College football fans are likely well aware of outspoken University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
They may also know Harbaugh from his days as coach of the San Francisco 49ers and meeting his brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, in Super Bowl XLVII.
However, unless those fans are really knowledgeable, they may not know that Harbaugh played quarterback at the University of Michigan.
He also suited up for the Chicago Bears as a first-round pick in 1987 and pushed “Punky QB” Jim McMahon for playing time.
Jim Harbaugh days until the NFL draft! #Bears pic.twitter.com/xzd1KOWo1y
— majix (@MrMajix) April 23, 2023
Then, as a signal caller for the Indianapolis Colts, Harbaugh was known as “Captain Comeback” for nearly leading the franchise to Super Bowl XXX.
While still playing in the NFL, Harbaugh began planning his second career as a football coach.
This is the story of Jim Harbaugh.
James Joseph Harbaugh was born on December 23, 1963, in Toledo, Ohio.
Jim and his older brother, John, had their future planned from the very beginning.
That’s because their father, Jack, was a career football coach. The sport was in the Harbaughs’ blood.
By the time the Harbaugh family (which included younger sister Joan) moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1973, Jack Harbaugh was already a well-established high school and college coach.
Before landing in Michigan, Jack Harbaugh was an assistant at the University of Iowa and was hired by the Wolverines to be the defensive backs coach.
While Coach Harbaugh was molding several Wolverine DBs into All-Americans, Jim and John were beginning their own football careers.
At the time, the boys were two years apart in school but were starting to make names for themselves on the gridiron.
Jim Harbaugh, QB of the Ann Arbor Junior Packers in 1974 (via @annarbornews) pic.twitter.com/wOoutnhRuS
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 23, 2014
Jim and John played for a local youth team called the Ann Arbor Junior Packers. It quickly became evident to teammates that there was something different about the Harbaugh brothers.
“They were very intense and very competitive right from the start,” said former teammate David Thayer. “If we ran around the entire practice field, they were vying to be in the front of the line. It was pretty incredible right from the start.”
The Harbaughs then played for Tappan Middle School with Jim playing quarterback and John playing defensive back.
Harbaugh Becomes a Starter
In 1979, John Harbaugh was a starter for his senior year with the Pioneer High School Pioneers.
Meanwhile, Jim began the season as a junior varsity backup quarterback, but he wouldn’t be there for long.
Happy #TBT Jim Harbaugh! Get tix to our Pioneer Hall of Fame induction https://t.co/bHV0ltiPgi @michiganinsider pic.twitter.com/9xFovoxJ92
— Liz Crowe (@LizCroweAuthor) February 4, 2016
Just as the ‘79 season kicked off, John Harbaugh injured his knee and was absent for six games.
While his brother was on the sidelines, Jim Harbaugh became the JV starting quarterback.
“He [Jim] came back and earned his way into a starting position,” JV coach Paul Fuehrer said. “He’s a competitor, he’s not going to sit down, he’s a fighter. All of the things that you want in an athlete when you’re coaching football.”
Harbaugh continued to push for a place on the varsity team and found ways to impress the Pioneer coaches with his arm.
“Paul called to me and said, ‘The kid said he thinks he can throw it 40 or 50 yards,’” Nick Genova, an assistant coach, said. “I said, ‘Well let’s let him try.’ And away it went, man. I said, ‘Wow, we’ve got something different here.’”
Jim quickly set the tone on the JV team and was full of self-determination and a heightened knowledge of the game, thanks to his father.
“He kind of had a little air about him, you might say,” Fuehrer said. “He and his brother, they were like having extra coaches on the field. They knew the game really well, they related to other players in a positive way.”
Harbaugh continued to move up the Pioneers’ depth chart while the varsity team began 0-2 partly because John Harbaugh was out.
In order to give the program a jump start, head coach Chuck Ritter installed Jim as the quarterback for the Pioneers’ fourth game.
The decision was immediately noticeable.
“I think it would be fair to say that everybody probably on the team knew that Jim Harbaugh, as a sophomore, had very strong talent for that age,” said John Minick, whom Harbaugh beat out. “It was not a surprise, there was no animosity.”
