Jim Harbaugh strode to the podium Tuesday afternoon, a hop in his step and a smile plastered on his face.
In his first official press conference since a month-long flirtation with NFL head coaching vacancies, Harbaugh, eyes wide, made a pompous declaration sure to stir imaginations.
“The state of Michigan football right now is scary,” the now eighth-year Michigan coach said. “… It’s just, right now, scary good.”
The Wolverines entered the offseason on the heels of the program’s best season in decades, having captured a Big Ten Championship and at last earning a berth in the College Football Playoff. But the early stages of the offseason proved uneasy.
Harbaugh entertained NFL interest rather seriously. At one point, he flew out to Minnesota to interview for the Vikings’ head coaching vacancy, while people within Michigan’s program braced for his departure. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald each opted to move elsewhere, leaving gaping holes in their wake.
But now, things are back to normal.
Michigan is four practices into Spring Ball, though only one of those occurred with full-pads. This week marks the beginning of a four-week stretch in which the Wolverines will practice three times a week heading into the Spring Game on April 2.
“We’re just having a blast,” Harbaugh said. “And the word tumultuous — I think that was used in the offseason — if guys are bringing the energy and having fun and the momentum that the program has, whatever word you want to put on that, that’s what we’re having. And that’s scary good.”
Harbaugh’s song-and-dance was certainly the story of the offseason, but Michigan endured a number of personnel changes, too. Sheronne Moore and Matt Weiss will have to adjust to their co-offensive coordinator duties; a number of edge rushers will attempt to fill the voids left by All-Americans Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo; two new starters are needed on the offensive line, too.
When asked about each of those transitions, Harbaugh responded with a number of terms, each with a similar meaning: seamless, easy, hitting the ground running, not missing a beat. Point being: As of now, Harbaugh seems to have his program operating like a well-oiled machine.
“It came, and then now we’re rolling,” Harbaugh noted of Gattis’s departure, in particular.
Naturally, it’s fair to wonder how much longer Harbaugh will be around to steer this machine, even after inking a restructured, five-year contract extension in February. Tuesday, he claimed that the expiration of the initial seven-year deal he signed in 2015 precipitated January’s NFL flirtations, though that explanation is rather unconvincing.
Yet, Harbaugh did admit to informing Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel that “the door is closed” to NFL openings, confirming a previous report.
“When you’re around this kind of team, these kinds of guys, the days fly by,” Harbaugh said. “I see no end in sight when you’re around this kind of group.”
And as for his long-fervent desire to win a Super Bowl?
“We could win college football’s greatest trophy,” Harbaugh noted. “We could win the national title. And that’s — that’s plenty good.”
Harbaugh struck a jovial mood throughout his press conference, reflective of the optimism swirling around his program. He praised the energy in the building and expressed gratitude for those surrounding him, doing so in quintessential Harbaugh-speak: “People that love, love us… as opposed to people that love to hate us and hate to love us.”
Towards the end, Harbaugh waxed about his team’s upcoming summer vacation. Over the course of a one-week span in late July, Michigan will venture from the Upper Peninsula to Traverse City to Detroit, visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Pictured Rocks, amongst other landmarks. On the surface, it’s a far cry from previous iterations of the annual trip, in which the Wolverines have toured Rome and South Africa.
But to Harbaugh, this felt right.
“Possibilities are endless,” he said, his smile still broad. “So why Michigan? That’s why — the possibilities are endless.”
And it’s plenty clear that Harbaugh feels the same way about his team, too.