Jim Harbaugh’s greatest hits, NFL edition
Cheap pants, sideline freakouts and whole bunch of a winning … Jim Harbaugh’s four years as the 49ers head coach have been fun.
It’s hard to believe that after just four short, successful years, Jim Harbaugh’s time as an NFL head coach is coming to an end. Like he did with the 49ers, he’s headed back to Michigan to turn around another great football program that’s fallen on hard times.
The NFL isn’t going to be nearly as much fun as it has been since Harbaugh took the job in San Francisco in 2011. To say goodbye, we collected some of our favorite Harbaugh moments of the last four seasons. And there are a lot to catalog, so if we missed your favorite moment, drop it in the comments.
Jim vs. Jim, the handshake
Most head coaches only express frustration at their opponents through passive aggressive remarks in the post-game presser. Not Harbaugh. A Week 6 win over the Lions in 2011, his first season as head coach, prompted this legendary exchange between him and Jim Schwartz, something about Harbaugh’s handshake being too hard/celebratory.
Laser tag champ
At one of his bachelor parties, he beat all of his friends at laser tag … by hunting a 10-year-old.
He loves Judge Judy
Harbaugh is a huge Judge Judy fan, seriously. He uses the show to illustrate life lessons and coaching points to players and the media and probably anyone else listening to him. In fact, he’s such a huge fan of the show, he and his father sat in the audience for a taping of America’s favorite small claims courtroom reality show.
Depth charts, the Harbaugh way
Once upon a time, in 2012, Harbaugh was deciding between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Rather than be forced to give opponents a clue, he added a little something to the official depth chart.
Showing some skin
Sure, his belly popped out during the aforementioned tussle with Jim Schwartz, but Harbaugh continued to show the world what’s under that black sweatshirt this season, too.
Richard Sherman claims that Harbaugh honked his horn and waved at the Seattle Seahawks team bus after beating them at Candlestick in Oct. 2012. Harbaugh denied it, but, you know, print the legend. At any rate, the Seahawks used it as motivation to beat them later that season, one more chapter in the league’s best rivalry.
A younger Harbaugh once gave a quarterback seminar to a group of coaches, long before taking the 49ers job. This was actually during his days coaching at the University of San Francisco. Among the talking points was the proper hand placement in relation to the “center’s asshole.”
But the real highlight was when he got excited and broke the overhead projector.
The 2013 NFC Championship
We could seriously do a whole page of Harbaugh freakout GIFs and videos, but we care about your data plan and load time too much. However, this one will always have a place in the big book of Harbaugh. His sideline tantrum during the 2013 NFC Championship game against the Falcons became the stuff of legend. The refs ruled that Harry Douglas made a tight sideline catch. Harbaugh disagreed.
That prompted spinoffs.
Playing the drums
I once heard that Einstein had seven of the exact same outfits in his closet, taking away whatever time he would have wasted trying to decide what to wear. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but there must be something to geniuses and the clothes they wear. Harbaugh’s uniform of choice revolves around a pair of $8 khakis from Walmart, something he revealed during the last NFL Combine.
Spencer Hall tried out Harbaugh’s pants of choice, putting them through the ringer.
Project Runway: Harbaugh. pic.twitter.com/xJgnccnr6z
— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) January 15, 2014
A person with an average-sized ass would disappear inside a pair of George Slacks, creating the ultimate in theoretical pants physics: Schrodinger’s Ass.
The 2014 NFC divisional round
This game really tops them all; it was peak Harbaugh. The 49ers beat the Panthers in this game, maybe because of Jim Harbaugh’s antics?
Man of letters
Richard Sherman’s post-game interview is the one everybody remembers, for good reason. But Pam Oliver caught up with a reflective Harbaugh after the 49ers lost for one of the weirdest one-on-ones in recent memory.
“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Yep, that’s Harbaugh quoting Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea.”
It’s easy to go on and on about all the freakouts, cheap pants, awkward interviews, etc., but that’s only part of the story. He’s been wildly successful as an NFL head coach (which makes this whole thing that much more difficult to understand).
When the 49ers hired Harbaugh in 2011, the team had not finished with a winning record since 2002. They were coming off a 6-10 season that saw Mike Singletary get fired during the year. Everyone had high hopes for Harbaugh, but nobody expected him to lead the team to a 13-3 record in his first year at the helm. He took them all the way to the NFC Championship that year, the first of three straight appearances playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. And he did it with Alex Smith at quarterback.
He won the NFL Coach of the Year award in his first season with the 49ers.
The 49ers made it the Super Bowl the next season, losing to the Baltimore Ravens. You probably remember that game because he was coaching against his brother, John, a pretty historic moment by any measure.
He’s 5-3 in the playoffs, which is pretty incredible for three seasons worth of work. By comparison, 20-year veteran head coach Jeff Fisher has a 5-6 record in the playoffs. Maybe it’s just the NFL’s infuriating knack for being overly conservative about everything, but it’s impossible not to look at Harbaugh leaving San Francisco as a reminder that the league has weird hangups about success.
Harbaugh is only 51. He can keep coaching in college or the NFL for a long time. We’re in for more fun over the years.