Jedd Fisch, Ex-Wolverine

Jedd Fisch, Ex-Wolverine


January 3, 2017




Jedd Fisch

Michigan passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, who had signed a 2-year extension for the 2016-2017 seasons, is headed to UCLA to be Jim Mora’s offensive coordinator. Fisch was hired by Jim Harbaugh after a two-year stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator. Fisch worked with the receivers and quarterbacks and was involved with the play calling during his time in Ann Arbor.

Options to replace Fisch are varied, especially because Harbaugh has hired from outside of his sphere several times. He had no previous connections to Fisch, he didn’t know Don Brown before bringing him on board, and he had no real connections to Tyrone Wheatley or Mike Zordich, either. I’ll go through a few of the obvious names, though, since it’s hard to comb through the entire sport of football for possible replacements:

  • Erik Campbell is a WR coach at UConn. He was an offensive analyst at Michigan in 2015, but previously, he spent time as a WR coach at Michigan under Lloyd Carr, Iowa under Kirk Ferentz, and with Montreal Alouettes under whoever coached the Montreal Alouettes. Campbell also played at Michigan with Harbaugh in the 1980s.
  • Jimmie Dougherty is a WR coach/offensive coordinator by trade who was an analyst for Michigan in 2016. He was just hired this off-season as Oregon’s wide receivers coach under former Harbaugh assistant Willie Taggart, and Dougherty was assistant head coach/WR coach/passing game coordinator at San Jose State from 2013-2015.
  • Joe Hastings is a former WR at Washburn College before spending time in the NFL with the Dolphins and 49ers, where he played for Harbaugh. He has been a grad assistant at Michigan for the past two years.
  • Derron Montgomery is a former Iowa State WR who spent 2015 as a grad assistant working with Fisch at Michigan. Montgomery worked mostly with the receivers and then went to New Mexico Highlands to be their offensive coordinator for 2016. NMH went 0-11 in 2016, but by golly, they did score 40 points in their season finale.
  • Ryan Nehlen is a former WR at West Virginia. He spent 2014 at Akron, 2015 at Glenville State College, and 2016 as a grad assistant at Michigan.
  • Greg Roman is a former Harbaugh assistant who worked with the OTs and TEs at Stanford in 2009-2010 and then became Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator in San Francisco from 2011-2014. He was most recently the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator, though he was fired by Rex Ryan just two games into the 2016 season.
  • Drew Terrell is a former Stanford WR under Jim Harbaugh and then David Shaw. He has spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan helping Fisch, and spent one year at Virginia Tech before that. He had 463 receiving yards, 4 TDs, and an additional punt return TD as a senior in 2012.
  • T.J. Weist is a WR coach/offensive coordinator by trade who was an analyst for Michigan in 2015. He spent 2016 as South Florida’s co-offensive coordinator/passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach with Willie Taggart, and he’s currently the interim head coach at USF. If he’s relieved of his duties there, he may be a free agent.

I include some of those younger guys because we have seen Harbaugh take chances with some of his assistants, like high school coach Chris Partridge, assistant to the assistant Jay Harbaugh, etc. If Harbaugh thinks a guy has the ability to help, he’s not afraid to hire him.

However, to be a co-offensive coordinator, I think Harbaugh will aim a little higher. Dougherty probably would have been a good hire and wouldn’t have had to move across the country if Michigan had known that Fisch was leaving. It’s not unheard of for a guy to leave a job so soon after being hired, but it would be rare. I’ve long been a fan of the work Campbell did at Michigan, and he helped some unheralded guys be successful at Iowa, too. He’s mostly just been a position coach, though, without a ton of experience calling plays. A lot of people are pointing to Roman, who is mostly an offensive line/tight ends guy. Harbaugh clearly trusts him, but he would probably need to rely on the help of some grad assistants to make that work, so that’s not a clear fix, either.

My guess is that Michigan hires someone who’s not on the above list, which makes this whole post rather superfluous. But it’s fun to speculate.

I thought Fisch did a good job of designing and calling passing plays at Michigan. A pro-style offense can be boring, but he found enough ways to vary the play calling and get guys open. It didn’t always work, because the offensive line and quarterback were shaky at times in 2016, but I rarely had a problem with the calls themselves. This may hurt Michigan in recruiting, though, because 2018 QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson – Michigan’s #1 target at the position – was thought to be down to UCLA and Michigan beforehand, and now he says UCLA is going to be tough to beat.

One other interesting note is that Michigan may promote an analyst like Devin Bush, Jr. to a coaching position temporarily so he can go out on the road and recruit. Bush probably isn’t a candidate for Fisch’s job directly, but his college and NFL experience may help him gain some pull in the recruiting sphere.

