Michigan Football Podcast — Spring Practice Commentary 2-28-23

Phil and Clint discuss the state of Michigan football as spring practice begins. Topics include Jim Harbaugh’s criteria on whether he should remain at Michigan after every season, his response to the NCAA as well as snarking by some local media outlets, his happiness when players decide to return to the program, and his relationship with athletic director Warde Manuel. With audio from Jim Harbaugh.

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Phil Callihan 0:00
This is Phil Callihan, along with Clint Derringer and spring practice has begun for this new edition of the Michigan Wolverines well Clint Coach Jim Harbaugh had a press conference he addressed a number of topics. What did you find interesting about his statements to the media?

Clint Derringer 0:32
I think just in general, the way you know when Harbaugh has kind of any offseason, especially, you know, at the end of December the last games played the bowl game. Another tough loss obviously at the end of a really great and historically great season. Kind of a downer to end on. Just one sour note at the end of a really great season. Then a lot of crazy headaches and some drama that swirl right after and you know, the first time Harwell comes out to see everybody. He has his a comical ability to just pretend like nothing happened, even you know, standing in front of all of the newspaper writers and be writers and answering the questions. So matter of factly as if, you know, we did not just see the craziness, you know, and it’s it’s just it’s still amusing to me that kind of a picture into how he compartmentalizes things. And to him right now. This is the 23 season and his eyeballs are 100% forward. And he’s he’s nearly dismissive of almost anything that’s kind of backward looking, which is kind of just who he is. It’s frustrating to many people, fans and members alike. But that was the overtone of the overarching tone was I was kind of chuckling to myself, because I could feel the kind of the tension or frustration with folks that you know, probably thought that they were going to finally have their chance to grill hardball. And he just slides by like water water off a duck’s back.

Phil Callihan 2:16
Well, it is interesting. And you know, Clint, you have won, I’d say that we have been through enough Jim Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh press conferences, that we kind of know what to expect at this point. Right. But it was interesting, again, as you said, how he just, you know, these questions come up, and they’re just glancing blows, he just keeps moving forward.

Jim Harbaugh 2:41
I’m here, you know, as long as Michigan wants me and wants me here. And that you would have had a story if I wasn’t here. But I’m here. And, this is where where I wanted to be.

Phil Callihan 2:55
And on one hand, you could just, you know, see the Twittersphere explode, right? Like, oh, look, he’s back. He’s always gonna be here. See, there was nothing to worry about. And then he came back with-

Jim Harbaugh 3:08
Yeah, like, yeah, like we’ve said, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s an it’s an ongoing thing. Something that we retreat is a really positive thing that NFL franchises, NFL teams have a lot of interest in all of our personnel, coaches, players, staff, if somebody in our organization feels like, you know, that’s going to benefit them professionally. And personally, then we say that we don’t, we don’t hold anybody back. I think the players it’s got to be so many, over the last eight years, it’s got to be in the 80s or 90s, over over eight years, amount of players that are in the NFL coaches, I think I’ve lost count how many coaches have gone to to the NFL from here. Staff members, same. So, right now Jesse mentors, you know, considering that and we just don’t hold him back. I like to tell you all the all the ones that I mean calls come in, calls come in calls are taking those conversations, or had I was a few coaches on our staff that those calls came in and, and and they decided to stay here in Michigan. I’m one of them. There’s, there’s another so you guys are going to people do what they think is, is best for them professionally and personally.

Phil Callihan 4:39
It’s kinda like he answers the question with a yes and a no. Right. And he doesn’t seem to grasp or I should say care about the, you know, the differences there. Right. So it’s interesting because, you know, on one hand, he says, Well, you know, I’m I’m here Are as long as they want me to be,

Jim Harbaugh 5:02
I gotta have a great relationship with Ward Manuel, and he’s been great for our athletic department and our in our university. That nothing but good. I trust word he trusts me. I mean, as far as you know, any kind of any kind of contract situation. And we’d like to talk about that we talked about, I just asked, Hey, do you just? Do you want me here at Michigan after every season after every season? anywhere I’ve ever been? I mean, that’s conversation I want to have, do you still think I’m the best person to do this job. And then I want to know what the, you know, the rest of the administration thinks I want to know what the players think. I want to know what the other coaches think. And I want to know what the fanbase thinks. And so when that season’s over I, I sit down to have that conversation with Ward and, and, and do the same with the players and assess where the where the fan base is, and has never been in. All the years I’ve been here. And that’s the feedback I got in the in the month of January was as good as it’s ever been from players, coaches, from Ward administration. President and from the fan base. And so here we go. Let’s go to 2023. and have at it.

Phil Callihan 6:30
You know, one of the surprising things that I thought is that nobody followed up with a question about well, if you get along so well with Word, why did the university president step in? Right, which has never happened before? And, you know, one of the things that I was hoping for was that somehow this offseason, Michigan could put the rest this annual dance with the NFL. Right. So, you know, at one point during the press conference on that, oh, well, maybe we’ve maybe we finally set this aside. And then at the end, he ended up with

Jim Harbaugh 7:11
That’s something you assess after every season, that’s the thing that I will, I will do after every season, just to my superiors, fan base, players get that you get that vote of confidence from from all three of those, all three of those groups. And you know, here we go again, let’s, let’s tee it up and have a have a great season and we’re attacking with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

Question 7:47
The decision to go ahead and have those talks with the Broncos was that in any way, a sign that you hadn’t gotten the vote of confidence?

Jim Harbaugh 7:54
Now, as I said before, calls come in calls are taken with everybody. With everybody in the program and some calls, it takes some some you don’t.

Question 8:07
Why take this one this year. What was it about that opportunity?

Jim Harbaugh 8:13
Intriguing. Like I said, I think we’d have you’d have a real story if I, if I was right here, doing exactly what I told you. I predicted I would be doing.

Phil Callihan 8:23
You know, and I think it’s a very honest answer. And I liked that he put it out there that, you know, on NFL interest, you know, he’s gonna assess after every season. And, and, you know, I can live with that, because I had really kind of come to that conclusion myself with a little bit of frustration that, you know, when Harbaugh came back to Michigan, you know, I know there were NFL beat writers who and and alleged experts who said he was never going to come back here, right. And then when he came back here, it was, well, he’s only going to be here for a few years until the perfect job in the NFL, but and here we are heading into, you know, two great seasons of Michigan Football. And I think what we’ve learned in the last two off seasons is I think that there’s definite interest for Coach Harbaugh on his part to return to the NFL for the right situation. And there’s enough interest from the NFL that I think this is going to keep coming up. And I liked it. He kind of just put it out there. He’s like, listen, the players always evaluate, I’m going to evaluate. And, you know, we just we just kind of get used to it. Like, I kind of feel that January is Harbaugh NFL season. Right. And, you know, I you know, it is interesting to me that, you know, after the COVID shortened season, there were plenty of people in the Michigan camp, you know, Michigan fandom, who would have been perfectly content to run them out of town. And now it’s Wait, wait, don’t go. Right. So it’s amazing that how the, I guess the temperature of the Michigan fandom has changed. And, again, it just seems like something we’re going to need to keep dealing with as as we move forward.

