Rays of Light: What's Harbaugh Thinking?

In the first part of our series in which former Michigan All-American and current Big Ten Network studio analyst Marcus Ray plays the role of Jim Harbaugh. Ray, who is on the advisory board for Michigan's coaching search, breaks down the factors being weighed by Michigan's #1 target. Will Harbaugh choose Michigan over the pros?

Sam Webb:   Marcus I think you are resource because you have worn so many hats. You are able to give perspective on so many different levels.  I want to put you in a mindset… I want to put you in character like we did a few weeks ago when you were AD.  Great job by the way. I still hear about that.  I want you this morning for a second to be Jim Harbaugh.  You have Michigan coming at you, but you also have an array of NFL opportunities that are seemingly on the horizon.  Give me your take on what the considerations are and what would pull you in one direction versus the other?

Marcus Ray:  “If I’m Jim Harbaugh right now and I’m looking at the big picture of everything, I’m looking at my age first of all and saying, I’m 50 years old and I’m in a primetime position in my life to coach at the highest level.  I’ve had a small taste of coaching in a Super Bowl and three opportunities of being in the NFC Championship.  It is one of those things were he has to consider…a pro coach only goes back down to college when he has to.  I’m thinking if I’m Jim Harbaugh, do I have to take Michigan and if I do take it, why am I doing it.  Why am I doing it?  Is it because I want to coach there or am I doing it because they need me.  I played at Michigan, the money will be sweet, do I really want to recruit, but I want to win the Super Bowl.  My wife, my family, we love the NFL lifestyle and when I go back to college I better have a lot of power, I better have a lot of say in doing it my way, almost like a general  manager and a head coach.  I know one thing, NFL stands for Not For Long.  I can be out of here in a few years.  I’ll always have a job.  I honestly believe I can go back to Michigan whenever I feel like it.”

Sam Webb:  Do you feel like your coaching style would work better at the college level than on the professional level.  The longevity of the guys responding to you in a favorable way… is better in college than it will be or would be in the pros. 

Marcus Ray:  “No.  It’s all about players.  As far as the NFL, you never know who is going to be on your team from year to year.  Those guys are pros.  You’re going to get results or you’re not.  In college, you have time to develop kids, but there are no scholarships in the NFL.  I just believe when you have players and the right guys with  you coaching, you can win but you can kind of handpick your guys in college obviously.  You have the most say versus in the NFL, when you have a general manager, an owner, people breathing down your neck or a certain coordinator come in.  Those guys have to mesh well together.  I think my style of coaching can win on any level.  I’ve proven that.  I’ve yet to produce a true championship, but I think it is proven that I can coach quarterbacks, I can win, I can beat top level teams.  My kids are going to play for me.  These grown men that I coach in the NFL are going to love being in my locker room, so my style can win on any level, whether it is at Michigan or whether it is with the New York Jets or any other team in the NFL.  It is all about getting results and coaching guys up.”

Sam Webb:  Let me give you hypothetical based on what people are saying out there.  These aren’t necessarily actual scenarios, but these are rumored scenarios, so I want to qualify them as such.  One of the rumored scenarios is that you could go to Oakland.  You can go to Oakland, that Oakland would fire their GM, Reggie McKenzie.  They would for starters offer you eight million dollars but could go as high as 10 if that’s what it took.  They would give you full control, meaning you could make all personnel decisions.  They would allow you to hand pick your VP or assistant GM. Word is that there is a guy that you have, the VP of the Eagles, you hand picked that guy.  You can bring him with you.  Would you find at Michigan the scenario that is being thrown out there, 49 million over x number of years… say six or seven, don’t know the exact time that is being thrown out there (more desirable)?.  Also (you have) the opportunity to be the guy who…maybe they have a statue of you right by the tunnel over at the Big House.  Does that mean more to you than the opportunity that I just painted for you in a place like Oakland?

Marcus Ray:  “Number one, Oakland is a dead end job as a coach and as a player.  You can’t trust the Oakland management.  Yeah they’ll give me everything I want for two years and if I don’t win than I’ll be on the street too, that’s just the way this league goes.  I do love coaching in the NFL, Oakland is a place that it’ll be a big challenge.  I was a quality control quarterback coach back in 2001, I did spend some time on that staff and help those guys, and Rich Gannon.  You just can’t trust Oakland’s management right now.  I didn’t trust it when I coached there, but I do like the Bay Area.  I love the entire East Bay, West Bay, South Bay, talking about Stanford, San Fran, Oakland, all of that.  I love Ann Arbor too.  For me, it really isn’t about throwing everything at me.  It’s about me putting me and my family in the best position for us to be happy.  I want a challenge, I want a real challenge.  I’m torn because Ann Arbor, that’s the biggest challenge on my plate right now.  Going back to Michigan and turning this thing around, I just don’t know how long I’ll want to stay there.  Will I get bored with it.  There’s no doubt I can beat Urban Meyer.  I’ll bet Dantonio.  I’ll even shake Nick Saban’s hand in the playoff and slap him on the back like I did Schwartz.  That means nothing to me.  What I will say is that I love coaching in this league.  If I leave the NFL, I would like to return someday, maybe I can win a National Championship and a Super Bowl before I’m 65 as a coach, multiple times.  I am the top competitor in all of college coaching and professional coaching.  It’s in my blood and I want to win and I show that as a player.  You know what Sam, I think that I’m going to prayer about this, I’m going to let God lead me and I believe that my family and everything is on the table in my favor and all the terms are right, I’m going to end up in Ann Arbor.  I have to do this for my alma mater.  Once I do this for you Michigan, don’t expect me to stay there 15 years, I have unfinished business in the NFL at some point.”

Sam Webb:  I think most fans are good with that.  If the unexpected happens at least here in Ann Arbor.  I’m going to have you put on a different hat.  You’re a man of many different hats Marcus, you can change hats in an instant.  So take off your Jimmy hat… (LAUGHTER).

To hear the podcast in its entirety, press play below. Stay tuned for part two to hear Ray give his spin on Les Miles’ mindset.


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