Football

Jim Harbaugh Cements His New Legacy as a Michigan Legend

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For the second year in a row, Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines didn’t just beat Ohio State they buried them in Columbus. The final score finished at 45-23 after a close first half. Michigan outscored the Buckeyes 28-3 in the second half with a ground assault from Donovan Edwards even with Blake Corum out. Jim Harbaugh out coached Ryan Day in every aspect in the second half of football and has begun to cement a new legacy both Ann Arbor and the Big Ten as a Michigan Legend.

Many people, specifically Ohio fans felt that it was “a blip” when Michigan beat them last year 42-28 with a similar game plan of running the football and physical defense. Ohio State likes a track meet when they play football. Meaning they like to score fast with explosive plays, and they score in bunches. Michigan was like a boa constrictor, slowly squeezing the life out of Ohio in the second half. 

Harbaugh’s Player Legacy

Jim Harbaugh has been successful everywhere he has gone as a player and coach. As a player, he excelled as California high school quarterback in Palo Alto. He started three seasons at Michigan under legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. He finished third in Heisman voting during his senior season along with a Rose Bowl Victory.

That success led to Harbaugh being drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears. He became known as “Captain Comeback” while winning the Comeback Player of the Year in 1995 leading the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC Championship and a hail mary throw from going to the Super Bowl. He then bounced around teams until his retirement in 2001.

Harbaugh’s College Legacy

Even while handling his duties as an NFL quarterback, Jim worked as a volunteer assistant at Western Kentucky, who was coached by his father, Jack Harbaugh. He assisted with Midwest scouting during his free time. Once he completed his NFL career, he wasted no time by jumping into coaching as he was hired by Oakland (now Las Vegas) as their QB coach to help Rich Gannon.

Gannon won the MVP that season and represented the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVII. That success led to getting his head coaching job at University of San Diego. He led them to a record of 29-6 in three full seasons. Harbaugh then took over, at the time, a dead Stanford program. He completely turned around the program and brought them to an Orange Bowl victory in 2010 while being led by Andrew Luck.

Jim Harbaugh Goes To The NFL

After the proving himself in the college ranks, Harbaugh was offered the head coaching position for the San Francisco 49ers to replace outgoing Mike Singletary. Jim wasted no time making them contenders by getting to the NFC Championship game in his rookie season and the following 2 seasons. He did lose Super Bowl XLVII to of all people, his brother John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens. Harbaugh left after his 4th season where he went 8-8 after a reported power struggle between himself and 49ers GM Trent Baalke.

Harbaugh Returns to Ann Arbor to Become a Michigan Legend

“Project Unicorn” was the name that former Michigan AD James Hackett called for his quest to bring Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor. As it was obviously a success, Harbaugh has not been without criticism during his 8-year tenure. While his current record at his alma mater is an impressive 73-24, Harbaugh struggled in big games in the beginning. Before winning against Ohio State in the 2021 season, Harbaugh was 0-5 against Ohio State.

Which legendary NFL defense would love to resurrect?

1985 Chicago Bears

1985 Chicago Bears

1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

2000 Baltimore Ravens

2000 Baltimore Ravens

2002 Tampa Bay Bucs

2002 Tampa Bay Bucs

1986 New York Giants

1986 New York Giants

2013 Seattle Seahawks

2013 Seattle Seahawks

He was 3-4 against Michigan State, 11-16 against ranked teams and was 2-12 against top 10 teams. In fact, the majority of the fanbase wanted him fired due to poor big game performance. With patience, Harbaugh has righted the ship with a 24-2 record these past two seasons, while going 1-1 against MSU and 2-0 against Ohio State. Harbaugh won his first outright Big Ten title as a coach and they also represented the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff for the first time in programs history.

Future for the Michigan Legend

With success comes the buzz about his future aspirations. Jim Harbaugh has, without a doubt, finally turned around this Michigan football program. He has not only turned it around on the field but in all aspects. On the field and in the classroom. His top players are getting drafted in the NFL in bunches and now the buzz has returned for Harbaugh’s NFL return. Make no mistake, Jim Harbaugh loves his alma mater and being the head coach of this football program, but he is also incredibly competitive.

He has stated in the past that he wants one more shot at the NFL because his brother has a Super Bowl ring, and he does not. He flirted with the Minnesota Vikings last season. So much so that he thought he was coming in as a formality, only to find out it was a true interview. He later told Michigan AD Warde Manuel that he will be the Michigan coach for “as long as I am wanted” and signed a new contract extension. Unlike his rival, Ryan Day, who was handed a championship level program and has “kept the car rolling,” Harbaugh has been patient and kept fine tuning the program to constantly improve until it was ready to be shown off to the world.

Well, that time is now. He has improved his roster, his coaching staff and most importantly, himself. He will surely have interest from multiple NFL teams (including Indianapolis) and it will be up to him as to how he wants to continue his coaching legacy.

Where do you think Jim Harbaugh ranks among the Michigan legends?

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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