As the ‘79 season was drawing to a close, John Harbaugh returned from his injury. The brothers were finally able to realize their dream of being high school teammates for a few weeks.
By the end of the year, Ritter believed that Jim Harbaugh was the future of the Pioneers’ program.
“He’s going to be a good one,” Ritter told the Ann Arbor News. “Certainly, he has a lot to learn, but he’s shown good poise for a sophomore quarterback.”
The Harbaughs Move to California
Just as Coach Ritter was planning a pass-heavy offense around his soon-to-be junior quarterback, Jack Harbaugh accepted a job as the defensive coordinator at Stanford University.
John Harbaugh graduated from Pioneer at the same time and headed to Miami University of Ohio where he played defensive back.
The rest of the Harbaugh family moved to Palo Alto, California in 1980, where Jim established himself as the Palo Alto High School starting quarterback.
Jim Harbaugh was born in Toledo, Ohio. The family lived in Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan, and California. He attended high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Palo Alto, California. He graduation from high school in Palo Alto in 1982
— Cincykid (@rayfairbanks) December 23, 2021
During his time as the Vikings’ starter, Harbaugh passed for totals of 2,903 yards and 34 touchdowns and was voted All-League.
“He was incredibly competitive then, and that does not seem to have changed over the years,” former Palo Alto teammate Todd Thiemann said.
Harbaugh also played basketball and baseball for Palo Alto, averaging nearly 20 points and ten rebounds per game on the hardwood and batted .417 on the diamond.
“The level of competitiveness that Jim brought to the table literally forced every one of us to raise our game because if you didn’t, you were going to get destroyed,” said high school teammate Nick Zaharias. “He would not allow himself to lose, and if he did lose, he’d deny that he lost.”
As a student-athlete at Palo Alto, Jim Harbaugh established himself as a three-sport stud.
However, football was his game of choice, which became evident to his prep teammates during Harbaugh’s senior year.
“We knew he was a very special athlete, too, when college scouts would come to campus asking us where he was to talk about football scholarship offers,” said former hoops teammate Mike Parr.
Harbaugh Returns to Michigan
After two years as defensive coordinator at Stanford, Jack Harbaugh left the Cardinal in 1982 to become the head coach at Western Michigan.
John Harbaugh was still playing for Miami of Ohio at the time, and Jim Harbaugh had scholarship offers from around the country.
Jack Harbaugh’s former Michigan boss, Bo Schembechler, was also interested in Jim, and Harbaugh accepted the offer to become a Wolverine.
As a freshman in 1982, Harbaugh was the third-string signal caller and sat on the bench.
Since he saw no playing time that year, Harbaugh was given a redshirt season so he could suit up for four more years.
During the 1983 season, Harbaugh was still number three on the depth chart and had just five pass attempts for 26 yards.
Then-QB, now-coach Jim Harbaugh leads the Wolverines to a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin during the 1984 season. #ThrowbackThursday pic.twitter.com/TTLxLOjqSj
— University of Michigan (@UMich) November 16, 2017
Then, in 1984, Schembechler named Harbaugh his starter. The sophomore helped lead the Wolverines to a 22-14 upset of the top-ranked University of Miami in the first game of the year.
Four weeks later, Michigan was 3-1 and playing in-state rival Michigan State when Harbaugh broke his arm diving for a fumble.
The injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Michigan suffered in his absence, ending the year 6-6.
As a sophomore, Harbaugh passed for 718 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Harbaugh Leads the Nation
In 1985, Harbaugh’s arm had fully healed, and he took college football by storm.
#RT @MichiganHist: UM Quarterback Jim Harbaugh vs Notre Dame in 1985 (Bentley Historical Library)#Umichhttps://t.co/yHeTLkuMSe pic.twitter.com/hSpahdCmtd
— Peace Love Michigan (@PeaceLoveMI) October 27, 2019
One week after losing to top-ranked Iowa by two points, Harbaugh set a Wolverines single-game record by throwing for 283 yards against Indiana.
“Records are nice, but everything we do here is team oriented,” said Harbaugh after the game. “Everyone’s telling me about the record, but they should tell it to Paul Jokisch and Eric Kattus and John Kolesar. They caught the passes.”