Clint Derringer 10:16
And I want to reiterate something that we say it seems like, at least once per podcast, right, especially talking about Harbaugh and the way that he communicates and decisions that he makes is that he’s been plainly and brutally honest through through most of his conversations. It’s kind of a obviously a personal value of his that when he says something, he wants it to be the truth. And that he kind of massages what he says, By removing, you know, anything of interest, so that everything is still just kind of technically true. And he doesn’t, he’s not fazed by those awkward kind of standoffs when he responds to something where somebody’s clearly driving for a particular narrative, or, you know, simply doing their job as a journalist and kind of asking questions and hard follow up questions. Harbaugh’s, you know, I can’t imagine he’s ever lost a staring contest. And I’ll say that, I will say, this offseason was was more frustrating than the previous times, I think, this time last year. For me, right, there was kind of a sense of the initial seven year contract from when he first came back to harbor, even though there were extensions and pay changes and increases and decreases got the the initial term of his first contract was seven years, he kind of mentioned that that was kind of all of his plan. It was always his plan to kind of kick the tires on the NFL interest in and possibilities. At the end of that seven years and see and reevaluate. He flew to Minnesota, and then there’s this kind of strange interview with Mitch Albom, you know, now seems strange, where he says, you know, this isn’t going to be an annual thing. And then a year later, he’s back in the mix of it. I think that there are it’s the first time really that I feel there’s a direct contradiction to something that he said on the record, and what his actions did following up now I I don’t think it’s black and white. I don’t think it’s kind of cut and dry that way. Certainly. There was a lot of strange actions and activities that were happening in the offseason. Whatever the tension is, or negotiation stance, between Ward Manuel and Jim Harbaugh, certainly there’s a dynamic there that that’s in play. For the first time in at least that we know of, right, Jim Harbaugh is being represented by an agent and not representing himself in these negotiations. So I’m sure you know, he’s got somebody he’s paying good money to advising him on how he should be communicating publicly, to kind of, you know, how it affects the negotiating leverage that he’s giving his agent. I think that played a role in in how this past offseason went. And then the the drama with the NCAA and the level two allegation, allegations, and the timing of that. And really, and then Jim Harbaugh’s insistence on kind of taking a stand and fighting the NCAA, and the more major allegation that he misled or lied to investigators, right. And I think, from what we know about Jim Harbaugh as a person, from his, from his public facing comments and what he has said and done on the record, it matters pretty much to him, that the institution that he’s a part of supports him and that he feels loved and supported, especially when he’s preparing for what could be a really long drawn out battle. And I think a lot of this stuff isn’t gonna play out in the public, by the time that most of this becomes public knowledge, and it will, but but we’ll be long past talking about the January 2023 offseason in the NFL hiring cycle. So I certainly agree with what you said. I think it probably makes sense to kind of settle in and and understand that this is going to be at least a conversation annually. I do want to kind of put my hand up and say that this is the first time that there’s that contradiction that I mentioned And but still, I think that I can understand how the situation is different in what’s different in January of 23, as compared to when he made those comments in February of 22. So, all of that said, you know, I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish to, you know, I’m sure we can talk more about the the NCAA investigation and allegations, I wish that wasn’t happening. But in the grand scheme of things, I you know, I am still satisfied and happy that Jim Harbaugh is here and coaching Michigan’s Football program, and has kind of a unique ability to compartmentalize all of that, pack it away, put it on the shelf, and focus on the task at hand, which right now is spring practice.

Phil Callihan 15:52
So one of the things about Jim Harbaugh that I’ve come to appreciate, slash acknowledge, is that he’s a different kind of guy, right. And we knew that coming back from his time here when he was at Michigan, and, you know, from watching him as a player in the NFL, and as a coach in the NFL. But, and I think specifically about his time with the 40, Niners. There’s a reason why he was kind of out of sync with the 49 ownership, because he’s a different guy. Okay. And part of him being different is, you know, as you alluded to, there’s this, you know, I always I call back, you know, being a Star Wars fan, you know, to the original Star Wars? Well, you know, a lot of your truth depends on your point of view, right. And from Jim’s point of view, everything he says is completely honest and completely straightforward. And occasionally we sit back and go, Wait, what did you just say, five minutes ago, or 10 minutes ago? So it is interesting that, you know, on one hand, he talks about, Well, I’m here as long as Michigan wants me. But as you mentioned, he really, I think the thing that I learned from this press conferences, as much as he tries to stay aloof and above the fray, there is a certain amount of wanting to be wanted, right? Wanting to be the guy for everybody, from the administration, from the coaches. You know, he had a statement where he says, You know, I evaluate, you know, what the, what my coaches think what my players think, what the administration thinks, and, you know, he didn’t mention the media, which, which I would have laughed if somebody had suggested, but it’s like, he, he really wants to be popular.

Clint Derringer 17:40
You did mention the fan base in that in that phrase. Yeah.

Phil Callihan 17:44
Yeah. So it’s interesting that he acknowledged that I think he acknowledged that he does care, you know, it does matter. He wants to all be together. And, you know, specifically about the NCAA,

Jim Harbaugh 17:56
I would just say, just, you got to be a Schem, you know, you just got to be in this in this building. To just to really, to really feel it, compare us to perfect, and we’re going to come up short. In the in the major areas, comparison to any other program, I think you’re gonna see that we’re the we’re doesn’t get doesn’t get any better. When you talk about graduating players, up to perfect, but it’s I mean, it’s as close as you could possibly be, to, to graduating players over the years, talking about doing things with integrity, on the field off the field. players, coaches, staff, everybody within this, within this football program, about as close as you can get to, to perfection, winning games…not perfect. 13 was not perfect, but as we keep striving for we keep, we keep chasing that perfection.

Phil Callihan 19:00
And I appreciate that. I like that, right? It’s an acknowledgment that you’re always going to fall short. But it was also a shot at the NCAA say and you know, you’re coming at us with tic tac stuff. And I always use the analogy of speeding on the expressway right here in Michigan, going five over, you should you know, nobody’s gonna bat an eye, you go 20 30 40 You’re gonna get pulled over. And it seems as if the NCAA is really good at tic tac five miles over tickets, while ignoring programs that are just blowing by 30 or 40 miles over. So I kind of get that’s the impression I get from when Coach Harbaugh talks about it. And, again, there are a lot of rumors about what happened with the alleged NCAA violation and what Harbaugh’s role in it is and you know, I think we are going to learn more about That, I think we do know that it is not a major, you know, thing. This is not a, a ESPN front page scandal, you know, at some other programs, but I think that you know, and you know more than think we know that, in the past coach, Harbaugh has directly challenged the NCAA. And I think that that raises the awareness a little bit. That is the same way, if you ride referees, you’re not going to get calls. And we can remember the first couple of seasons. Coach, Harbaugh was real good on writing the referees, and I think he backed off a little bit. Seeing that, you know, there was not exactly a good outcome in some cases. And I think this is just a natural outcome of the hypocrisy of the NCAA. And we’re just going to have to deal with it.

Clint Derringer 20:52
I mean, we’ve seen We’ve seen Jim Harbaugh’s decisions, especially early in his tenure at Michigan, where he found unique ways to try to work within the rules, and still try to give the program a competitive advantage. We saw this with the satellite camps and hiring high school coaches that were tied to high level recruits. And those were the triggers that led the NCAA to change rules specifically to crack down on what Harbaugh was doing. So this, whatever particular loophole Harbaugh had found, in those early years, the NCAA was quick to crack down rule changes and enforcement and these these other things, as you mentioned, where we know, they’re just, you know, major violations, you know, all over the place, and, and even more so, in the Wild West, you know, of NIHL. And kind of the paper curtain between, you know, pay for play and money coming from universities, through collectives or somehow loosely affiliated organizations and eventually paying players for their name image and likeness. No standard rule, right. It’s it’s the NCAA is an enforcement body is an embarrassment. So Michigan, by playing by the rules, certainly to a greater degree than than many of the programs that operate on the same competitive level with Michigan in the in the top tier. In Football, especially recently. I think Harbaugh said it in a way that would certainly was unique. With this comparison to don’t come, we’re chasing perfect. And if you’ve made compares to perfect, certainly there are flaws, but they certainly are doing things a lot closer to the right way than many of their peers. And certainly he’s he’s still bracing to fight with the NCAA. So we’ll see how that goes. Again, I wish that it weren’t happening. But this example is another ridiculous bald faced hypocrisy with one of the lower level violations being that an analyst, not a true onfield coach, but an analyst was putting time in as a coach and actually coaching players. And it was days between the announcement of that violation for Michigan and the NCAA announcing that that’s no longer going to be a violation. But they’re adding an additional Anfield coach and analysts are going to be allowed to coach players because once they got to publicize this particular violation in Michigan’s past, you know, from two or three seasons ago, then yeah, but we’re going to change that rule because nobody else cares about our slap on the wrist, maybe Michigan well, so it was literally less than less than 72 hours separating the slap on the wrist for Michigan publicly and then but we’re going to change the rule so that we don’t have to really address it because it’s happening everywhere else. So just crazy. Just just crazy. So that problem is one big piece of it. Again, I would say that that’s kind of a major thing that Harbaugh has managed to kind of contain and compact and sit on the shelf and then there’s the you know, the coaching staff turnover and you know, more interest in the in the coaching staff but then also the change in offensive coordinator with Matt Weiss, and, you know, getting dismissed from the program. Again, something that really came out of like a lightning bolt out of left field and definitely nothing that I saw coming.

