ANN ARBOR, MICH. - This week, feelings are hurt. People are out for blood. Ridiculous narratives are being crafted. Coordinator and position coaches are being fired in the court of public opinion. The takes have been hot. "Honeymoons" are being dissected.
All after one loss.
Jim Harbaugh, welcome back to the Michigan you knew was here all along, simmering beneath the surface. Waiting to pounce.
Michigan doesn't draw more than 110,000 fans every Saturday because this place is normal. It happens because these people are fanatical. They run hot. They, at times, test the lines of sanity. And when they lose – especially to a school they insist they're better than no matter what – they get angry. Really, really angry.
Except this time, the situation has changed. At 4-1 with a struggling offense and a slumping run in big games, Michigan has no Plan B.
And this has those crazy people – the same ones who stood screaming in a monsoon Saturday night – more than a bit uneasy.
For Rich Rodriguez, it was win or be fired. For Brady Hoke, it was win or be fired. A better coach, a better fit, was always out there. His name was Jim Harbaugh.
Now he's here. And now it's time to get going.
Or, as fifth-year senior center Patrick Kugler put it ...
"Everyone has to sack up."
The discussion about the end of "Harbaugh's honeymoon" this week on talk radio and social media is rather simplistic. No, Harbaugh's not above criticism. He never has been. And if you're just now realizing this, then you've probably spent too much time listening to Michigan's water carriers and not enough time living in reality.
In the "old" days – 2008-14 – the end of a "honeymoon" meant a coach had to figure it out or lose his job. That's not a thing now. Michigan has its dream candidate, the coach it pined for, wished for, begged for.
There's no one in the bullpen. And this – more than anything else – shakes the uneasy Michigan fan to the core.
If Harbaugh can't get this program around the corner, who can? If he can't catch Ohio State, who can? If he can't solve U-M's massive Mark Dantonio problem, who can?
If Harbaugh can't bring back championship-or-bust football to Michigan, can anyone?
Whether it was fair to demand Harbaugh have this whole thing solved by the halfway point of his third season is probably a bit off the mark.
But fans are tired of waiting.
Harbaugh walked into a cloudy situation with his quarterbacks, but he's been touted as a guru at the position for years. Harbaugh walked into Saturday's game with an extremely young football team, but so did MSU and Dantonio. Michigan fans have filled my inbox with demands that Harbaugh fire his offensive staff and go find "the Don Brown" of offensive coordinators.
U-M is already spending $1 million on two separate offensive staffers. Did Dantonio have any seven-figure coaches with him on Saturday? Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich made $500,000 last season – tied 99th in the country. His offense averages 583.4 yards per game, good for second in the country.
For Harbaugh and Michigan, the job is simple and complicated.
Figure it out or fall behind.
Michigan has to find a way to fix its quarterback situation before anything else. If your most talented passer isn't starting, then figure out why. The staff has to find a way to simplify an offense that's too complex for the personnel it has right now, while also cultivating a culture of constant improvement and advancement. The staff has to either develop offensive linemen faster or hit better on the recruiting trail.
And, yes, it's on the players, too. If Harbaugh's going to push this program to the next level, the core players who are going to get him there are already on the roster. No more "wait till the next signing day."
Either start fixing problems now – the way Harbaugh has at every coaching stop he's ever made – or fall further behind.
There's no "or else" anymore. And while that might be a terrifying journey for some, it'll no doubt be a fascinating one for all.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickBaumgardner.
Detroit Free Press