After tying the University of Illinois, 3-3, on November 2, Michigan won the rest of its games to finish 10-1-1 and end the year ranked second overall.
Harbaugh scored two touchdowns on the ground in the team’s 27-23 Fiesta Bowl win against Nebraska.
During the ‘85 season, Harbaugh passed for 1,976 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions while also rushing for 139 yards and four more scores.
His 163.7 pass efficiency rating was the best in the country and would remain an NCAA single-season record for over a decade.
Harbaugh Guarantees a Win
Harbaugh’s senior year in 1986 got off to a fantastic start with a 9-0 record and victories over the likes of Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan State, and Iowa.
Against Wisconsin on October 4, Harbaugh became the first Wolverine signal caller to pass for over 300 yards in a contest.
Then on November 15, the unranked University of Minnesota came to Ann Arbor and shocked the Wolverines, 20-17.
With their national title hopes dashed, Harbaugh angrily predicted a win against rival Ohio State the following week.
“I guarantee we will beat Ohio State and be in Pasadena New Year’s Day,” Harbaugh said to reporters. “People might not give us a snowball’s chance in hell to beat them in Columbus. But we’re going to.”
His outspoken prediction startled locals, and Harbaugh’s teammates cast a wary eye at how Schembechler would respond.
“Very few people during Bo’s era would have broken ranks and spoke out like that. Harbaugh was very distinctive that way. I can think of very, very, very few other players that would do that,” recalled Geoff Larcom, a local writer at the time. “He was a beacon of brazen confidence. A lot of other kids may have thought that way, but never would speak out like that. Harbaugh was one fearless cat.”
During the contest, Harbaugh threw two picks but also completed all but ten of his passes as Michigan won 26-24.
This week in 1986, Jim Harbaugh guaranteed his Michigan Wolverines would beat Ohio State https://t.co/bidWhFwC23 pic.twitter.com/uO8vZ2yul8
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) November 22, 2016
After a win against Hawaii closed the regular season, Harbaugh and the Wolverines lost to Arizona State in the Rose Bowl to end their year at 11-2.
As a senior, Harbaugh passed for 2,729 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He also rushed for 118 yards and eight more touchdowns.
His 151.7 pass efficiency rating was second in the nation, and Harbaugh was named a first-team All-American, first-team All-Big Ten, and Big Ten MVP. He also finished third in the Heisman race.
During his college career, Harbaugh completed 387 of his 620 passes for 5,449 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 22 picks, and ran for 296 yards and 12 scores.
His attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns still rank in the top 12 in program history.
Chicago Selects Harbaugh in the First Round
In 1985, the Chicago Bears were a team of destiny as Jim McMahon, Walter Payton, and company tore through the schedule and finished 15-1.
Chicago then blistered their two playoff opponents, the New York Giants and LA Rams, by a combined 45-0 before crushing New England, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX.
A year later, the Bears went 14-2 but lost McMahon for all but six games due to a shoulder injury.
McMahon’s absence led to a heartbreaking loss to Washington in the Divisional round.
The 1987 Chicago team still had its core group from the Super Bowl, but management shocked its fan base. It selected Harbaugh with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft.
With the 26th pick of the 1987 #NFLDraft – the #Bears took Quarterback Jim Harbaugh of the University Of Michigan. pic.twitter.com/FGDCWcU6tQ
— Chicago History ™️ (@Chicago_History) April 26, 2016
During the draft, the Harbaugh family had gathered around the television to see where Jim would play next.
Harbaugh didn’t expect to hear his name called right away and dozed off while still wearing his pajamas.
Suddenly, the phone rang near the end of the first round and Harbaugh jumped up to answer it.
”We didn’t know who he was talking to,” said Jack Harbaugh. “We heard him say, `I’d love to play for your team.` Then silence. He finally cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and said, `It`s Michael McCaskey from the Bears. He says they`re thinking of drafting me, but to hold on because it’s down to me and another player.` It seemed like it took a day until we heard something again.”
While Harbaugh was on hold, the brain trust in the Bears’ war room was torn between Harbaugh and Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Alex Gordon.
Gordon was Coach Mike Ditka’s preferred choice, but the health of McMahon remained a lingering issue.
