (I am not one of them — I actually think Lloyd Carr was a better coach, personally). But now with the national title to his name, it’s clear and definitive Harbaugh is the greatest coach in Michigan football’s 144-year history. It will be hard to top what he accomplished in his nine-year run.

Matt Eifert: Statistically, he is not. There are coaches with more wins, a better winning percentage, and more national championships. However, it’s an entirely different era of college football and winning is harder than ever. No other Michigan coach has had to win five of their last six games against top-25 opponents. The eye test says yes, Harbaugh is the greatest head coach in Michigan history. His legacy will be that of the greatest three-year run in program history.

Matt Hartwell: I believe Harbaugh’s ability to win in the current climate of college football we are in today speaks volumes to that argument. Michigan has clearly shown itself to be at a slight disadvantage when it comes to the modern era of NIL, and Harbaugh somehow managed to overcome those circumstances by building a blue-collar team with a winning culture the old fashioned way. It’s something that likely won’t be seen again in an ever-changing college football landscape.

Kellen: He is for our generation. Yes, there were some rocky years in there, but ultimately he did everything he promised. He beat Ohio State, won Big Ten titles and made it to the CFP three years in a row, capping things off with the program’s first outright natty since 1948. He literally did everything he promised to do; not many coaches can say they did that.

Andrew: Yes. I value Michigan history probably too much, but what Harbaugh accomplished in 2023 has no equal. Bo Schembechler had many great teams — from 1971-74, his teams only lost three games by a combined six points — but they were never able to escape untied or unbeaten. Gary Moeller’s 1992 team might still be the most talented team in Michigan history, and while undefeated, the team had three ties on its resume. Lloyd Carr took the 1997 team to the promised land, but Harbaugh had to do that in 15 game — the first Big Ten team to ever do so — which included beating a top-three defense on the road in Penn State, an 11-0 Ohio State team (or preparing Sherrone Moore to do so), a top-three defense in the Big Ten Championship, Alabama head coach Nick Saban with a month to prepare, and the nation’s most feared passing attack and undefeated Washington.

Everyone in the coaching world would be interested in this job, but who do you think should be the next head coach at U-M?

Von: Sherrone effin’ Moore. After guiding the Wolverines to a 4-0 record — including wins at Penn State and vs. Ohio State — as the acting head coach this past season, it’s clear the team was all in for him. Zak Zinter took to social media immediately after the Harbaugh news broke that Moore should be the head coach, too. It doesn’t take someone with perfect vision to see Moore is the clear choice for the job. He has a passion for Michigan football, is a relentless recruiter, and is a leader among men. If it isn’t Sherrone Moore...I am going to have some real problems with a certain someone in the Athletic Department.

Matt Eifert: If it’s not Sherrone Moore, we riot. Michigan is a premier job in college sports so any coach would be interested. However, timing is key here. Coming off the national championship, continuity is key. There’s no reason to rock the boat and bring in a brand new coaching staff. Not to mention, Moore already aced his interview by beating Ohio State in the most important game in the rivalry’s history.

Matt Hartwell: Sherrone Moore. End of discussion.

Kellen: Get ready for everyone to have the exact same answer, but it’s Sherrone Moore. He’s a damn good recruiter, he’s got a ton of support from the players as we’ve seen already on social media, and he beat Penn State and Ohio State last season. And people forget, he’s been the position coach of Michigan’s most dominant unit the last few years, the offensive line, which won back to back Joe Moore awards and helped the Wolverines rush for 300+ yards in the natty. Michigan needs to do its due diligence, but Moore seems like the perfect candidate for the job.

Andrew: Unequivocally, Sherrone Moore.

It’s difficult to say without a head coach in place, but what are your way-too-early thoughts on the 2024 season? What are some reasonable expectations that fans should have?

Von: Michigan is looking at a gauntlet of a schedule with a brand new head coach, quarterback, offensive line, wide receivers and linebackers. Of course, this is subject to change given the ever-changing landscape of college football with recruiting and the transfer portal, but I am going to be generous and say that 8-4 is a more than attainable record, given the current circumstances.

Matt Eifert: It’s reasonable to expect the defense to be a juggernaut yet again, given who is returning. However, the offense is going to take a major step back. Replacing J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum, both wide receivers and the entire offensive line is no easy feat. The offense won’t be terrible, but it will be vastly different. I’m expecting somewhere around 9-3 while being on the bubble for the 12-team playoff.

Matt Hartwell: There are a lot of moving pieces to this question. Michigan will play one of the toughest schedules in college football in 2024 while fielding a team that loses 20+ players to the NFL Draft and possibly a few more to the transfer portal following Harbaugh’s departure. It honestly feels difficult to set high expectations on the season regardless of Harbaugh’s departure. I won’t put a number on a wins or losses but I think it’s reasonable to assume there will be some bumps in the road as they figure things out.

Kellen: It’s not reasonable to expect the team to repeat as national champs, given the uncertainty, the harder schedule and all the guys who are now training for the draft. That said, a lot of key pieces on the defense are still there. Donovan Edwards is also back, as are key skill guys in Tyler Morris and Semaj Morgan. And at this point, I trust Michigan to develop talent and reload on the offensive line. You got to figure out the quarterback situation, but in the first year post-Harbaugh, with as hard a schedule as they have coming, I think 8-9 wins and a bowl game would be realistic.

Andrew: Expectations this season should be 10 wins. As it stands before coaching departures and transfer portal chaos, this team will have an elite defense and elite rushing attack. Yes, the schedule is daunting, but the CFP is expanding to 12 teams, and wouldn’t you love to see 10-2 Michigan hosting a CFP game in Ann Arbor as a seven or eight-seed?