Phil Callihan 24:57
Well and you know, it regarding the NCAA, no common sense at all, and, you know, moving forward. So, you know, the matt Weiss thing was weird, right? And, you know, there’s, you know, a couple of different staff changes, there’s the return of Chris Partridge, which was a good thing, right? And cause, you know, George Hilo to leave the program. And by no fault of his own, right, unfortunately, for him, but then you have the matt Weiss thing, which is a completely different animal, right, where you had the university police get involved. There are lots of rumors about what had happened that, you know, we’ll leave in rumor land until we get something more solid, but the reality is, is, you know, Coach, Harbaugh was asked about it. And he kind of just said, Oh, I don’t know anything about that. And if I did, I couldn’t talk about it. And which is, which is pretty similar to what he said about the NCAA things, you know, he kind of dodged it, and then responded in a way right, but didn’t get it didn’t get didn’t get down in the weeds. And, again, you know, the, I think the thing that upsets me that we do you know, about the matt Weiss thing is, you know, here, you are supposed to be prepping for the college Football playoffs and there was some stupidity happening, right. And what was reported is that he didn’t respond to the university’s investigation, and the university dismissed them. So, again, you know, again, somebody who had done a really good job when he was here, and unfortunately, you know, the program will move on. Now, I do have to say that after the last several years, you know, with some of the coaching changes we’ve had, that we’ve just rolled on and hasn’t missed, haven’t missed a beat, I’m expecting the same thing to happen here. Again, unfortunate that, you know, there was a I guess, a perfect storm of of bad for Michigan, right? You had, you know, the the bad loss to TCU, you had the NCAA news, you had the matt Weiss news, you had the Harbaugh, you know, NFL drama, and, you know, Coach address that

Jim Harbaugh 27:21
This program has become like, good. Okay, we lost that game. Good. Yeah, that, that drives us, it makes us even more hungry. Something else comes up, good, cool, we’ll work on that we’ll fix that. It’s a it’s a it’s, it’s a place right now, to me and me. Only analogy I could make to it, you know, just how good in terms of, you know, a culture a family that, that this Michigan Football program is, it’s almost, it’s, in my mind, like, some of those housing markets have become recession proof, you know, they’re just, it is good, you know, no matter what’s coming from the, from the outside of here. I just see her, I just see everybody here, it’s like, almost like a superhero that, I mean, the attack comes in, it’s like, we’re able to absorb it. And, you know, just spit it back out in some kind of laser fashion. You just see the way they attacked, you know, the next day, and every day, it’s, it’s, it’s phenomenal to be around on a on a daily day to day basis. Truly, everybody’s everybody’s got to pay the price to win. That doesn’t happen and everyone pays the price of losing. And nothing comes nothing comes cheap. You know, there are no, there are no cheap victories, you know, for, for the team or anyone on it.

Phil Callihan 29:00
I like how he responded about the culture, Clint, but there is a certain amount of he asked to acknowledge that part of the perfect storm was his doing. Right. And I think that’s the thing that if there’s anything that that Michigan has been able to do as a program, and I think this is really key, okay. Is that you had that COVID season where there was so much on and off the field drama, okay. We had worldwide drama with the world stopped. You had players deciding to play some players not deciding to play. You had a very disappointing season. And from that crucible, you had the last two seasons come, right. You had the culture really just get forged in such a way that the program elevated itself and And I look at what’s happened with some other programs in the state when things have gone not well. And I think that Harbaugh’s greatest skill, as a head coach, has been shown in the last couple of seasons that he has navigated the chaos. And he’s created a culture where the players navigate the chaos, and kind of just, you know, keep going. So, you know, I’m expecting the same thing this season. And now I could do with a little less drama. Again, you know, there were, there were some pretty snarky questions from some of the media, some of the usual characters about, you know, some of the, off the field drama, and, you know, what’s this going to do? And, you know, Harbaugh responded. So it is interesting that, I think that the team has been, you know, there’s the old saying about, you know, a ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for, I get the impression that this team is made for chaos. Okay. And I think back to, you know, the season before last, when there was that crushing loss on the road against Michigan State where, you know, they kind of got jogged on a couple of calls, and the first half, still had were still was in a position to win and didn’t win, right. And instead of the season going off the tracks, they bounced back and really elevated their game, to, you know, go to the big 10 championship win. And, and, you know, go to the college Football playoffs for the first time. So it seems like that the culture is made in such a way that a lot of the outside drama is just a glancing blow, and the team just elevates itself.

Clint Derringer 31:58
Yeah, there’s a, there’s a particular stat in tennis that that I like, and I don’t think that they track it. And the other sport that I know of, it’s unforced errors, unforced errors, and that’s what pops into my mind when when we have these offseason problems, right, these are, this is avoidable. This is these are things, there’s plenty out there, that’s not within your control, right, there’s so many other things that happen, whether it’s NCAA IV, or changes in IL, or transfer portal, or, you know, other teams, you know, improving and getting better. And so many things that you can’t control, all you can control is your players and your program. And these problems, like you said, are sometimes unforced errors. And, and at the same time, if there were a tennis player to make, you know, record numbers of unforced errors in a match, and still manage to win, you know, in the, in five sets in a tiebreaker? Well, they still win, you know, they still win, you know, but they make it so much harder on themselves than it would have to be. And that that’s kind of the feeling. So I think that there is, you know, some some quality and value and being able to kind of weather that storm, but I think that there’s something else there. You know, I don’t think I can’t imagine that it feels as chaotic inside Schembechler Hall, to the players, coaches and staff. As it feels to us on the outside. I just can’t imagine that. Because this was happening at the same time that all of these NFL prospects that play for Michigan coming off of a nearly perfect season. You know, Blake Corum is a Heisman hopeful, who, you know, has very little to gain by coming back to Michigan in terms of his NFL stock running backs. You know, traditionally, you have a much shorter shelf life than then some of the other skill positions, just the miles that you put on your body and taking all those hits as a Running Back, and especially coming off of a knee injury, right? It’s for Corum to come back and to kind of lead the charge with the the offensive linemen who all had eligibility remaining coming back. And just amazing that at the same time, all of this chaos is going on outside of the program and outside of the four walls. The players are banding together and staying and playing again and saying, saying, you know, we feel like there’s unfinished business we went, we had the best record any Michigan team has had since 1997, and the first team ever to win 13 games. But there’s still one more step to take right and amazing that the player leadership and again, the word culture that that swirls around a lot in the offseasons is absolutely it’s tangible with this program in this team right now. And I think you really have to tip your cap to the leaders in the locker room, the players, you know, upperclassmen, especially, and the coaches on the staff, who build really strong relationships, you know, position coaches, and other support staff that really builds strong relationships with these players and give them what I you know, what I would imagine is really honest advice. And, and encourage them and kind of circles back to Harbaugh’s comments about there’s always interest from the NFL, right? The one of the strengths of this program is how they prepare their players for the NFL, it’s one of their strongest recruiting pitches, I’m sure, right, and that nobody’s trying to tell these guys to forego NFL dreams, right, they have to believe that coming back to an arbor for another year, it is is still going to be beneficial to them, personally and professionally. And that they handle these conversations with with a level of integrity and trust. Because if it was not that way, then the players would not act this way in unison, right like this. These those types of problems where there’s dishonesty, and coaches and programs that are just looking out for themselves. It it spirals quickly. And we don’t always know the details of what’s going on. But you can feel bad culture very quickly the same way that you can feel right now, a very good culture. So I think that there’s some kind of

Phil Callihan 36:57
Jim’s spoke very excitedly and eloquently about how happy he is when players decide to return.

Clint Derringer 37:05
That the players and the coaches interact, that kind of shields, the Football business and the players, and the coaches, from all of the other craziness that’s happening in the outside.

Jim Harbaugh 37:18
And, you know, guys feel that it’s in their best interest to return to Michigan. Super, super happy and excited about that as well. I mean, yeah, like, selfishly really happy. It’s, you feel like the parent, you know, that how many of you have had have have a son or daughter’s choosing like high school or choosing their, their college, you know, you, you don’t want to be the one to tell them which to do, you know, because that’s some decision they have to make on their own. And then if it doesn’t work out, and they, you don’t get blamed for, for telling them what to do. So that’s kind of the position I am in and kind of feel the same way as both my son, James and, and grace as they’re choosing which college to go to. You’re, you’re helping them with the pros and cons, and you’re, you’re talking about them, I mean, secretly, you know, you’re, you’re wishing and hoping they they go to Michigan, which which those two did, but that’s really about the, you know, the thing I would, I would compare it to, but in total support of whichever decision they make, and feels best for themselves. And, and they’re really good at it. They’re really good at making, you know, the wise decision that was a smart choice for themselves.