At long last, the team let Harbaugh know he was their guy.
”Pandemonium broke out,” Jack Harbaugh said. ”He never thought he’d have to go somewhere today. He came home with only the clothes on his back. He didn’t have much to wear to Chicago.”
After the announcement, the Bears explained the pick.
”We are uncertain about McMahon`s health,” said Bears Personnel Director Bill Tobin. ”He hasn’t been doing what we thought he’d be doing at this time.”
Although he was overruled on his choice, even Ditka affirmed the pick.
”Over a period of time, we feel Jim Harbaugh will produce,” said Ditka. ”I don`t know if it will be this season. We hope we can justify this pick.”
Harbaugh Waits a While
Reached for comment after his selection by the Bears, Harbaugh was pumped.
”I`m excited to join a great organization and just to have the opportunity to compete,” said Harbaugh. ”I`ll play hard. A back-up is sometimes only an injury away from playing.”
He reported for training camp in 1987 and was one of five quarterbacks on the preseason roster that included McMahon, Mike Tomczak, and Doug Flutie.
He made the team, but Harbaugh was third string behind McMahon and Tomczak.
In his rookie year, Harbaugh saw just enough playing time to pass for 62 yards.
As Chicago won 12 games in 1988 and advanced to the NFC Championship game, Harbaugh started twice and threw for 514 yards and two interceptions.
Before the 1989 season, McMahon had worn out his stay in the Windy City, and the Bears traded him to the San Diego Chargers.
That meant Tomczak and Harbaugh were in line for the top spot.
THROWBACK THURSDAY: LA Rams at Chicago Bears, Oct. 29, 1989 – Jim Harbaugh is crushed by Rams tackle Alvin Wright pic.twitter.com/29e8VG8FsL
— Pablo Pereira (@PabloWeather) December 6, 2013
Tomczak was named Chicago’s starter out of training camp, but Harbaugh came on in relief and started five games of his own.
He passed for 1,204 yards, five touchdowns, and nine picks during the ‘89 season.
A Full-Time Starter at Last
Before the 1990 season, Ditka named Harbaugh his starter.
Harbaugh hit the ground running and led the Bears to a 10-2 start before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Without Harbaugh, Chicago ended the ‘90 season 11-5 and lost in a 31-3 blowout to the Giants in the Divisional round.
In 1991, Harbaugh stayed healthy the entire year and started all 16 games, a first for a Bears quarterback.
1991: Last time #Bears #Jets met on #MNF, CHI had a comeback win after Jim Harbaugh scored a game-winning TD in OT pic.twitter.com/L3Div0DXR1
— uSTADIUM App (@uSTADIUM) September 22, 2014
He led Chicago to an 11-5 season while passing for 3,121 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions (a career-high).
Then, in his first-ever postseason start, Harbaugh couldn’t help the Bears in a 17-13 loss to Dallas in the Wild Card round.
Ditka Throws a Tantrum
Chicago and Harbaugh began the 1992 season with a last-second victory over Detroit on a Harbaugh pass to receiver Tom Waddle with one second remaining.
The Bears would then lose two straight before rebounding to beat Atlanta.
One week later, the team was in Minnesota, putting a beating on the Vikings, 20-0, midway through the third quarter.
As the quarter wound down, Harbaugh had the offense driving for another score when he called an audible.
Bears running back Neal Anderson didn’t hear the call due to the deafening noise in the Metrodome and didn’t run his pass pattern correctly.
The result was an errant Harbaugh pass to where Anderson should have been and into the waiting arms of Minnesota safety Todd Scott.
Scott returned the interception for a touchdown, cutting the Chicago lead to 20-7.
VikeFans presents "You Asked for It"- Fan requests: Greg Aker asked for the 1992 Mike Ditka blowup on Jim Harbaugh when Jim tossed a Pick 6 to put the Vikings back in the game. Originally our #10 greatest Viking comeback, here is the meltdown of coach & Bear team.@akesNpains1 pic.twitter.com/qHENcYVuOc
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) July 8, 2021
Television cameras showed Ditka drilling into Harbaugh on the sidelines and chastising the quarterback for changing the play.
