Michigan made a home-run hire by landing Jim Harbaugh. Anyone saying it's not a great move is nitpicking.
Sure, I hear people voicing concerns about whether he'll go running back to the NFL after just a few seasons with the Wolverines. Here's the thing -- he's only going to be in high demand at the pro level if he succeeds at Michigan, and isn't it Wolverines fans' goal to have a successful coach?
If he wins at Michigan, he'll be attractive to other teams, and I see no downside to that. What will make him attractive is achieving success.
And, yes, I do expect him to succeed in Ann Arbor. The track record is pretty clear. He won at San Diego as a first-time head coach and made players coming out of that school attractive to NFL teams. He went to Stanford and won. He did so even though everyone was telling him he couldn't succeed there consistently and that it was a dead-end job he shouldn't take. The 49ers had endured a decade of misery before he arrived, and he promptly turned them into a perennial contender.
Harbaugh gets guys to play better, and quickly, everywhere he goes.
So, if you're at Michigan, what's not to like?
The Wolverines have fallen off the pace in a lot of ways, but when a brand-name school like Michigan gets the right person at the top of the program, they rise in a hurry. Top recruits are looking for a reason to go to Michigan. They have a reason now. There's already talent at Michigan, and now recruits will flock there even more.
Of course, Michigan is in for a tough fight as it tries go get back on track. Take a look around the Big Ten East Division. The powers in that conference -- Ohio State and Michigan State -- are in that division with Michigan. OSU and MSU are already riding high with Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio at the helm, respectively, and Penn State, also in the East, is on its way to becoming a power again under James Franklin. Those guys aren't backing down from Harbaugh or anyone else and we'll see some tremendous recruiting wars between them.
It'll be a tough fight for the Wolverines, but they have the right guy for that fight.
Harbaugh is fully capable of leading Michigan to a national title, and it would not surprise me to see the team competing for one in his second season on the job. It's probably a more realistic expectation to say three seasons, but two won't surprise me. He's been ahead the pace that seemed realistic everywhere he's been.
Bob Stoops inherited a downtrodden Oklahoma program, won seven games in his first season and captured the national title in his second. Urban Meyer took a 6-7 Ohio State team and went undefeated his first year (when the Buckeyes were barred from playing in a bowl), undefeated in his second regular season (before losing in the Big Ten title game) and has the Buckeyes a win away from playing for a national title this season.
It all goes to show that rock star coaches make teams better faster than most expect. I'm not predicting that same type of turnaround for Michigan, but it can happen with a guy like Harbaugh leading the program.
Michigan needed to establish some kind of identity. The team needed someone to step up and punch for them. They have that now.