Phil Callihan 38:47
And, you know, the thing about that, Clint, is, I think you made a great point that I’d rather have be honest and say yeah, okay. So on one hand, while I wish Jim had came out and said, You know what, word gave me the contract that I’m going to be happy with forever, right here as long as Michigan wants me, but we’re always going to assess. And you know, isn’t that whatever player does, right? I mean, and I think in the world of the transfer portal, right? Every player is evaluating Is this the right thing for me? Is this the right decision? You know, as far as the Blake Corum stuff goes and the players returning? One thing that struck me and it was really impressed upon me as I was out shopping over the last couple of weeks, is you’re seeing NFL merchandise all over the place. Okay. And I think that I wonder how much the NFL is giving players a little bit of a cushion to perhaps stay longer, right? Where there’s not the pressure to get your money or nothing, right? There’s not hey, it’s it’s stay and get nothing or get something under the table or get something on the slide, or go, right? Hey, you know, you can see that, you know, Michigan has made major strides in organizing, you know, these collectives, associating with NIHL mechanisms to benefit the players. You know, you can go to m Dan, and you see the NFL merchandise out. I’ve seen, you know, NFL merchandise at other vendors. And you’re getting the impression that for years, the critics right, would say, Well, you know, if you pay players, if there’s any kind of way to compensate players, the wheels are going to come off college Football, right? You know, what college Football seems to be going right along, obviously, as you mentioned, there, there needs to be improved, you know, it needs to be a same swim lane for everyone. But we’re seeing the players being compensated for the work that they’re putting in. And I think that it’s it’s giving them more choices, right? It’s, it’s not a well, Blake, you better go get money right now. Because it’s not, you know, that’s the only this is maybe the only time you get a contract, hey, you have an Al. Okay. And it seems like it’s working out the players speak very well of it. You know, it’s giving them different options. So, you know, I think that while there was a lot of the sky is falling for the Michigan fan base, you know, when NFL first hit, that Michigan wasn’t doing everything that they’d like to see, Michigan has caught up. And I think that they’re coming along. And I think that it’s it’s another benefit for players coming to the University of Michigan,

Clint Derringer 41:48
I think that there’s one more thing to be said and kind of in this in this realm is the strategy that Michigan employees focuses more on these kind of keeping your own players, whether it’s, you know, keeping them out of the transfer portal, or right, giving them a viable option, as opposed to having to get into the NFL draft and sign the contract before, you know that dream is snatched from you. So where the money is right now, in the NFL, Michigan Football space. I think strategically that’s being shaped and pushed more toward players that are they’re actually on the field planning and producing during the games, as opposed to packaging, huge deals for for incoming freshmen. Now. You know, there’s there’s pros and cons there, of course, and there’s only so many dollars to go around. As it stands right now, everybody’s trying to figure out what the right formula is. But I think Michigan, at least it seems, is kind of taking a different approach. And for the shortcomings in recruiting and ranking of incoming freshmen recruiting classes, kind of being laid at the feet of of not being willing to drop, you know, six or seven figures on a on a high school senior. Making these packages more accessible. And figuring out how to, to make a fourth or fifth year more attractive to players that are proven starters and have have kind of proved themselves also in the locker room amongst their peers is a slightly different strategy than I think what what is commonplace amongst everybody else. So we’ll see how it plays out in the long term. I think that the right formula probably is a little bit of a balance of both. And but we’ll see how that goes. But I think you do have to kind of highlight the positives of this strategy and certainly holding on to that much talent from a team that was, you know, in the college Football playoff, and certainly, you know, is poised to be right back at the top of the rankings in the preseason coming up for the next year. With the returning talent and experience and productions coming back. You just don’t usually see that a team that qualifies for the college Football playoff and then brings back such a large percentage of their offensive and defensive production so that there’s a direct correlation there certainly.

Phil Callihan 44:32
So we don’t know for sure. Right, because Coach Harbaugh won’t sit down or won’t address it in a way that I think we would like. But when you sit back and look at the strategy, okay. There are the programs that put the money up front for the top tier talent right the the top five star guys and my impression of teams that are successful year in and year out, are the programs that have the teams that stay together the longest. Okay, obviously, talent, but kind of gel as a team. So, you know, the point you made about Michigan kind of backloading, the NIHL toward performance and benefiting guys and their third, fourth, potentially fifth year. I wonder if it is a conscious choice, okay, like a strategy to do that, rather than to put the bulk of the money in guys who may only be on, you know, be there for two or three years. Right. So again, it’s interesting, it’ll be interesting to see where it plays out the way it plays out. You know, you know, I’ve said this before, I will say it again, that the 2022, Michigan Football team was one of the best teams we have ever seen. It’s unfortunate that they were tripped up in the Fiesta Bowl. You know, and Coach Harbaugh talked about, you know, JJ? And, you know, I thought that was really interesting. That, you know, he thought that, you know, JJ really grew from that game, he experienced a whole season in one game, right. But, again, we all want to see Michigan take that next step. But, you know, one of the ways you add is get most of your players to come back and then add more. And it seems like that’s what the current NHL strategy is doing. So you have to appreciate that. You know, and I will tell you looking back, Clint, I think you could agree, or or acknowledge that there were a lot of concerns about how great the Michigan defense was going to be with the difference in defensive coordinator and players leaving, and Gosh, darn it, they were better, right, in a lot of ways. So whatever they’re doing, you know, whatever’s in the water down there is working. And hopefully, we will continue to see it, you know, during the spring practice, and hopefully, they will set themselves up for for even greater success in this upcoming season.

Clint Derringer 47:10
Yeah, I think. I think it’s all certainly very interesting. Right. I think that it’s there’s really a fascinating kind of yin and the yang going on with the program right now. And it’s something at least gives us something to talk about here through the offseason. And certainly looking forward to seeing what comes up in the spring game and a couple of new players that that may get some opportunities. And I think the one player that I heard about in in her balls press availability, that was the most interesting and certainly one of the highest kind of profile positions of need this coming season is that second cornerback spot potentially right now having Amarion Walker in the lead to take that second cornerback spot opposite from Will Johnson right. And he’s another kind of shift, you know, from came in, recruited as a wide receiver played a little bit of wide receiver and corner last season, and Harbaugh mentioned that directly. He he may be somewhat of a unicorn of an athlete and have the ability to be that two way player. But there right now, he’s focusing on defense and may very well be penciled into the starting spot there opposite Will Johnson that that was really from a Football standpoint, probably the biggest piece of news that that came out of the press conference.

Phil Callihan 48:47
Absolutely, he raved about him. And anytime you hear Coach Harbaugh talk about a potential two way player, you know that that is a special individual, as you said, unicorn, you know, that’s, that’s, you know, you gotta love that phrase. You know, there was also talk about the old line that there’s so stacked that Where are you going to put these guys right? And, you know, when you think about the building blocks for success, it certainly seems like that Michigan is poised for yet another great run. And Clint, I will tell you that you know, when and if Michigan has success in the college Football playoffs, and you know if they are able to pull together a national championship in this upcoming season. I certainly hope that there will be a large bank truck backing up to Schembechler Hall to keep Coach Harbaugh locked in for as long as he wants to stay here. So, I think that’s that’s definitely potentially in the cards. And you know, I you know, and again, just I’m hoping that that will be the case that will be Want to keep this? This machine rolling? So? So, Clint, any final thoughts for the podcast?

Clint Derringer 50:09
No, I think that the only other thing that I was going to mention real quickly is that maybe some of the money that comes off or that bank trucks get diverted toward Sharon more. Two times back to back. Joe more award winning offensive lines. Just thinking back two seasons ago, when Ed Warner moved on, and you and I really calling out that is that the biggest wildcard for the upcoming season? Is your Sharon more ready to coach the offensive line? Can’t he just kind of hold water and fill those shoes? And man, did we set the expectations far too low for for him? And and now in the 22 season, he adds kind of an offensive co offensive coordinator role. And now with Matt Weiss moving on. He’s kind of the senior offensive coordinator role here. So another kind of a functional promotion, or at least more responsibility for for sure. Oh, more. So if we’re backing up, you know, armored trucks to Schembechler Hall for coaches. Don’t forget Sherrone Moore.

Michigan Football Podcast — TCU 51 Michigan 45 Game Commentary 1-2-23

Phil and Clint discuss Michigan’s crushing loss to TCU in the College Football Play-off semifinals. With audio from QB JJ McCarthy, RB Donovan Edwards, and Jim Harbaugh.

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Podcast Transcript

Phil Callihan 0:14
We’re going to talk about Michigan falling short, by a score of 51 to 45. Losing to TCU in the college Football playoff semi final. Well, Clint, what did you think about this one?

