Why Jim Harbaugh is the Right Coach for Shea Patterson

shea patterson michigan quarterback

Why Jim Harbaugh is the Right Coach for Shea Patterson

Football

Why Jim Harbaugh is the Right Coach for Shea Patterson

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As each week goes by, you can see Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson getting more and more comfortable in what he’s being asked to do.

The former Ole Miss star who transferred into the program this past offseason has had a variety of big games at quarterback, passing for over 400 yards twice and over 300 yards seven times in his 10 games as a Rebel. In Ann Arbor, he’s still getting acclimated to some degree, but is completing 71% of his passes through three games. But, the big yards haven’t come just yet.

Most of that is because the Michigan coaching staff isn’t asking him to do much. The run game has been working, so why risk it by putting the ball in the air?

Like former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes used to say: “Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.”

Patterson is now learning from the man who was the protege of the man who was the protege of Hayes. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh runs his team in the image of legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, who coached under Hayes back when he was an assistant for the Buckeyes.

So, while pundits have decried the marriage of Patterson and Michigan, as he used to run a variation of an Air Raid offense in Oxford, Miss., the signal caller has continued to learn and to acclimate, and as weeks go by, he keeps getting better and better — along with the Michigan offense.

“I think it’s right where it needs to be,” Patterson said of the offense. As for where he is, personally, he continued: “Just learning – learning every single day. Every single day from (Coach Harbaugh) and the coaching staff – been around the game of football for so many years. Just any type of knowledge, any type of brain-picking that I can do, it’s what I do every single day.”

An odd misnomer that surfaced this past offseason when Patterson transferred in was that Harbaugh had never developed his own quarterback.

Nevermind that he recruited and developed Andrew Luck at Stanford. Nevermind that he drafted Colin Kaepernick and he brought the team to the edge of a Super Bowl win. Nevermind that two of the three quarterbacks that had success under Harbaugh at Michigan were considered also-rans.

Jake Rudock was a cast-off from Big Ten West foe Iowa, considered not good enough to retain his three-year starting job, with C.J. Beathard emerging. Rudock got better and better as the 2015 season progressed, leading Michigan to a 10-3 record in Harbaugh’s first year.

Wilton Speight wasn’t supposed to be the starting quarterback. A former three-star from Richmond, VA, it was former five-star Shane Morris who was supposed to take the reins. Or Houston transfer John O’Korn, who had a stellar freshman season with the Cougars. Yet, Speight won the starting job, and went 12-3 as the starter, passing for over 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2016 — which included the best half a Michigan quarterback had ever had in the history of the program, against Maryland.

Despite what SEC apologists say, that Patterson transferred strictly because of the emergence of Jordan Ta’amu, who replaced him when he went down with injury against LSU a year ago, while there could be some truth to that, there’s a lot more to the story. Part of it was the sanctions that Ole Miss found itself under due to the way Hugh Freeze ran the program. But the other was the opportunity to come play for his childhood favorite school and learn from a coach who has the NFL pedigree and esteemed coaching acumen — particularly with quarterbacks.

As for what makes Harbaugh so special to be around as a QB, Patterson says it’s all in his approach.

“I think there’s nothing left unsaid or unsure about,” Patterson said. “If you make a mistake, he’s going to come talk to you. Not necessarily yell at you, but tell you, ‘This is what we’re doing, and this is what I need you to do.’ That’s awesome.

“Day-in, day-out, every single rep. And we get so many reps in practice, which helps us a lot.”

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy, by any means.

Acclimating to an already established locker room is one thing. Taking over and becoming a leader is another.

But Patterson has kept his head down and got to work upon arrival. The more he works, the more it pays off.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an element of self-doubt that creeps in. That’s inevitable. But it’s how he deals with it that makes the difference.

“There’s always that little, in the back of your mind, when things get tough or you get tired or whatever,” Patterson said. “But you just have to remind yourself every day why you’re doing it. Gotta know why you’re doing it and whether it’s your family, the love of the game, your teammates – it’s all three of them for me. I have no reason to go out with the mindset of ‘I have to do this’ or ‘This is what I’ve gotta do.’ I get to do it, and this is an amazing opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime.

“Coach Prince, after practice today, he told us – he’s been around for awhile – everyone who played always thinks back: ‘Man, I wish I had took more advantage of the opportunity.’

“So yeah, just come out with the mindset that it’s not a burden to be out here, it’s a blessing and an opportunity.”

Moving forward, Patterson sees big things for this Michigan offense. They’re continuing to grow and get better week-by-week.

However, as he personally gets mentored by Harbaugh, he looks back at what he’s done so far — passing or 67%, 71% then 78% — and sees that he still needs to improve and get better.

But the idea that the marriage between Patterson and Michigan and Harbaugh was a failure after the Wolverines loss to Notre Dame? That’s certainly not the case.

If anything, it’s the opposite. Patterson is comfortable with what he’s being asked to do, and becoming more so as weeks go by.

“I have a lot of room to grow and a lot of stuff to learn from over the past three weeks,” Patterson said. “But as far as comfort level, I’ve never been this comfortable in a system and with this team and these coaches.”

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