Things got even worse when Minnesota continued scoring in the fourth quarter and came back for a 21-20 win.
Chicago would end the year 5-11. Mike Ditka was fired.
Harbaugh Leaves Chicago
Dave Wannstedt took over the Bears in 1993 and led the franchise to seven wins.
Harbaugh started 15 games and passed for 2,002 yards, seven touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
During the offseason, Wannstedt signed former Lions quarterback Erik Kramer. This meant Harbaugh’s time in Chicago was at an end.
He wasn’t out of a job for long. The Indianapolis Colts signed Harbaugh to compete against former Packer Don Majkowski.
In 1994, Harbaugh started nine games and threw for 1,440 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions while the Colts went 8-8.
Before the 1995 season, Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda named Harbaugh as his starter.
Indianapolis then began the season 0-1 after a loss in overtime to the Cincinnati Bengals.
In Week 2, it looked like another long season as the Colts were losing to the New York Jets 24-3 halfway through the third quarter.
At that point, Harbaugh had had enough and lit a fire under his teammates.
By the end of the game, Indy had evened its record with a gutty 27-24 overtime win.
After a 1-1 split in their next two games, the Colts faced undefeated Miami and were getting pounded at halftime, 24-3.
That’s when Harbaugh and the Indy defense took over, blanked the Fins 21-0 in the second half, and shocked the world with a 27-24 overtime win.
As the season progressed, the Colts won games they shouldn’t have. Harbaugh became known as “Captain Comeback” for his ability to pull victory from defeat.
Fun fact. Jim Harbaugh was known as "Captain Comeback" during his time as the Colts QB. pic.twitter.com/8qkUiTr49i
— FB_Helmet_Guy (@FB_Helmet_Guy) November 15, 2020
However, the squad also lost a number of close games and was barely hanging on to their postseason hopes before facing New England in Week 17.
The contest was a low-scoring affair, but the Colts prevailed, 10-7, to finish the year 9-7 and claim a Wild Card spot.
Harbaugh was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year and voted to his only Pro Bowl after passing for 2,575 yards, a career-high 17 touchdowns and a 100.7 passer rating (which also led the NFL), and five interceptions.
In the playoffs, the Colts dispatched the San Diego Chargers on the road and then upset the top-seeded Chiefs, 10-7, in Kansas City.
The 1995 AFC Championship Game
With their win against the Chiefs, the Colts appeared in a championship game for the first time since the franchise was in Baltimore.
Indy made its way to Pittsburgh to meet the 11-5 Steelers. Not many outsiders gave the Colts a chance.
Instead, the Colts led 6-3 just before halftime until Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O’Donnell found multi-threat Kordell Stewart for a five-yard touchdown pass and a 10-6 Steeler lead.
Indy protested when replays showed that Stewart had stepped out of bounds and back onto the field before catching the ball.
Since there was no replay in the league at the time, the touchdown remained.
Jim Harbaugh, 1995 AFC Championship game…Hail Mary attempt pic.twitter.com/NJdP8M2pj6
— ⬛️🟨🏴☠️Steelermurph -🪝FAL🏴☠️🟨⬛️ (@steelermurph) July 23, 2022
In the second half, both teams traded field goals before Harbaugh hit receiver Floyd Turner for a huge 47-yard touchdown and a 16-13 Indy lead.
“Captain Comeback is at it again!” quipped NBC commentator, Dick Enberg to the TV audience.
Minutes later, Pittsburgh’s Bam Morris ran the ball in from a yard out, and the Steelers reclaimed the lead, 20-16.
Harbaugh and the Colts had barely 90 seconds left to march from their 16-yard line to paydirt.
With 22 seconds remaining, Harbaugh connected with receiver Johnnie Dawkins to reach the Pittsburgh 38-yard line.
“Don’t leave your seats, this is going to come down to the last play!” exclaimed former coach Jerry Glanville to the television viewers.
At the five-second mark, Harbaugh took the snap and sent his receivers flying to the end zone.
The Jim Harbaugh Hail Mary that ALMOST sent the #Colts to the @SuperBowl. #NFLPlayoffs (1995 AFC Championship) pic.twitter.com/iyen1sxN5W
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) January 13, 2020
He let loose a mighty heave, and somehow, the ball found its way to Colts receiver Aaron Bailey.