Clint Derringer 0:30
It was shocking. It was it was totally out of left field, in kind of all three phases, just I don’t think I wouldn’t say that Michigan looked flat, as if they didn’t, you know, weren’t ready or didn’t want to be there. You know, they played with a lot of energy. But it was a sloppy, it was a sloppy, and there was a moment in the first or maybe early second quarter, where I kind of told my family where I was watching, I said, you know, it’s crazy even on tackles where they go down, the balls keeps popping out, right? Like they’re fumbling, every, every time they get tackled and hit the ground, the balls coming out, you know, it was it was just ugly, and a bad feeling from from the start that they were not playing as sharp, or as crisp plays, as we have seen for almost the whole last two seasons. So that was a bad feeling that obviously the scoreboard was, you know, got lopsided quickly felt a lot like the Georgia game last year. And then the second half, especially the third quarter was, you know, kind of a point of pride, where they showed a ton of guts and determination to claw back into it. And to have a chance. And I really, you know, until really late in the fourth quarter, I didn’t expect the that they would be able to get back into striking distance where they’d have a reasonable chance to win. And they definitely did. They did that all the way up until the fourth quarter, and one too many big mistakes, and they couldn’t dig out from underneath the rubble. So it was it was just strange. It was just strange. But not all bad. It was it was just nothing that I expected, which, you know, goes to show what, you know, what do we know?

Phil Callihan 2:21
Well, Clint, I will tell you, this is the reason I don’t bet money. Because as sure that I was that Michigan was going to put the smackdown on Ohio State. I wasn’t sure in this game. And the frustrating thing is, for all the things that went wrong for all the mistakes and pick sixes and all kinds of other shenanigans that happened. Michigan only lost by six points. And, again, they lost the game. Okay. There’s, you know, let’s acknowledge that right out of the gate. But if there was a time machine, and someone came back and told me that, you know, the litany of everything that would go wrong, and that Michigan only lost by six, I’d be shocked. Okay. And, you know, there was some, there were some things that happened, okay. Now, if this time traveler came back and told me that JJ threw to pick sixes, believe it or not, that wouldn’t have surprised me. Okay. I’m not saying it’s okay. I’m not saying it was expected. But JJ has exhibited such confidence. And you and I have talked about this in previous podcast, there are times where he is so confident in hitting such a small window, that he’s tempted fate. Okay, and we can go back and look through the game films, but you know, and I think what happened is what you can get away with against lesser opponents, you can’t get away with in a game on this stage. Right. So okay, so JJ through to pick sixes. If you had told me that Michigan was going to be first in Gaul, short yardage and struggle in that situation. I wouldn’t be surprised because we’ve talked about that. And you know, it’s interesting because, for me, all these negative tumblers were coming up, right. So when JJ through the first pick six, I was like, yep, that’s he’s been close to that a few times. And you know, we can go back in the podcast and I’ve said, you know, I, I honestly believe that JJ thinks he can throw through defenders sometimes. Right. Okay, so you had to pick six that happened. Obviously, not a good not a good situation. But to have the short end goal now, what happened? Last steer is you had thunder and lightning, right? You had assign Haskins who really was the power. And you had Blake who was the lightning, right? And what kind of exhibited itself last season as the schedule played out is that Haskins could power through and and help the team be more successful in short yardage shortened goal situations right? This year. Blake comes back bulks up a little bit. And and has more of that power. Right? Well, what happened entering this game? Blake went out prior to the Ohio State game. So what we had was Donovan. And again, you know, a talented Running Back but not exactly the power that Blake was able to do. So, again, looking at the things that went wrong, I was like, oh, man, shorten goal that’s, it’s almost like, you know, Michigan’s first and goal the the opponent has us right where they want us. Right. So, so again, when you see that, now, with that said the thing. So there’s two things that happened that I wasn’t surprised by okay. The third thing was how our defense could not shut them down in that second half. And, you know, no disrespect to TCU. But I think out of everything that went wrong, that Michigan can control. And I’m gonna preface that because we’re going to talk about some of the things that irked me that Michigan couldn’t control. Right. But out of the things that Michigan could control, that the defense, you know, again, Michigan scored 39 points in that second half, the defense gave up 30. And you know, again, when you’re when you were outscored 21 to six in the first half. You know, that’s that’s how that works, right?

Clint Derringer 6:56
Yeah, I agree. I agree. The defense was a big surprise. But I wanted to finish the point. On the offense at halftime, Michigan’s points per scoring opportunity, right, where we call a scoring opportunity, a fresh set of downs. First down inside the other teams 40. So at the 40 or closer, you’re gonna have four scoring opportunities in the first half. And they, they had one field goal to show for it, they had the the initial drive, where they turned it over on downs. They had the last fumble after the calm and I’m sure it will talk about on the bomb to to Wilson. And then they had one where they just crossed the 40. And then had a couple of negative plays and penalties that drove them back. They actually had to punt. So for scoring opportunities in the first half, and one field goal to show for it that is, you know, really, it’s what’s bitten Michigan in almost all of their losses in the last two years for sure. And then it hadn’t been as big of a problem this year. We did see some, they weren’t very, they didn’t dominate and punch touchdowns in when you and I talked about it, but at least they scored. Right. And I think the staff has talked about how they, they kind of calculate a metric that they want drives that end in points. So they don’t, they’re not as concerned when when a field goal is the final result. But to have four opportunities and only score wants to have a field goal, their points per drive is actually less than one it was, you know, 0.8 in the first half for the whole game, right they end up with 10 opportunities, so they ended up with six more scoring opportunities and scored on five of them in the second half scored touchdowns. So of the 10. You know, they came kind of really pushing back and eventually kicked another field goals scored five touchdowns that got them up to about 4.0 points per play, but TCU to your point, switching to the defense TCU their averages over seven years or exceeded was exactly seven because they scored every time they got inside Michigan’s 40 yard line. And that ended up being a huge difference, right for every opportunity. TC and a three point advantage even though Michigan had six more opportunities. It’s just crazy that Michigan it’s crazy that Michigan was even in the game and had a chance to win with all of the all of the different and unique ways they found to shoot themselves in the foot.