24 comments

  1. Comments: 677
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jan 03, 2017 at 9:17 AM

    I’ve read Pep Hamilton… what are your thoughts on him?

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2017 at 10:13 AM

      I like Pep Hamilton from the little I know about him. He’s not in a great situation in Cleveland, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to have success with the Browns. He had some great years with Andrew Luck, and Luck is a guy that Michigan obviously wants to emulate.

  2. DonAZ
    Comments: 327
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Jan 03, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    The role Fisch filled — QB, receiver, play designer, co-offensive playcaller, whatever — is there a parallel at other programs? Or was this a Harbaughesque thing?

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2017 at 9:55 AM

      Actually, I think that role has increased in the last 10 years or so. Maybe even more recently. As head coaches become more and more CEOs and such (not that Harbaugh is hands-off), it’s a way to delegate to other coaches and retain talented people. If you’re “just” a WR coach at a big program, you might leave to go to the MAC as an offensive coordinator. But if you’re a co-OC (like Fisch), maybe the only OC job you’ll leave for is a big job at UCLA or another Power-5 school. There are probably too many similar positions in college football to bother naming them.

      Harbaugh is the QB coach at Michigan. But while he’s tending to other things, Fisch needed to be involved, too. I think that’s why Michigan has had a couple graduate assistants working with the receivers. If Fisch was always splitting time with the QBs and WRs, then the WRs wouldn’t get enough attention.

  3. Comments: 54
    Joined: 9/28/2015
    PapaBear
    Jan 03, 2017 at 10:24 AM

    Thunder, Can UM beat the Elite teams, with a Mobile QB? Maybe a different question, but along the same lines, can any team beat Alabama (this year) without a mobile QB?

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2017 at 2:21 PM

      I do think that Michigan can beat elite teams without a mobile QB. In the not-so-distant past, Alabama didn’t have mobile QBs (A.J. McCarron, for example) and still won the national championship. If Alabama had a pocket passer this year, they would still probably be winning all these games. Jalen Hurts gives them a skill set they’re not necessarily used to working with, but he’s #33 in PER and #51 in yards per attempt this year, so he’s a good passer but not necessarily a great one (yet).

      • Comments: 54
        Joined: 9/28/2015
        PapaBear
        Jan 03, 2017 at 4:12 PM

        Yes, I agree, but…. Alabama is the exception and the rule. Their ability to run down hill and as LAknows says below, you must have excellence in other places.

        Well…..Bama does…everywhere. IF we had Watson or Jackson, where would we be or even a poor man’s version of?

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 03, 2017 at 3:18 PM

      Possible is different than likely. Not having a mobile QB is fighting with with one hand tied behind your back.You have to make up for the handicap with excellence elsewhere. If you can find an elite passer it is worth the tradeoff. Speight wasn’t there yet in 2016.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 3460
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 03, 2017 at 11:04 AM

    This is some very good analysis IMO. Like you, I don’t think any of those grad assistants are likely to replace Fisch, but they are interesting to track. If Harbaugh really likes them they could be brought back as analysts.

    Greg Roman – an analyst role would be optimal. I think Drevno could use the help but with Jay Harbaugh around that would be too many guys devoted to OL/TE for one team and then our head coach would be tasked with too much. Perhaps if Jay H or Drevno get promoted somewhere else it could make sense. Obviously Roman is qualified perhaps overqualified to be a college co-OC but the overlap with Drevno is very strong.

    Michigan has exceedingly qualified analysts every year and they are well paid it seems.

    Weist and Dougherty seem like most natural contenders on this list, in terms of QB/WR experience, to replace Fisch and complement Drevno. Probably Harbaugh will not pull Dougherty out from Taggert, but you never know.

    Agree we will hear new names in the weeks to come. With recruiting at it’s peak these next few weeks promoting Bush would make a ton of sense. The uncertainty of the Fisch departure is unfortunate – hopefully it doesn’t mess with somebody like Harris or DPJ.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 3460
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jan 03, 2017 at 11:06 AM

    Fisch was great at Michigan and I thought we were very lucky to have a former NFL OC in such a relatively lower role. Our QBs really improved dramatically IMO – Rudock in season and Speight during the offseason.

    To see that kind of progress in the passing game is pretty extraordinary and I can’t think of another UM player to improve that much as a passer since… Navarre probably, though you could argue Denard did from where he was at as a freshman to his sophomore year too.

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2017 at 2:15 PM

      I agree on the improvement of the quarterbacks. As frustrated as I was with Speight at times, he came a long way from 2015 to 2016. I hope he makes a similar leap from now until 2017.

