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Jim Harbaugh being Michigan’s quarterbacks coach is a big deal

Harbaugh will be coaching the quarterbacks aplenty in 2021.

Wisconsin v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Michigan’s looking to turn 2020 into a distant memory and hit the ground running in 2021.

Major changes were warranted, and major changes were then made. One of which was the announcement of head coach Jim Harbaugh being Michigan’s next quarterbacks coach.

This is Harbaugh’s unit. He’s the one who will be the most hands on with them. Someone who got the best out of Andrew Luck at Stanford, turned Alex Smith’s career around, coached up Colin Kaepernick to become one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in football in a scheme tailored to Kaepernick’s strengths. Harbaugh has coached quarterbacks at a high-level.

Without getting into the specifics, it’s fair to say the quarterback play could have been better at times since the Harbaugh era at Michigan began. The quarterback play certainly could have been better in 2020, along with every other position.

Harbaugh’s move to quarterbacks coach allows him to be the one who spends the most time with these players. The messenger, the one critiquing their mechanics and football IQ. The man in the meeting room with the QBs breaking down film and scheme, is Harbaugh. That’s not something that should go unnoticed. That’s a big deal.

Harbaugh is as qualified as any coach in college or the pros to be a quarterbacks coach. Back in 2019, former quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels mentioned that Harbaugh was never far away from the QB unit. “He’s never far,” McDaniels said in ‘19. “His knowledge, his experience specifically for that room is unmatched in our building, so as much interaction as he wants to have and can have with our quarterbacks is very good for those quarterbacks.” And now with McDaniels gone, Harbaugh will be even more hands due to taking the reins as QBs coach.

Current QB unit

  • redshirt junior Joe Milton
  • redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara
  • redshirt freshman Dan Villari
  • true freshman J.J. McCarthy

Of course Harbaugh will go into training camp with a QB competition, and it’s far from certain who will get the nod. What is known is incoming freshman J.J. McCarthy was a five-star recruit and the No. 2 QB in the class of 2021. There’s high hopes for McCarthy, a dual-threat option who can really sling it with pop on the run. Beyond the expectations for McCarthy, Harbaugh will be coaching up two players who now have starting experience in Milton and McNamara, along with a three-star grinder in Villari.

When it comes to what he looks for in a quarterback, he keeps in mind what legendary former San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh once told him. “It’s in the name of Bill Walsh,” Harbaugh said in 2015. “I spent time with Bill Walsh, before he passed away, during my first year at Stanford. And I asked him one day ‘what do you look for in a quarterback?’ And he said ‘athletic instincts. I asked what he meant by that and he said ‘it means he’s the best athlete in the entire high school. He could go make the basketball team, at least be the sixth man, he could make the soccer team, he can swim, he can field balls from center field, he can be a shortstop and could probably pitch on the baseball team.”

Harbaugh becoming the QBs coach gives that unit the best chance to succeed and for them to reach their full potential. Skepticism will remain at every turn until Michigan gets back on the winning track, but moves such as these are the ones that make sense. The moves required to pave a new path forward.

More attention to detail. More work. More accountability. More cohesion. This is what Jim Harbaugh as quarterbacks coach means.