Phil Callihan 9:44
Absolutely. You know another thing about those pick sixes you know, I would say in my mind the much maligned 3-3-5 Right, not my favorite defense. But one of the things that it allows the five to do right The defensive backs there is that they can take more risks because they have backups. Right? And it was interesting that, you know, I, I painfully broke down the tape again. And, you know, again, you gotta give it to TCU I think the biggest surprise I had is that their defense was better than I thought in the first half. I thought Michigan made some great adjustments. Okay. And, you know, there’s this. I’m gonna say the drive by media, right? Oh, my God, Michigan got thrashed, oh, my God, everything that went wrong. And Michigan only lost by six points. And I will tell you heading into that last couple of minutes stretch, I firmly believe Michigan was going to win. Right. And again, after everything had gone wrong, I think, you know, in final summation is you can’t make that many mistakes and win a game. Okay. You know, and again, we can talk about, you know, you know, the national media will will rave about TCU is Quarterback. And by it, it’s okay, it sounds crappy to say, JJ had to pick sixes and completely outplayed him, right? So I think sometimes, the media mistakes a great story for a great talent. And again, I don’t mean to diss the guy, the guy, you know, plays his heart out, I love the way he plays. But if I have to pick a Quarterback, I’m picking JJ, you know, 11 out of 10 times. And again, it’s unfortunate the way it worked out. Now, we talked about some of the things that Michigan can control. And, you know, I think I’m going to be breaking down this defensive film, probably till next season. And again, just, you know, painful to go back and watch it. You know, I’d really like to see that the Lebanon 11 film for the entire game, kind of be working to do that. But even just breaking down the broadcast. Lots of lots of questions. Now. Okay, so Michigan lost the game, they made too many mistakes. Okay. I want that firmly in the record. And I am going to say, as we have talked about repeatedly, or I’ve talked about repeatedly, and I think you’ve agreed, you know, is that, you know, I’m really befuddled by you know, okay, so here it is. We have Michigan playing their heart out, we have TCU playing their heart out. And you have 19 and 20 year olds facing the media post game. And you know, really heartbreaking for the Michigan side, and elation from TCU. So they will face the music and answer questions about their performance while the referees just skip out into the night. Okay. And I want to be crystal clear that I am not blaming the referees for Michigan’s loss. Okay, Michigan made enough mistakes. But it is, for me yet another example of how you have three main forces in the game. You have the two teams and you have the referees, to you know, the teams answer questions and discuss what happened. And there’s no discussion of what the referees were thinking or what they were seeing. And I’ll tell you what I was thinking, as time was running out on Michigan at the end of the game was, you know, the refs took two touchdowns off the board, okay. No discussion on what they saw on their on their video replays. Again, even the, you know, the broadcast crew thought that, you know, Roman Wilson scored a touchdown. And, again, what view are they watching that they were able to make that decision so quickly that it wasn’t a touchdown. And then later, when you had the Ronnie Bell one, you know, they they take a good amount of time. Okay. So again, when time was running out a Michigan in the game, I’m like, Well, how much time did we lose? Because you took two touchdowns down off the board and, and Michigan had to go on and run some more plays and you know, have a have not great results. So, you know, and again, I Clint, you know, we’ve watched a lot of high school games together. We’ve lot watched a lot of NCAA games, and every couple of games there are inexplicable calls, and no explanation. And when you’re on the losing side, and you mentioned it, you sound like you’re a whiner. Right that’s all your whining and If you’re on the winning side, you just shut the hell up and say, well, it was great call, right, which is exactly what TCU is coached it on that absolutely obvious by definition, targeting call right now, I again, I You gotta sound like I’m whining. Listen, just wait for the next time because there will be a next time there will be a game and listen, sometimes it’s been in Michigan’s favor, I can think of a couple of calls over the last five, six years that have gone Michigan’s way. But again, I don’t know how long we can go like this. Where there’s no like, listen, sometimes it may be Hey, I don’t understand maybe I don’t understand the rules. Okay. And I think it would be great for if the, you know, and again, I’m gonna, I’m going off on a rant here, as you can tell, listen, I completely understand there’s a human element and they make mistakes, right. But again, you have the grown men who have been doing their job for years, skating off into the night, not explaining what they saw or what they did. And you got, you know, JJ and Mike Sanders still and Donovan Edwards, up there facing the heat. And same on the TCU side. And I just, I think it’s fundamentally unfair. And I don’t like it. And you know, I’ve spoke about this before. And, again, it irks me to no end that, you know, and, you know, we’re talking about that targeting call, right? Hey, listen, I understand they probably didn’t want to kick that guy out. And next game. Hey, that’s not what the rulebook says. Okay. I am one of the biggest critics of the targeting call. Okay. You know, again, it’s, it seems to be very shaky when it’s called. That was the very frickin definition of it. Okay. And I just, you know, of course, TCU has coats as well, I thought the made the right call. Yeah, of course you did. Right? Of course, you did. So I just, you know, again, adding an extra layer of frustration here on this game, and we’ll just wait till the next time it happens, because it’ll happen again.

Clint Derringer 17:16
And then there was there was a really, really awful roughing the passer call that benefited Michigan, where there’s, what are you even looking at what there was? No, you know, there was no way that it could have appeared to be either late or overly physical. Right. So it was what that the reason that that bothers me is that it gives the impression that the referee felt that he had to have an impact on the game, right? And that, well, that guy, you know, are the one guy made a bad call. So you know, we got to even get back out and help. It makes more of a mess, it makes more of a mess, when when, when that feeling is creeping into anybody’s head, you know, and whether that’s how it’s going or not, or if they’re just if it’s subconscious, that a referee feels that, you know, with your Michigan got jogged on that call, the next close one should go their way, you know, that you can’t keep that calibration tight, you know, to the line, right? It’s gonna wobble wobble wobble, and all of a sudden, the wheels fall off. So just just call it correctly, right. And then, when you and I are old enough that we watched a lot of college Football before replay ever existed, right, and NFL games as well. And my, the best part, when they instituted replay for me, was the if it’s not conclusive, right, if there has to be inconclusive, or there has to be absolute, no conclusive video evidence to overturn a call, it has to be clear as day on the video to overturn what the referee called right. And that was the best part like, when in doubt, give it to the guy who made the call in real time, the guy that you’re paying to be the official. So any replay that you need to pause and kind of squint your eyes and kind of lean into, that’s too close, it’s too close to make a change stick with what was called, they should be making these much, much quicker. It should be clear as day. Yep, I see it right. Sometimes you might need a second or a third angle, right? I’m glad that there are different TV angles for some of these calls to get made correctly. And reversed. You know, I think replay still in theory is a good thing. But they’re going to such finite detail on slow motion replays and splitting hairs that if it takes that level of analysis, then stick with what the referee called on the field, right? That’s why you pay those guys and the delay AES in the timing and the flow of the game is also impacted by that. So just take a look, show me all three views. No, I’m sticking with what the guy said. I would rather they say that over and over and over quickly, even though it would, you know, there would be times that you get even more times that the human eye hurts our team. Right. But if it was quicker, and, you know, it had to be absolutely crystal clear, then I would, I would love for that. And I think they did that well, early in the life of video replay. And now, everything is, you know, rehashing the Zapruder film from from the JFK assassination.

Phil Callihan 20:40
You know, and you know, another point, right. So, and again, this is a point that has irked me before this game, right? These are supposed to be the best crews. Could you imagine what the bad crews do? Okay. And Clint, we don’t need to imagine. Okay. When Michigan was struggling during the, you know, the end of the brady hoke era, the rich Rodriguez era, it was very clear that we were getting the bottom of the barrel referees, okay. And I remember, you know, being at the stadium, and I’d say, Well, this is what happens when the games don’t matter, right? Because you would see things that was inexplicable. Like, what view are you looking? So again, it to me, it’s a larger issue. And I think that, you know, and we’re going to have some offseason podcasts to focus on this, you know, exclusively but, again, if there’s going to be something good that comes from the NFL money, the expanded sports betting, there’s going to be more there’s going to need to be more transparency on the performance of the referees, how they’re graded. If this is the best you got, I’m not impressed. Okay. And again, I know that there’s a human element in it, right? But the idea, hey, have a guy come out and say, Hey, I saw this view was a, it was a, you know, a game time decision, or, you know, it was a it was I had to make a call, and I made the call I can live with that. I can’t live with how inexplicable it is. Right? Like, you have to believe that, you know, the broadcast team has way more angles. What are they looking at, right? And again, just, Hey, show me the view, you looked at, hey, I thought it said this, I can live with mistakes. I can’t live with the lack of accountability. And again, it’s it’s been a long term, you know, that somehow the the referees are deified, right, like, well, we can’t say anything. Well, you know, what, when you have all these camera angles, like you said, Either use them or don’t. But when you have all these angles, you know, another thing that bugs me, is that, so here, this is a really important game, right? One of the three most important college Football games of the season, okay, college Football playoffs, you know, the two semis and then the finals, you should have every camera angle you need, you should have a camera or right down looking down on the on the goal line, right. And it’s funny, because you mentioned you know, there was a play that went against TCU. I think TC TCU got jobbed in the game, they lost, okay, there was a play in the overtime, where the refs were so worried about, you know, where the fumble went, that I think they missed, the guy scored a touchdown, and they should have won. Right? And there’s no discussion of it. It’s just Oh, well, that’s, you know, the broadcast crew mentioned it and, you know, just moving on, because it’s not, you know, we’re all part of the machine here, right, we all need to just say everything is is bright and smiley. And, again, just when you have so much riding on the game, if it is not painfully clear, then like you said, go with the human element. And I just, you know, it’s like, you know, you mentioned that it looked like the referee was, you know, gave them a makeup call, Hey, you know, get the call, right? Don’t do makeup calls. You know, this isn’t hockey, you know, come on your it’s not your job to keep the game close. And, you know, I will mention that the bulk of the money on this game was on Michigan. Okay. And you sit there and watch some of these calls. And, you know, I’m not saying it’s fixed, but boy, boy, interesting. Interesting. Right? I again, it’s just, there’s going to need to be more transparency. You know, listen, it is very it’s widely known that when Lloyd Carr was the coach at Michigan, he complained to the big 10 Because they had a referee. Who was impair had impaired sight? Who was a referee? Come on, right? Listen, I feel bad for the guy. But you can’t you can’t have that. Right? So you just wonder if this is the best you got? What are the lower tier, what’s happening at the lower tier games. And like I said, I have an idea, because we saw it for a while. So again, Michigan lost the game, I want to be very clear on that they lost the game, because they made too many mistakes. But there are a couple of things that we did see here that I think are going to need to be fixed as we move toward this larger playoff. And I think that, you know, again, everybody can get better, right? You know, and it’s interesting, because, you know, we got JJ, who was super upset in the postgame,

J.J. McCarthy 25:54
I’ll credit to them. They win the game in the 60 minutes that was played, and, you know, they’re a good Football team, no matter what it is, that they they got the win, and fought our hearts out. There’s a lot of things that we could have done better, I can’t wait to watch the tape. But we’ll be back and I promised Coach Harbaugh.

