Why Desmond Howard Says Harbaugh Criticism is Warranted, With a Caveat

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Why Desmond Howard Says Harbaugh Criticism is Warranted, With a Caveat

Football

Why Desmond Howard Says Harbaugh Criticism is Warranted, With a Caveat

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Some would say that former Michigan wide receiver, Heisman Trophy winner and current ESPN College GameDay analyst Desmond Howard is — favorable — towards his alma mater. And while some would say that he does, it actually doesn’t mean that he gives his beloved Wolverines a free pass.

Certainly the fanbase doesn’t, especially now in the fourth year of the Jim Harbaugh era.

Michigan under Harbaugh has gone 10-3 in the first two years before faltering in 2017 with an 8-5 record. Many decried the seeming lack of progress in his third year of the program, often not taking into account that by the season’s end, the Wolverines were on their third-string quarterback and had second-year players playing the bulk of the starting positions.

But, as Howard says, just because there are reasons, doesn’t mean that the criticism isn’t warranted.

The record does speak for itself, which the famed Michigan alum points out. However, he does caution that it’s crucial that you look at the context in which the Wolverines didn’t achieve their goals. The tale of the record isn’t as simple as wins and losses.

With that said, he still believes that the program is heading in the right direction.

“(The criticism is) warranted,” Howard said. “I think that when you have expectations that people have (of) him coming in here, obviously they were like sky high. But then you have to balance that against what he had to try to rectify, so to speak. You had the RichRod years, which changed the whole culture. It just wasn’t Michigan football. We’re even talking like the weight room, the way they trained – everything changed. Then you go from there to Brady Hoke.

“He had, I think, a bigger job than people anticipated, but because he’s Jim Harbaugh, and you look at what he did at Stanford, you look at what he did with the 49ers, it was like, ‘Okay, he’s gonna turn it around.’

“I think he’s turning it around, but not at the pace or the rate that people expect. You look at the record, and then you look at the product. A team can lose a game, but then you look – okay, but were they competitive? And that’s where you really start to see – okay, are they making strides, getting better? And things of that nature. You just look at your record, then you’ll have your criticism and then just go about your day. But as a former athlete, there are people – if you’re a former Bruin, you may look at Chip Kelly right now at UCLA, and you say, okay – look at their record. But then you look at the product. Do they appear to be getting better? Are they competitive? Things of that nature. Same situation going on up in there at Lincoln, Nebraska. Scott Frost – how is his team looking? Obviously, they looked really competitive coming out the gate against Colorado. That was a good game, and that’s a team that’s still playing – undefeated. But, since then, when the quarterback got hurt, it just really started to spiral out of control.

“It’s one thing to look at the record, but then you want to look at the product on the field and see if they’re making any type of strides in the right direction or they’re being competitive, too.”

Michigan could do a lot to overcome a lot of the naysayers, pundits and critics should the Wolverines manage a win over No. 15 Wisconsin on Saturday night.

Kickoff is slated for 7:30PM at The Big House, but festivities, including Howard and his ESPN College GameDay crew, will start much earlier in the morning.

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