Jim Harbaugh and P.J. Fleck are not only among the 23 finalists for this year’s American Heart Association Paul “Bear” Bryant Award for Coach of the Year, they are among the front-runners

Who should win the Coach of the Year award: Michigan's Jim Harbaugh or Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck?

It's early, so things can change, but it's hard to imagine Jim Harbaugh or P.J. Fleck could have gotten their teams off to a better start. Not only are both teams undefeated, but both teams are set up well for future success this season and beyond.

Jim Harbaugh took over an underachieving, but talented Michigan team last year. He immediately turned the team around. This season, Michigan is performing even better as they sit at #2 in the polls. Harbaugh has improved both Michigan's recruiting and Michigan's play.

P.J. Fleck went 1-11 with Western Michigan in 2013, his first year as head coach. WMU was 4-8 in 2012, the year before he arrived. After going 8-5 in 2014 and 2015, Fleck has WMU football in the best spot in school history. They currently are ranked #20. They had never been ranked before this season. Fleck is 35 years old which makes him the second youngest FBS college football head coach in the country. His name comes up frequently when other head coach openings are discussed.

Harbaugh and Fleck have a lot in common.

  • Michigan and Western Michigan are both undefeated. Only nine undefeated teams remain. A computer simulation thinks the teams are among the most likely to finish the regular season without a loss.
  • They are just getting settled into their jobs. Harbaugh is in his second year at Michigan. Fleck is in his fourth year at WMU.
  • They are well-paid. Harbaugh will earn at least $9 million this year making him the highest paid college football coach in the country. Alabama's Nick Saban is the second highest at $6.9 million. Fleck will make at least $800,000 this year, the highest in the Mid-American Conference, and WMU is looking for ways to give him a raise.
  • They love catchphrases and mantras and doing things their own way. Harbaugh brings "an enthusiasm unknown to mankind" and Fleck loves to "row the boat".

Who has done a better job this season? At this point, it's a toss-up. Both coaches receive an A+. If Michigan finds its way to the national championship or WMU lands a New Year's Six bowl, that decision may become a little easier. Although I wouldn't bet against both of those scenarios playing out.