  6. Comments: 136
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Jan 03, 2017 at 11:47 AM

    It was a pleasure to see Terrell make your list. I’ve seen names being tossed about all over on other forums but your the first to mention him. When I first heard that Fisch might be leaving Terrell was the first name that popped thru my head as a possible replacment to the coaching vacancy.

    Much will depend on how ‘hands-on’ Harbaugh deems to have time for. For these first 2 years, Jimmy needed a guy like Fisch on board to handle those passing game/offensive x’s & o’s but now that Jimmy has turned things around and the program is back to relevence and in the national spotlight for recruitment, etc there is really nothing the Fisch did that Harbaugh can’t do himself; its not like He’s a defensive genius and needs an offensive guru – just the opposite and Harbaugh is on record to such; why he needs Brown & Madison so much………..

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he assisgns Drevno & Wheatley as Co-OC’s. Remember Wheatley aspiries to be a Headcoach one day, too and this is an opportuniy for Harbaugh to get those ‘OC’ initials on Wheatley’s resume’. then he promotes Terrell to handle the WR’s;etc. Just a thought; or as you’ve noted bring weist back.

    Terrell is one helluva leader in the true sense of the word as well as exceptionally intellgent – also in the true sense of the word (not simply a ‘football coaching idiot savant’ as is Harbaugh; imho) I think to some degree that Terrell is wasting his potential to Humanity: This is a guy that if he ever got his JD from Yale or Harvard could possibly 30 years from now be Governor of California or similar. I expect him one day to be HC at Stanford.

    IMHO;
    Thanx…………INTJohn

    • Comments: 135
      Joined: 9/15/2015
      ragingbull
      Jan 03, 2017 at 1:49 PM

      well cali could use help at governor

    • Painter Smurf
      Comments: 198
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Painter Smurf
      Jan 03, 2017 at 1:51 PM

      Wheatley needs Drevno to move on to have a shot at co-OC or run game coordinator. JH will still need someone to share the QB coaching load on a daily basis and pass game development. JH is adept at working with all sorts of assistants. Have no doubt he makes a good hire, as it is an attractive job.

      • Comments: 2172
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Jan 03, 2017 at 2:11 PM

        I agree that Drevno probably needs to move on for Wheatley to move up. I’m not sure that I would want the running backs coach being the passing game coordinator.

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2017 at 2:12 PM

      That’s good to know about Terrell. I’ve heard good things about his coaching, but I don’t know a ton about him personally.

  7. Comments: 2
    Joined: 1/3/2017
    bluelam
    Jan 03, 2017 at 2:05 PM

    John should give us Marty Mornhinweg, but looks like he’s coming back to Baltimore as their OC.

    • Comments: 2172
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 03, 2017 at 2:10 PM

      That stingy John Harbaugh… Welcome to the site!

  8. Comments: 920
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jan 03, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    I’d be perfectly happy with Soup Campbell. Better than ok recruiter, absolute top of the heap wide receiver coach.

    • Painter Smurf
      Comments: 198
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Painter Smurf
      Jan 03, 2017 at 10:49 PM

      Personally not down with Campbell. He was the one offensive assistant Carr never let near the OC job. Also, I don’t think he has a rep as a particularly good recruiter, at least recently. That is probably why his career has gone progressively south since Carr retired. Jim is able to do much better for this spot.

      • Comments: 920
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Roanman
        Jan 04, 2017 at 6:35 AM

        I’m not sure Lloyd Carr is the reference I’d go for with regards to identifying talent at the OC position.

        We needn’t replace Fisch’s entire function, we have a stellar QB coach in Harbaugh. He is still going to run his headphone system with whoever he connects to. a straight up WR coach works just fine, particularly a proven superior straight up WR coach. Particularly with hopefully four big time recruits coming in as freshmen.

        • Comments: 920
          Joined: 8/13/2015
          Roanman
          Jan 04, 2017 at 6:39 AM

          I’d be happy with another stud recruiter though, too.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3460
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jan 04, 2017 at 1:22 AM

      I’ll split the difference. Campbell was (and probably still is) an excellent WR coach but his quals for a bigger role are dubious and I’m not sure he is enough of a recruiter to make up for it. There are better candidates with more upside out there. The analyst role he had seems like a fine fit at this stage.

  9. Comments: 920
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jan 04, 2017 at 6:37 AM

    It just dawned on me that Fisch is Mora/Rosen’s third OC in three years. Anyone else smelling just a whiff of panic in Westwood?

    I’m thinking Fisch’s run of two year gigs might just go on for a bit.

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