Ask Gary: Is Harbaugh overdue or overrated?

by Gary Shelton on January 6, 2018 · 2 comments

in College football, general, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays

Harbaugh still has his eye on the Michigan program./JEFFREY S. KING

Harbaugh still has his eye on the Michigan program./JEFFREY S. KING

Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports. Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Lately, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is being called overrated and unimaginative even by a former Michigan player. His record in rivalry games and bowl games combined is just 2-7 and 9-8 in the last 17 games. He has never won against Urban Myer in 3 tries which would be the death knell for any other Michigan coach. He has had mediocre to poor quarterback play in his time at Michigan and that’s the position he is known for. He makes a big splash on the recruiting trail but doesn’t land a top recruiting class. Do you think he is underachieving as a college coach and should return to the NFL?

Larry Beller

Harbaugh is a strong taste. He's abrasive, and because of it, he rubs a lot of guys the wrong way. That was true in the NFL. It's true in

 Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

college football. Harbaugh seems to enjoy stirring things up. He doesn't mind if opposing coaches don't like him.

But it's hard for me to say he's underachieving. Heck, he's been there only three years. Michigan has been good; it just hasn't been great. Harbaugh might not be Bear Bryant in a can, but if he came out and said he was leaving Michigan, there would be 20 schools lining up for him. If he said he was going to the NFL, there would be 10.

I remember the 49ers under Mike Singletary. They were dreadful. Then Harbaugh came, the 49ers mattered for a while. They got to a Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick. You can't tell me coaching didn't have something to do with it.

Look, Michigan is a hard job. You have to compete with Ohio State and Penn State and Wisconsin and the rest of the Big 10.

Is Harbaugh over-rated? It depends on where you have him rated. I think he's a top 12 coach in the country, and given time, he'll make it work. He's won everywhere he's been.

Let me ask you this: If you could trade him for anyone, who would it be? Saban? Meyer? Who else?

Just stay the course. Give the guy time. He'll take the rest.

Regarding John Lynch's chances on being selected for the Hall of Fame, do you have any inside info (from Ira Kaufman or others)​ as to his chances--as well as your own prediction?

 Barry McDowell
Barry, Ira and I talk all the time. He's a guy who cares what others think, and he'll start a lot of the conversations himself.
He feels -- as do I -- that Lynch belongs in the Hall. Like me, he saw Lynch grow up as a player and become a force for the best defense of its time. I once broke down 10-year runs by the great defenses -- the Bears, the Ravens, the Steelers, the Chiefs, the Bucs -- and only the Steelers compared over the long haul. I took rushing average, sacks, total yards, passing ratings, every possible stat you could think of.
Ask Sapp. Ask Brooks. Ask Dungy. They'll all tell you that Lynch was vital to that defense. He was an impact player in the box for years.
Nationally, however, there is an impression that Lynch didn't intercept enough passes, that he wasn't a good enough center-fielder. Football people will tell that wasn't his role. Sacks aren't every linebacker's main function, you know?
I put him in and I don't hesitate. But some analysts like Brian Dawkins, the old Eagle, better than Lynch. I don't.
I was looking at the list, and I have Lynch fourth, maybe fifth. He isn't a slam dunk like, say, Ray Lewis. Still, it's enough for him to get in.
I'll add this. You don't need for a bunch fo writers across the country -- who didn't cover him -- to validate Lynch. We saw him. We know he was great. That's enough if it has to be.

In a recent letter to possible investors in the Marlins, Derek Jeter said that every MLB team will receive a $50  million payment this season  (result of the sale of the digital arm of MLB).  So why are the Rays choosing this season to cut payroll?  Wouldn't
it be wise, in an attempt to build public support for a new stadium, to ADD payroll or pledge additional millions to the stadium fund?

Jim Willson

Before I get to the report, which floored me, let me ask you a pair of return questions: If Jeter is so sure of his numbers, why have the Marlins trimmed payroll more than $40 million already? Why is Jeter desperately seeking investors?

Heck, Jim. No one seems to know exactly how accurate the numbers are, but you could field a pretty good infield with $50 million. Put it this way: We all would like to see a sub-.500 team add talent, not subtract it. Think of it: That's a one time deal that would offset most team's payrolls for a year. That's not bad.

Better yet, you could do this: You could put it toward a new stadium. That would be pretty good, wouldn't it?

I know this: When it comes to big money, millionaires never have enough.

Glad to see the Bucs beat the Saints last Sunday. Hope and helping to change a losing culture, I think are more significant than picking a few spots earlier in the draft. I guess I'm in the minority on that. Myles Garret, for example, 2017’s #1 pick, is behind 2 rookies in sacks, and one of them was picked in the 4th round. 

Talking about the future, if Jason Licht and Koetter can get a DE to produce 7 sacks, the record will look better, I think that’s the big challenge in 2018. Limiting turnovers and a better running game seem doable in one offseason.

Carlos Ubinas

Such a defensive end would be great. Can you spin up two of them?