Phil Callihan 26:15
Harbugh being grilled about that, you know, trickeration play that they tried,

Jim Harbaugh 26:21
Because we thought it would work. You know, and I take full responsibility for it not working and should have should have, should have had should had something different called not working. You know, put that one. But then when I made, but they had it, they had it wired. And then they added, well defended. And I sit here now yeah, definitely would like to wish I would have called a different way.

Phil Callihan 26:50
You know, he’s up there answering questions. So you’re telling me that the refs can huddle. And, you know, here, we want to know what you were seeing on these five plays? Shoot, Clint, I could deal with it, even if it was a week from now. Okay, even if they don’t want to do it after the game. But this idea that, you know, in the big 10, you know, that the coaches need to go to the Big Ten’s office and, you know, send in a request and, you know, because I really trust the big 10 office, right, which I don’t, you know, but again, this idea that it’s all, you know, the appearance of impropriety is a problem, okay? It needs to be transparent. And, you know, we need to know how many times refs are graded down for missing a call. We need to know how many times we’re I forget the gets the rules wrong. Listen, I get the rules wrong. Okay. If if it comes out, like they’re really big to say, Man, you would not believe how many times video replay reaffirms that the refs got it. Right. Well, then explain it. Explain the rule. Okay. It’s, I think it would only help the game overall. Because, again, the casual fan don’t know, don’t always know all the rules. And again, with the way the rules teens, switching between NFL and NCAA and high school, sometimes I get the rules confused. So again, there’s, you know, a rant about that. And, you know, so, Clint, when you’re when you’re looking at this game, I think one of the bright spots is you did have moody hit that massive 59 yard field goal. And, you know, that was a bright spot in the darkness that kind of kept the embers alive for Michigan. What other things did you see that that you were happy with? Or you were encouraged by?

Clint Derringer 28:44
Well, the I agree, I thought it was a fitting kind of end for moody in his career. You know, again, I’m on the record saying I think Jake moody is that the greatest kicker in Michigan’s history. So I’m glad that he got to kind of make his mark on this game. It was He was huge for the team when things were darkest right before halftime, and to go from 21 to three to 21 to six. Right before you know on the last night for the first half is there’s not nothing right and to do to do it on a 59 yarder that breaks the Michigan record for longest ever, and sets the record for the fiesta bowl as well for the longest field goal ever. Well deserved to find another way to write Jake Moody’s name in the history books. So all of that was was certainly a positive. I thought Michigan when they decided start using JJ in the running attack. It was it was good. I think it helped kind of fuel the comeback in the third and the fourth quarters. The downside to that is that in my opinion, they waited too long to do that. I understand. You don’t want to run your quarter back, I think early with the two with the fear that you know, he gets hurt in the first or second quarter. And now you’re, you know, your whole game plan is shot. That would be obviously pretty bad. But once you were down, you know, two or three scores, you know, in the second quarter, I think that they should have kind of tweaked the running attack to try to create wider lanes and the opportunity for explosive plays that we’ve seen when JJ McCarthy is a running threat. And he has to be accounted for the other team is more likely to make mistakes. And we saw it in the third quarter where JJ McCarthy actually ran his his touchdown in from from about 2025 yards out so I think that was a positive it reinforces what we’ve been saying about what he brings to the run game. It just comes with a little bit of a sour aftertaste because I think they waited too long to go to that. I thought the the deep ball accuracy from JJ McCarthy was good. You know, he hit Ronnie bell on a touchdown over the middle, you hit Roman Wilson on what probably should have been a touchdown. deep over the middle. So the the offensive gameplan was not bad. Right? These they scored 45 points without the aid of any defensive or special teams. touchdowns. Right? So if you told me that they’re gonna score 45 points and like, yeah, that sounds about right. Sounds like they’re gonna win. Right? So I just don’t think that offense was the problem, despite the problems that we saw in the red zone. And really the mistakes that are on JJ McCarthy specifically are the two pick sixes right? I don’t know that those are gameplan or offensive coaching staff calls or problems. The on the defensive side, created three turnovers, right, that’s another big that’s the most that we saw this year for this team. That was great. Those led to some of those shot plays, you know, on those sudden changes, Michigan was able to take some of those, those deep shots down the field right after those turnovers. So that was great. And there were some questions about whether Jessie Minter really changed what he wanted to do on his game plan in this game, and I’m not I don’t know, I’ll look a little closer when I get to rewatch the film. To see if, if he was more aggressive, it’s certainly bid Michigan more in this game than we had seen it before. Right when he was aggressive and bringing pressure. We saw Michigan Miss tackles, and they went the whole way. So I’m not sure if there was a huge significant difference in how Jesse mentor called his pressures, especially on third downs. But TCU again, you gotta tip your cap to the team that won the game. They made the plays, and were able to break a tackle, and then take it the whole way. It’s kind of the reverse of what we were able to do against Ohio State when when they were aggressive. So I think that there was a there was a lot of positives, like I said, for the mountain of negatives from all directions in all three phases of this game. The fact that Michigan had the ball with a chance to win is is a huge testament to what how much they must have been doing right. And also their their mental toughness and their ability to kind of fight back through all of that adversity, because it was an avalanche of it was an avalanche of trash that they had to fight through. And they did and gave themselves a chance to win. And when you come up six points short, when you handed the other team 13 points, and interceptions and, you know, fumbled the ball away and inside the five yard line, you know, to be that close is you know, they should have won this game by multiple scores, if they could have played as clean as their second worst game, whatever their second sloppiest game was maybe Illinois, I would think if they had played to that level, they probably would beat this TCU team or would have won that game with that level of execution. But the sloppiness and in that Fiesta Bowl was just on a whole nother level.

Phil Callihan 34:39
Yeah, and I think I think this one definitely stings for me. But I think this is going to sting for the team because like you said, okay, one pick six is bad luck. Another pick six, okay, I mean, you had one pick six that you know here On one hand, it looks like Michigan was following their typical game plan. Big first possession going down to score didn’t score, right? And, you know, TCU spins out and gets a 41 yard. You know, pick six, and then Michigan’s coming back. And you know, you kind of hoped that they kind of got that out of their system. And then, you know, in the third quarter TCU manages a 28, a 29. Yard pick six. So it’s like, you know, if you’re okay, for example, and I, you know, not to always come back to betting, but can you imagine what the odds were for TCU to have to pick sixes, okay. You could have won quite a, quite a pretty penny, if you’d been able to bet on that before the game. But the point of it is that you can’t GamePlan for that, right. You can’t say, Well, we’re gonna get our to pick sixes that we normally get. Yeah, well, yeah. When that’s when that’s your main offensive weapon. Right. But you know, that’s what’s frustrating is, you know, I feel like you do, I expected Michigan to score about, you know, 45 points in this game doesn’t surprise me a bit. What shocks me is, while TCU scored 51 Yeah, but two of those touchdowns were right. And again, it’s it’s smarts, because, you know, there are games that you lose. And there are games that you run out of time before you can win. And I definitely felt that this was a game where, you know, Michigan got knocked on their butt in the first half. And they came out firing, the disappointing thing was, again, you know, you look at that, and TCU scored 32nd 32nd, half points, Michigan scored 39. But again, you’re down because of that, you know, those not being able to execute well in the first half. So, you know, again, it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. You know, the critics will say that Michigan lost in the semis again. And this is a completely different game than what happened versus Georgia last year. And it doesn’t mean it’s gonna sting any less. And you look at this, and, you know, JJ was our greatest strength. And JJ had, you know, arguably his worst game, because of those pick sixes. So it’s it to me, it’s going to be really interesting. You know, how JJ deals with this over the next nine months, because nine months is a long time to stew on on those facts. And, you know, after the game, he said everything right. And said, he’s gonna be back. And you know, and I liked JJ a lot. Okay. I, you know, when I say, JJ thinks he can throw the ball through anybody, you know, I think you need that as a Quarterback, right? You need to have that confidence, you need to have that overwhelming belief in your skill. Right. And, you know, JJ certainly wasn’t hanging his hat in this game. He was, he came back, guns blazing, leading the team back in that second half. But, again, to pick sixes, right. So, you know, you know, between JJ and the pick sixes and kolel. Mullins, you know, on that fumble, and, again, he shouldn’t be in that position. And, and I think that when I talk about all the, you know, all the, the tumblers coming together, right, it’s like, oh, the, I think this is the game. You know, I don’t think this is the game we miss Blake the most because of his running style. And, you know, you can wonder what happened to CJ Stokes. Where was he? You know, he’s on a milk carton somewhere. He’s, uh, he’s on a milk carton, you know, on one side, and Andrew Anthony’s on the other, you know, as far as players who I think I had high expectations for, but again, it’s not Club’s fault. You know, he’s the guy who’s up because Blake’s down. And I think, you know, I was watching this game and I’m like, oh, man, this is the game. You know, there are pictures of Blake on crutches before the game and, you know, it’s like, oh, I you know, as the game progressed, I think he was the biggest difference by his absence.

