INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh needed to make some changes in the offseason after a disappointing 2-4 campaign, and he didn’t waste time in the spring. He hired a new defensive coordinator in Baltimore Ravens assistant Mike Macdonald, added linebackers coach George Helow and secondary coaches Ron Bellamy and Steve Clinkscale on defense, running backs coach Mike Hart and quarterbacks mentor Matt Weiss among his hires.
Macdonald was the big one, and he proved to be a no-brainer when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh recommended him from his staff.
“I hadn’t been around Mike a lot … but my brother John was like, ‘yeah, this is the guy I would hire. He probably would be our next D.C. here in Baltimore after Wink [Martindale],” Harbaugh recalled. “What he liked about him — he’s really smart, in on the ground floor of the Ravens when they changed their defense and invented the scheme. He’s very detailed; a very good teacher.”
There were a lot of recommendations from a lot of people he really trusts in football, worked with and knows extremely well — “guys I love like a brother,” Harbaugh said.
“All that being said, this came from John,” Harbaugh said.
He even asked his brother why he’d be willing to part with him since he was so good.
“He said, ‘I really love Michigan football, and I really love you’,” he said. “… Special. [Athletic director] Warde [Manuel] was involved in the interview process. We really felt Mike was great, what we were looking for.
“Since that hire, it’s worked out even better than I hoped. He’s tremendous at coaching pretty much all the positions on defense. He’s a really good communicator, installer, really good on the field, identifying traits in players, where they can be plugged in and moved around so an offense can’t say, ‘Aidan Hutchinson is going to be there’ … he could be there, there, or there. All options are open.”
The trust and communication between all of them has been fun to watch, he added, noting they communicate better than he’d even hoped.
The same is true of the offensive hires, he continued.
“The thing they all have in common is what they know about football; their experience, the teachers they are,” Harbaugh said. “The other thing is just how they’ve come together. The trust. When I sit in the defensive room and Mike Macdonald is talking and there’s input coming from Coach Clink, Helow and Shaun Nua, the dialogue that’s going on in the room is really tremendous. Coach Bellamy has brought so much. Nobody is afraid to talk, put their opinion out there.”
There’s tremendous banter, and that includes analyst Doug Mallory, the graduate assistants and more. It’s almost like a scrimmage, Harbaugh noted, with ideas flowing.
“It’s a fun, exciting room and I can tell that there’s trust in the room,” he said. “Guys can speak their minds and be heard, bat it around and get to a good result. I see the same thing offensively, too. Josh Gattis is going into his third year as offensive coordinator, and the thing I notice most about that room is the trust he has in other coaches, and the trust we have in Josh.”
Sherrone Moore, Jay Harbaugh, Mike Hart — all opinions are respected, all are valued.
“Matt Weiss has been a great addition at coaching quarterbacks, too,” Harbaugh said. “I love what the analysts bring.
“To be in meetings, both offensively and defensively, and see the interaction and trust, it has exceeded my expectations.”