I agree that the draft is a crapshoot. Chris Godwin, taken in the fourth round, had 34 catches this year. John Ross, taken ninth overall, didn't have any. Alvin Kamara of the Saints performed better than Leonard Fournette (although I'll take Fournette long-term.

Still, most of the time, the better players are  taken first. I think the average Bucs' fan saw this as a lost season, and they wanted to be sure to get one of the top pass-rushers. They still may be able to do so.

If I ran the team, I'd go get one in free agency and one in the draft. It's the biggest failing on the team. I agree; you can find a running back.  Give me a meat-eating defensive end.

Do you think that Jon Gruden has read the Thomas Wolfe book titled 'You Can't Go Home Again'?

 Scott Myers
No. He was too busy reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Or watching the DVD Viva Las Vegas.
Seriously, not many coaches have returned to the same sideline, and not many have been successful. Joe Gibbs had two tours in Washington, but in his second, he won only 30 games in four years. That's nothing compared to Marion Campbell, the old Falcons coach. He won six games in two and a half years his first stint and 17 games in four years his second.
Art Shell came back for a sequel season with the Raiders, but he won only two games. Bud Grant came back for the Vikings, but he was 7-9. At 60, Chuck Knox returned to the Rams, but he won only 15 games in three years.
Most coaches get one shot, and so they try to make it count.
It appears Jon Gruden will be returning to coaching after all next year but with the Raiders and not the Bucs. Why is he not coming here? Is it simply that the Glazers didn’t want to pay him what he was asking?

Larry Beller

I think pay has a lot to do with it. The rumors say Gruden will get more than $10 million a year for 10 years. How many Super Bowls does he have to win for that to be worth it? Three?

Oh, I know. It's not our money.

But we've seen Gruden. We know he's not the expert with young quarterbacks that people think he is. I saw an article the other day that said he would fix the Raiders’ defense. He didn't do that here, either. It was Monte's show. Why expect him to build one now?

There is this, too. I keep saying that if the Bucs ever do hire the right guy, it's going to take him more than two years to solve the team's problems. I have no problem with sticking with Koetter another year. Yes, I think Gruden would be better, for the short term at least, but he isn't Bill Belichick.

The Bucs might have decided that Gruden isn't a fit. After all, they fired the guy, remember? Why should they expect him to be a better coach a decade later? Maybe the franchise should remember him with a statue in the lobby and his name on the Ring of Honor.

Then there this. No one knows if this was Gruden's first  choice. The Bucs still have a lot of problems. He might simply have preferred to go to Oakland. Derek Carr is a good quarterback. Khalil Mack is a star. Maybe the Bucs stopped at, say, $70 million. Heck, Michael Corleone didn’t get that much from Vegas.

Look, I like having Gruden in the league. He's a personality. And I think he's a good coach (not a good personnel man). But when you add in all the concerns plus his pay plus a piece of ownership, well, it's a lot to venture.

Now that Gruden seems headed to Oakland, I have an idea. Give Koetter and Jason Licht a couple of more years to keep building until they win 9 games, then give the Raiders 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders for Gruden in 2020! And give Al (I mean, Mark) Davis about 14 million on top (man, I hate inflation). Then... I think you know where Im going with this.

But seriously, the Raiders host the Bucs in 2020 (in Vegas), that game will probably tell which franchise ends up better off. Maybe Gruden handles the player personnel end of things better. Whatever, I think the Bucs need more of a “Dungy” than a “Gruden”. If Koetter and Licht can do their best impression of Dungy and Rich McKay, and build a perennial contender, they'll be considered a success. Looking back, those guys look brilliant.

Carlos Ubinas

I think it was 1999 that the Bucs went into Oakland to face a Gruden-led team and lost 45-0. He completely dissected them. And the Bucs made the NFC title game that year.

In advance, then, let's agree that one game -- whichever way it goes -- won't say a lot about where the franchises are heading. But by that time, each team needs to be in the playoffs, don't they?

I agree the Bucs need a planter more than a reaper. Gruden was great in 2002 -- I don't know of another first-year coach who ever did a better job. I remember Gruden's press conference. He didn't even know how to pronounce Mike Alstott's name. But he learned and he lifted an entire team with his energy. You'll never hear me detract from that job

Gruden's going to need a lot of help. He needs a defensive general like Monte Kiffin. He needs a better personell man than Bruce Allen. He needs a front office that can check his impulses. And he needs a team to buy what he's selling. That's true of most coaches.

I think Gruden jumped the shark in Tampa Bay when he ran off McKay. That was the Glazers' fault. They should have sat them both down and said "We think we have the best coach in the NFL, and we think we have the best g.m. You two figure out to work together." That didn't happen, and the Bucs unraveled.

I've written it before. I admired Dungy, but with his offensive coaches, I don't think he would have ever won a Super Bowl here. But like McKay once said, "you don't have to have the best plan; you just have to have a plan and stick to it."








{ 0 comments… read it below or Subscriptions }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: