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Jim Harbaugh Isn’t Any Better Than Brady Hoke

No, seriously. At least Hoke occasionally beat a rival.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Jim Harbaugh was hired by Michigan, Ann Arbor was ecstatic. Wolverine fans had suffered under the mediocrity of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke for long enough. They had paid their penance to the football gods and were ready to become the Michigan of legend once again.

Fans had every reason to believe in these sky high expectations; Harbaugh had been wildly successful at every level of the game. He turned Stanford into the gold standard of the Pac-12. The San Francisco 49ers had long toiled in mediocrity, but he took them to a Super Bowl. Wolverine fans finally had their Michigan Man, and he was going to turn them into the Alabama of the north and be a consistent contender for national championships.

Fast forward to this weekend where Michigan was upended by a Spartan team that went 3-9 last year and you have to ask: Is Jim Harbaugh actually better than Brady Hoke? (spoiler: he isn’t)

If you cut through the hype and the personality cult around Harbaugh and just look at the numbers, there really isn’t anything to point at and see a better team. Harbaugh isn’t the second coming of Bo Schembechler (who was 5-12 in bowls and never won a national championship), he’s simply the next Brady Hoke.

Through 31 Games

Coach Record Bowls B1G East finishes vs Rivals
Coach Record Bowls B1G East finishes vs Rivals
Brady Hoke 24-7 (13-2) 1-1 2x second place 4-3
Jim Harbaugh 24-7 (14-5) 1-1 2x third place 1-4

Just about every Michigan fan in the country will tell you that the Wolverines are infinitely better off with Harbaugh at the helm than they were with Brady Hoke, but the numbers simply don’t agree with that.

Through their first 31 games both coaches have the same overall record, and both are 1-1 in bowl games. Brady Hoke, while not exactly a tactical genius, was demonstrably better in the “big games” than what we’ve seen from Harbaugh so far. While this season is still young, Hoke finished higher in the division in his first two years than Harbaugh did. I’d point out that that technically means Hoke had a more successful first two seasons, but that’s a moot point because neither man has been as successful as Mark Dantonio.

Let’s pump the brakes on Jim a little bit. He was supposed to be a quarterback whisperer and an offensive guru who could turn Michigan into a team that could impose their offensive will on any opponent who crossed their face. Instead he’s had to rely on Don Brown’s defense to bail him out time and time again, while the best quarterback he’s produced is Jake Rudock (a graduate transfer who was deemed not good enough for Greg Davis). He isn’t god’s gift to coaching, he’s just Brady Hoke with histrionic personality disorder (and zero wins against Ohio State).

Sure, Harbaugh is one of those “fun” coaches that does wacky stuff like drinking milk at dinner so ESPN has something neat to talk about. I mean, I guess being fun and losing to Michigan State is technically better than being boring and losing to them, but is that really worth paying Harbaugh, the second best coach in his own state, three times as much as Hoke? You do you, Michigan.

Now, you may be wondering if I’m just trying to dump salt on a still festering wound and annoy Michigan fans. Of course that’s what I’m doing, but that doesn’t make the stats any less true. It may feel like Harbaugh has been a massive improvement over the previous two regimes, but that’s mostly because you’re blinded by the hype and your love of the man. The reality is that he hasn’t done anything to set himself apart from them yet. Except lose more rivalry games.

I’m glad you like the khakis, the laser tag bullying and the weird sleepover stuff, but ask yourself this: will you still be putting up with Jim Harbaugh’s antics if five games into his sixth season he’s 2-8 all time against your rivals and still hasn’t won his division?


What will Jim Harbaugh be doing after another 3 seasons?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Giving flat-fronted pants a whirl before retreating back to pleats
    (40 votes)
  • 9%
    Damage control on some scandal, the absurdity of which we can’t even comprehend yet
    (53 votes)
  • 33%
    Coaching the Chicago Bears
    (192 votes)
  • 25%
    He’ll still be the 4th best coach in the division
    (144 votes)
  • 25%
    He already had a sleepover with a recruit, everything he does after that seems pretty normal by comparison
    (147 votes)
576 votes total Vote Now