Sunday, April 26, 2015

Is Jim Harbaugh, Perfect?

The “game” of football is alive and well. Ohio State reportedly had some 99,000 of its fans attend its spring game in Columbus, surpassing the 80,000 or so who watched Nick Sabin’s Alabama Tides spring game. By comparison, Michigan had maybe 50 to 60,000 fans watching Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines in their spring game, in Ann Arbor. As far as professional football, the upcoming NFL draft has the various sports stations and blogs buzzing about the pros and cons of the various college players expected to make a splash at this next level. Not only that, but Tim Tebow’s recent signing by the Philadelphia Eagles created much excitement for all the many Eagles fans.

There are also articles related to Jim Harbaugh’s coaching of the San Francisco 49ers. And, Harbaugh’s going to be on HBO to talk about his leaving the San Francisco 49ers in December, 2014. This past week, San Francisco defensive lineman Alex Boone talked about Harbaugh wearing out his welcome with the 49ers. While Chris Culliver who spent four seasons with the Niners before signing with the Redskins came to his rescue by saying he was a good coach and that players shouldn’t criticize him after that fact. He went on to say that you may not like Harbaugh, but you have to respect him for what he accomplished while with the Niners.

There are some who think that Jim Harbaugh is more suited to coach the college game compared to the Pro game. Well it’s true that Harbaugh had great success at the University of San Diego and Stanford and is also true that he had great success with the 49ers. His college tenure was longer with his two college teams than, with his one pro team. Also, some are concerned that his personality may get in the way of his coaching.

It is clear that in today’s football world, competition runs high. Regardless of the level, a coach’s longevity is related to its won and loss record period. Coaches character, getting along with management and media, and filling up the Stadium might not get him fired but will not get him a long-term contract extension.

Going back to 1968, the University of Michigan’s Bump Elliott was described as being dapper, well dressed, extremely articulate, pleasantly personable and extremely knowledgeable about the sport of football. Elliott was a handsome man that lettered [12] in football, basketball and baseball. He propelled the Wolverines to a 49-0 Rose Bowl victory in 1948; became Michigan’s head coach in 1959, and coached the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon State University in 1965. Not only that his 1968 team had an eight win and two loss record. However, the second loss was to Ohio State by the score of 50-14. Simply put, that loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in the Elliott firing. Some might question, what does this have to do with Jim Harbaugh?

Coach Elliott’s replacement was Bo Schembechler. Schembechler’s character was described as narcissistic, authoritarian, controlling, competitive, intense, angry, poor impulse control, excessive aggression on the practice field and on the playing field. Coach Schembechler also had the pleasure of inculcating and beating down, a young quarterback with the name of Jim Harbaugh in the 1980s. Actually, Harbaugh as a preteen [Jim’s father Jack was hired by Bo and coached the defensive backfield] witnessed Bo Schembechler verbally and physically getting on his Wolverine squad, while running after errant footballs. Bo Schembechler did not fear anyone at the University of Michigan, as evidenced by his interactions with the presidents of the University. Anyone becoming president at the University quickly realized how powerful the head coach was. However, the current head coach at the University Michigan is under the leadership of the president. With that being the case, coach Harbaugh is not have the same latitude and power as coach Schembechler.

Jim Harbaugh’s character can easily be described as narcissistic, authoritarian, controlling, competitive and intense In no uncertain terms on the field. He rules, he knows the game, and he knows what he wants. Will he rub the wrong people in unflattering ways- more than likely? Will he be criticized-more than likely? Will his tenure be as long as Bo Schembechler’s- possibly not? And will he have a statue positioned in front of a hall named after him- possibly not?

Jim Harbaugh has all the character qualities that make him a winning football coach at the top level. He is smart, football knowledgeable and demands excellence. However, there is no certainty or guarantee, even if he does have character traits like Bo Schembechler that Jim Harbaugh can be as successful as Bo. The only guarantees in life is that we are born and we will die.

 Any recruit joining Coach Jim Harbaugh can expect not to be pampered, receive unconditional love and to be held accountable to Jim’s standards. No crybabies or whiners apply. One better have a thick skin and hold their narcissism in check because if they’re looking just to be praised and admired, they better play the game like the superstars [Reggie McKenzie, Thom Darden, Tom Curtis, Dan Dierdorf, etc.] of years past.

Coach Urban Meyer has a national championship team looking to repeat and so he has a head start. I believe you can catch him Jim and hopefully this year. Remember, it is not guaranteed.

Go Blue Go!

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