CHICAGO -- The first real crisis of the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan earned only a brief mention here Tuesday.
"We lost three of our last four games last year, so … I didn't like that feeling," Harbaugh said during Big Ten Media Days.
Well, yes, there's that. But when Harbaugh enters the room, sometimes objectivity flies out the window. He entertains the media the same way a ball of string engages a cat.
"Strap on the iron jock!," Harbaugh barked in summary of how he'll overcome his team's shortcomings this season.
Social media stirred.
Never mind the Wolverines are suddenly in their longest run of losing since, gulp, Brady Hoke. There are statements to be made.
Harbaugh on Tuesday was a fashion statement. He dressed like, well, himself -- on game day. Khakis, Nike sweater, Block M ball camp. All he needed was a pair of turf shoes and a headset. He stood out as the rest of the coaches and players wore suits.
In that sense, he looked like a coach version of a Ken Doll. You know, Barbie's better half?
Don't laugh. There has to be a Mattel executive somewhere figuring out how to get the rights to Malibu Jimmy.
"I'm avoiding all fun stuff, concentrating on getting ready for the season," Harbaugh asserted.
And then, he did all the fun stuff --. Bragging on newborn son John, born premature, who is now in the 93rd percentile for his height and weight.
"He's shootin' up, catchin' up," Harbaugh said.
There was the requisite mention of.
The coach even scrolled through a reporter's phone to see pictures of the current facilities at his first head coaching job at the University of San Diego. Who knew the most powerful man in Ann Arbor once officed in a trailer?
"Those are new trailers," he observed, "because we had a mudslide on our old trailers."
Any logical observer of the game has concluded there is going to be a slide back from consecutive 10-win seasons. Michigan has the fewest returning starters (five) of any FBS team. We're going on five years now since Michigan has had a 1,000-yard rusher.
Even at quarterback -- the position most scrutinized by the coach -- there is some uncertainty. Harbaugh said there is currently a three-way tie between incumbent Wilton Speight, senior John O'Korn and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters.
"'Take charge. Be loud. It's real easy …,'" Harbaugh said he urged Peters. "'Blue 80! Blue 80!' That's the easiest thing about being a quarterback to me. He's coming out of it."
Between you and me, Speight should keep is job. Harbaugh is always fostering competition. Media days was a great place to get his message out.
The buzz is still there, but it's Year 3, a time when a coach begins to put his stamp on a program. Harbaugh's best player may five-star sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary. In a superb freshman season, Gary contributed seven quarterback hurries and four tackles for loss in a backup role.
"He's had a lot of hype; he's had a lot of adulation," Harbaugh said. "There's some people, that's what they live for. They live for approval of others and be recognized as a hyped-up player.
"And then there's other people … they see that hype or that adulation and go by it like it's an orange cone on the side of the road."
There's your daily Michigan traffic report.
Elsewhere, Harbaugh goes into Year 3 with a 1-3 record against Ohio State and Michigan State. That will have to improve to fulfill his Michigan destiny. It's better for college football if Harbaugh and Urban Meyer stage their own version of the 10-Year War.
For now, Harbaugh is 0-2 against the Team Down South even if last season's loss came by the narrowest of margins. Harbaugh said Tuesday he is over the.
"Glad that happened. Hope it motivates us next year," the coach said.
Three losses in the last four games came by a total of five points. The Orange Bowl loss to Florida State -- even if it was only 33-32 -- probably showed the Wolverines are still a bit behind in landing elite speed.
Is it possible, then, that Michigan comes into 2017 underappreciated if not under the radar? Not when the coach is Jim Harbaugh. Not when Jim Harbaugh is a big reason Nike shelled out $174 million to stamp its logo on Michigan gear.
Not when the coach plays dress up -- impersonating himself on media day.
"I don't know if we are [under the radar]," Harbaugh said. "I don't know if it matters. It's irrelevant."
That's because -- khakis and all -- it's still Michigan, and Michigan is expected to win championships. And suddenly it's Year 3 for Harbaugh already.