Clint Derringer 39:30
Yeah, I would say this also, we’re obviously specifically to the to the Michigan point of view here but taking a step back to have two semifinal games that were really really hyper competitive and very entertaining on New Year’s Eve was was a really great was kind of a great day for the sport nationally, the feedback. There hasn’t been a lot of negative Michigan spin and it’s been much more positive TCU and more appreciative that both games were fun to watch. But the fact that both games were close with, with Ohio State being up 14 points in the fourth quarter on Georgia and letting it slip away. It’s clear that Michigan is on the level that they could have won a national championship this year. And that is, you know, to your point, that’s what makes this thing much worse. But, you know, I would say that that’s the final positive for me is that it’s clear, the foundation is built for a championship program, it’s been proven in terms of the big 10 Championship, it’s been proven that the program is built in a way that can beat Ohio State at home and on the road. And it’s clear that they are in, you know, right in the mix, to to win a national championship, even as good as Georgia has been this year. And, and with the rest of the SEC, I mean, Alabama looked really great in their ballgame. But, you know, but that team lost twice in the SEC. So they, they have some questions the same way that Michigan did this year. So I would say, as the calendar turns into 2023, there, there’s a lot more positive foundational pieces to build on moving forward. And the players that we’re talking about in this in this conversation, many of those guys are coming back and are going to be the leaders on that team next year. So we liked a lot of the language and what we heard from the players in the coaches last year after the last GA they reiterated that they weren’t just happy to be there, they wanted to be able to win. They played in this game and had a chance to win and should have been able to win this game. But they didn’t get it done. So let’s let’s hope and see if if Michigan can kind of take these mistakes, and immediately get to work on trying to correct these things as well. And and just take that next step forward and win in the semi finals and give your your give yourself a chance to play for a national title and hopefully, you know, execute crisply two times at the end of the year here and and there’s no reason that this team can’t compete right back at the same level next year.

Phil Callihan 42:38
So while the game was going on, I was able to step back and I said a couple times, man, what a great game right now. I hope that it was a great game, we were going to come back and win. But you know, there’s a I tweeted out during the game, there’s a GIF of Russell Crowe from gladiator saying are you not entertained? Right. And whenever it’s a game like this, I you know, I tweeted out to our followers because, again, this is why you watch right now, of course you want Michigan to win, but from a Football perspective, you know, and stepping back even a little bit further. Okay. What is the say about the big 10 that you could say you could make a strong case that, you know, two plays difference, okay? Ohio State somehow makes that feel gold snicker snicker right. And Michigan has one less pick six. And it’s a big 10 national championship. Right. So again, it is a you know, I think it says a lot for the strength of the conference. You know, I think, you know, Michigan’s gonna have to bounce back from this, right? Because, because this one’s going to leave a Bruce. Okay. And, you know, on one hand, they say, you know, the worst thing that can happen is that you just miss your goal, right? I mean, last year, you know, that game was over by halftime. I was there, right? It was, it was Michigan was not going to get by GA on that day. And you know, that Michigan definitely struggled, you know, down at halftime, but whereas last year, you know, they didn’t get any closer. This year, that second half, they look like a team that was that was gonna win a national championship if they had a little bit more than time.
So, again, you look at that and you say, Okay, you’re getting closer, right. But again, I really wonder, you know, you know, hopefully they will use it as fuel to to get even better. And, you know, as as Coach Harbaugh said, they’re really

Jim Harbaugh 44:57
Really proud of them really proud of the fight. I’ve been a locker room of heroes the entire season. And as I stand in front of them, that’s, that’s, that’s who they are. And it’s, it’s what they are. That was super proud of. And that’s why you doing you’d never give up. Never give in. Never let up. Just keep playing keep playing the game one play at a time. And yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of analogies to life with that. But, you know, they’re, they’re real. And our team continues to do that done it all year. And, you know, did did it right up until to the end and great season that ends one week early. One, one last big play one more big play by us. One more opportunistic play by us one less opportunistic play by them. And it’d be it’d be a different situation. But yeah, it was a it was a it was a great Football game. And congratulations to TCU.

Phil Callihan 46:07
How do you sustain that effort in the offseason and come back?

Donovan Edwards 46:11
It sucks that we lost again, you know, our whole season of preparation has been to win a national championship. And this is the second year that, you know, we’ve lost in the 14th game of the season. So, you know, we’re just like, we’ll be back. Same things we said last year.

Phil Callihan 46:29
And, you know, we’ll be here to see. Yeah,

Clint Derringer 46:31
I mean, it’s, you gotta be able to look forward through the offseason. And certainly this, this team has given us a lot of great moments this year in 22. And ended on a sour note, of course, here that should be able to fuel enough entertainment value through the offseason, as as we try to figure out whether they can take that next step forward. So it’s, it was fun. I wish that there was one more game to break down for sure. I will do the best that I can to appreciate what this season was. Because I know that it doesn’t come around all that often.

Phil Callihan 47:18

Michigan 45 TCU 51 – CFP Semifinal Game Recap

Time to head home


Final Score: 45-51, TCU by 6 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 9.3 (-15.3)
CD Projection: Michigan by 13 (-19)



If you had told me that JJ McCarthy’s stat line would be equal to or better than Max Duggan’s at the end of this game, I would have gladly signed myself up for that outcome. While Duggan was 14/29 for 225 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs, McCarthy finished 20/34 for 343 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs (both became lethal pick-sixes). Both QBs added to the rushing attack also, and both found the end zone.

However, we knew the Michigan rushing attack was what mattered most. After the first snap saw Donovan Edwards flash for 54 yards, the Wolverines were unable to punch it into the end zone. Michigan’s 39% Success Rate on run plays was on par with their OSU performance, but the explosiveness was not the same after the first snap. Averaging 4.9 yards per run play was a full yard short of their season average of 5.9 YPP. The frantic game pace, and playing from behind the entire night, also forced Michigan to rely on the pass much more than normal.

Defensively, Michigan surrendered more huge explosive plays in this game than any other. TCU created four plays greater than 30 yards (32, 46, 69, 76) and they got larger as the game progressed. No other game saw more than two such plays against the Wolverines’ defense, and only two of those previous plays came in the 2nd half (48-yard pass by PSU and a 44-yard pass by OSU).

While the secondary accomplished what I had hoped in coverage versus TCU’s talented outside WRs, it was brutal to see too many missed tackles in critical spots. Both the 69-yard run (eventually tackled at the 1 yard line) and the 76-yard touchdown pass in the second half had the potential to be stopped short.

The special teams were another strength throughout the season. While the kicking units were mostly reliable in this game, a 31-yard punt return allowed in the 4th quarter led to a TCU field goal. That one negative blip is counteracted by the career-long 59-yard field goal nailed by Jake Moody on the final snap of the first half. The kick set a Michigan record for longest field goal, as well as the Fiesta Bowl record. A fitting end to a legendary individual career for Moody.

In most of the traditional statistical categories, Michigan finished with a slight edge. But, this game came down to the high-leverage moments, as all close football games do. When all the chips were on the table, Max Duggan and the TCU Horned Frogs were able to answer the challenge. Michigan’s sloppiness down to down forced the Wolverines into a shootout that TCU was certainly more accustomed to. It was quite a feat for Michigan to continue to answer the bell from behind, and they repeatedly showed the heart of champions.

The 2022 season was absolutely another step forward for the Michigan football program. There is a bitter taste that comes with falling short of their National Championship goals, and it’s especially sour to play less than your best in the last game. But, with all that said, this team is one of the greatest Michigan teams of all-time. And, the foundation for optimism heading into 2023 is just as strong as it was heading into this year. Now, the work begins to prepare to take the final few steps to the pinnacle of the sport. Onward!