“He caught it!” an excited NBC commentator announced.
Unfortunately, Bailey wasn’t able to hang on to the Hail Mary and the Cardiac Colts’ miracle season ended with a 20-16 loss.
Indy Returns to the Postseason
The 1995 Colts magic carried over into early 1996 when rookie receiver Marvin Harrison joined the club.
Harbaugh found Harrison 64 times for eight touchdowns while the signal caller passed for over 2,600 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Indy began 1996 with a 4-0 record that included a Week 3 defeat of defending Super Bowl champion Dallas, 25-24.
After a Week 7 win against Baltimore and former coach Marchibroda, the Colts were flying high at 5-1.
Ray Lewis registers the first sack of his career in 1996 against then-Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh. (📷: Gene Sweeney) pic.twitter.com/L8rtXaK7bB
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) February 11, 2018
The team then suffered through a four-game losing streak before winning four of their final six to finish 9-7 and secure a Wild Card spot.
In the playoffs, Indy once again played the Steelers but there would be no drama as Pittsburgh easily advanced, 42-14.
Harbaugh Becomes a Raven, a Charger, and a Panther
Unfortunately, Captain Comeback mainly was an afterthought for the Colts in 1997.
He passed for 2,060 yards, 10 touchdowns, and four picks, but the team ended the season 3-13.
Indy’s record brought Harbaugh’s time as a Colt to an end.
The organization had the top overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and planned to use it to select either Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning to be their franchise quarterback. (The team would select Manning.)
On Valentine’s Day in 1998, the Colts traded Harbaugh to Marchibroda and the Ravens.
Harbaugh started 11 games for 6-10 Baltimore and had over 1,800 passing yards and 12 scores.
After the season, Harbaugh signed with San Diego to back up 1998 first-round pick Ryan Leaf.
Leaf ended up sustaining a season-ending injury in training camp in 1999. Harbaugh stepped in to throw for 2,761 yards (the second-highest yardage total of his career), 10 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions for the 8-8 Chargers.
Jim Harbaugh says…… 4 more days until the 2021 NFL Draft, Chargers Fans 🏈⚡️⚡️⚡️ pic.twitter.com/a8CHhh7yjg
— Brian Rick (@Chargerswin2023) April 25, 2021
Jim Harbaugh returned to San Diego in 2000 and started five games while the Chargers went 1-15.
Before the 2001 season, Harbaugh signed with Detroit, only to be cut at the end of training camp.
He then signed with the Carolina Panthers but didn’t play a down in the regular season.
After the 2001 season, Harbaugh retired.
During his career, he passed for 26,288 yards, 129 touchdowns, and 117 interceptions and added 2,787 yards on the ground with 18 rushing scores.
Harbaugh went to the Pro Bowl, was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and led the NFL in passer rating all in 1995.
In 2005, the Indianapolis Colts added Harbaugh to their Ring of Honor.
Long before his playing career ended, Harbaugh decided what he wanted to do when he retired.
His brother, John, didn’t play in the NFL after his college career. Instead, he went into coaching like his father.
Jim Harbaugh knew he also wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He spent 1994 through 2001 helping his dad at Western Kentucky (where Jack Harbaugh was the head coach) as an unpaid offensive assistant and recruiter.
After retiring from the NFL, Harbaugh became the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003. He tutored the likes of Rich Gannon while the franchise went to Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003.
Happy birthday to former #Raiders QB coach, Jim Harbaugh, December 23, 1963. pic.twitter.com/eoGKMjapLE
— AFL Godfather #🟦🏴☠️👓🏈 (@NFLMAVERICK) December 23, 2022
Before the 2004 college football season, the University of San Diego, an FCS program, hired Harbaugh as the head coach.
In three years at the school, he led the Toreros to a 29-6 overall record that included back-to-back 11-1 seasons in 2005 and 2006.
The program also played in the Gridiron Classic postseason game after the 2006 season and beat Monmouth University 27-7.
Harbaugh Is Called Out
Harbaugh’s record with the Toreros got him an interview at Stanford. He became the head coach of the Cardinal before the 2007 season.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Harbaugh, who had played two years of prep ball in the area when his dad was defensive coordinator for Stanford in 1980 and 1981.
