The pride former Michigan players showed when gazing at Jim Harbaugh behind the podium Tuesday was hard to miss. One of theirs was in charge of their program. But that pride wasn't just a product of Harbaugh’s status as a former player. It also stemmed from the fact that was unquestionably the top coaching candidate in college AND the pros. That made his willingness to return to Ann Arbor all the more gratifying.
“I wasn’t real sure (Harbaugh would accept the job) because from a business perspective, a guy has got to look out for his family first and what’s best for his business interest,” former Michigan tailback Stan Edwards said. “So many people around here thought that he owed Michigan the time to come back. No he doesn’t. He really doesn’t. He’s got to do what’s best for his family. It just so happened that this is a great opportunity for both parties. I just want us to make sure that he (can go) get all the assistants that he wants hopefully. Jim can’t coach every position, so his assistant staff is going to be very, very important. Do hopefully we’ll get everyone that he wants. That’s number one. Number two is, expectations just have to be limited. Jim is a different guy and he showed you in that press conference. He’s not a walking cliché. He’s not going to say things to please people. He says what’s on his mind. He’s a little bit guarded as he’s gotten older, but I’m so glad he’s back. Not only in the Big Ten, but he is a college football game-changer.”
But what makes him that game-changer? Harbaugh coached San Diego and Stanford to unparalleled success before heading to the NFL. In the pro he took over a team that had won a total of 46 games in the eight seasons prior to his arrival. In his four years at the helm in San Francisco he coached the 49ers to 44 victories, three NFC title games, and a Super Bowl. Why has Harbaugh been wildly successful in situations where other coaches failed?
“I think he probably demanded more,” Edwards responded. “I don’t want to say he outworked everybody (but) I think his principles of what he demanded out of his coaching staff and his players, really meant that. The players that he recruited at Stanford were the same players that were recruited before he got there, but his philosophy and what he demanded out of them had them believing at a level that they’ve never believed before. That’s the difference maker between him and other guys.”
There is little doubt that Michigan’s players will exhibit that same kind of belief. A bigger question is how will the Wolverines’ fare with an inexperienced triggerman next year?
“Jim came train a pocket quarterback, a drop back quarterback and a spread quarterback,” Edwards stated confidently. “He’s trained all three. He has done well with Andrew Luck as a pocket passer. He has done well with Colin Kaepernick, who is a spread run option quarterback. So it doesn’t really matter what kind of quarterback he has, but are the other pieces in place for him to be successful? Time will tell.”
One thing Edwards doesn’t need time to figure out is just how much Bo Schembechler there is in Jim Harbaugh.
“(There’s) a lot,” said Edwards. “There is no BS with (Harbaugh). He’s not going to try and cow-tow to the media. He’s not going to say what’s popular. He’s not going to be a cliché that people want to hear. He says what’s on his mind. Again, he’s a little older and he’s a little more guarded now, but I love the fact that he is here and when he got up there, he did not change for anybody because he’s going to be who he is and I’m glad about that.”
To see the video interview with Edwards, press play below.