Just as he had done at the University of San Diego, Harbaugh helped improve the program quickly.
The Cardinal went from 4-8 in his first year to 12-1 and an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2010.
During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Harbaugh tutored Andrew Luck, who would pass for over 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2010.
Jim Harbaugh coached two Heisman Trophy runner ups during his four years at Stanford; Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart. pic.twitter.com/AJby3NAyI9
— Rob White (@isportsRob) June 15, 2015
While he was at Stanford, Harbaugh got himself into hot water with the University of Michigan alums when he compared Michigan academics to the academic program at Stanford.
“Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in, and when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them,” Harbaugh said in 2007.
That created an intense backlash from several prominent Wolverine players and coaches who claimed that Harbaugh was “not a Michigan man.”
San Francisco 49ers and Coaching Against John
Harbaugh’s ascent through the coaching ranks was swift.
His success with the Cardinal led the San Francisco 49ers to hire Harbaugh in 2011.
Before he arrived, the Niners had gone 6-10 in 2010.
In his first year with the club, Harbaugh worked with quarterbacks Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick as San Fran went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC Championship game before losing.
On November 24 of that year, Harbaugh faced his big brother, John, who had been the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens since 2008.
John Harbaugh got the best of his sibling, 16-6.
The following year, the Niners went 11-4-1 and beat Green Bay and Atlanta in the playoffs before the Harbaughs met each other in Super Bowl XLVII.
2013 gave us the "Harbaugh Bowl" where brothers John and Jim Harbaugh went head to head in Super Bowl XLVII.
In the end, it was older brother John and the Ravens that came out victorious 34-31. pic.twitter.com/7rHF6wFcUH
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) December 21, 2019
It was the first time in Super Bowl history that two brothers faced each other as head coaches. Initially, John’s squad was getting the best of Jim’s club.
When the third quarter kicked off, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones took the kick 108 yards to the house for a 28-6 Ravens lead.
After the score, most of the power in the Louisiana Superdome went out. The game was delayed for over 30 minutes.
When the lights came back on, the Niners found new life. San Francisco scored 17 straight points to cut Baltimore’s lead to 28-23.
The final quarter was a battle as both teams traded scores before Baltimore hung on to win, 34-31.
In 2013, the Niners returned to the NFC Championship with Kaepernick at the helm but lost to Seattle, 23-17.
Harbaugh coached the franchise to an 8-8 record in 2014 before heading to his latest challenge.
A “Michigan Man” After All
In 2014, the Michigan Wolverines went 5-7 under fourth-year head coach Brady Hoke.
After the season, Michigan administrators fired Hoke and approached Harbaugh about taking the job.
Just a few days after Christmas in 2014, Harbaugh became the Wolverines’ head coach. Suddenly, he was a confirmed “Michigan Man” once again.
The 2015 Wolverines went 10-3 and beat Florida, 41-7, in the Citrus Bowl.
Then, between 2016 and 2019, Michigan lost no fewer than eight games and appeared in four straight bowl games (though the team lost all four).
In 2020, the Covid shortened season saw Michigan struggle to a 2-6 finish.
They rebounded in 2021 with a 12-2 record, which included Harbaugh’s first coaching win over rival Ohio State.
#TCU head coach Sonny Dykes and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh have taken the podium. pic.twitter.com/RTXNYfWYJa
— Charles Baggarly (@swaggarly) December 30, 2022
Last year, in 2022, Michigan went 13-0 for the first time in program history and played in the CFP semi-final contest against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Both teams fought fiercely before the Horned Frogs prevailed, 51-45.
As of 2023, Harbaugh continues to coach at Michigan.
Jim Harbaugh, “I’m here as long Michigan wants me…” #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/J1ryctkhnm
— Michigan Football on UMGoBlue (@UMGoBlog) February 23, 2023
Jim Harbaugh has been married twice and has seven children, including a son, Jay, who is the safeties and special teams coach at Michigan.
John Harbaugh continues to coach the Ravens. Jack Harbaugh retired from coaching after the 2009 season when he led the running backs at Stanford for Jim.
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