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Monday, December 29, 2014

Jim Harbaugh: Exit, Pursued by a Wolverine

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM

click to enlarge NOOOOOOOO-BODY!
The Jim Harbaugh era of the San Francisco 49ers football franchise ended with neither a bang nor a whimper but whatever sound it is that's released by a convenient lie. 

Harbaugh and team owner Jed York yesterday confirmed what was long apparent — the coach won't be returning in 2015. The lie was that this was a "mutual decision" made in both men's "mutual best interest." 

This statement does to the English language what a recent Congressional report reveals our intelligence services did to men in deep, dark dungeons. Credit, however, for not evoking the notion of the coach leaving his job to spend more time with his family. One rarely accepts a job and gushes about spending less time with family.

Harbaugh will return to the spectacularly lucrative womb, accepting the top job at his alma mater, Michigan, for a purported six-year, $48 million deal. That's an obscene amount of money for a football coach at a state school to earn but, it would seem, it means a lot for the Maize and Blue to beat Ohio State.  

In short, it's a troubling time to be a 49ers fan. Is Harbaugh far and away the best coach available at either the collegiate or pro level? Certainly. Was his reign far and away more successful than any coach since George Seifert or Steve Mariucci? Certainly. 

Was his tenure with the 49ers untenable? Was this season a nightmarish slog of poor play and out-and-out criminality? 


Harbaugh's caffeinated persona and good looks mask his age: He's 51 years old. Yes, that was him on Saved by the Bell. In coaching terms, Harbaugh is both young and old. He's old enough that he's not apt to change his ways and his formula and young enough that no job he's had or will have should be considered his definitive "last" job.

That said, he moves around a lot. He was at the University of San Diego for only three seasons (they were very successful). He was at Stanford for only four seasons (they were very successful). And he was at the helm of the 49ers for only four seasons (they were very successful, until they weren't.). 

As a head coach, Harbaugh has pulled teams out of the muck. But he's never pulled teams out of the muck created on his watch. For whatever reason, he's never stuck around long enough to need to. And now he's off to Michigan where, if the pattern holds, he'll be very successful. And then leave. 

As a fan and an outsider, it was easy to embrace the success Harbaugh brought with him. He was, obviously, a fine tactician. But he wasn't merely directing his troops from atop a distant hill. He has a rah-rah persona that, perhaps, is better suited for college and collegiate players of a collegiate age. 

Along similar lines, Harbaugh's abrasiveness and out-and-out pro wrestler-like behavior was a lot easier to stomach when the team was winning and fewer of his players were being hauled in by local police forces. 

Well, that's done with. That'll be the fleeting thought in the back of the minds of 100,000 fans in The Big House as they watch their Wolverines line up against the Buckeyes and bellow WHO'S GOT IT BETTER THAN US? NOOOOOOOO-BODY! after the wins.

The success Harbaugh begat enabled the team to construct a $1.3 billion Taj Mahal in Santa Clara, and flee this city. And now Harbaugh has fled, too. Fun while it lasted. 

In other news, pitchers and catchers report in February. That's the great thing about being a San Franciscan. You're never at a loss for things to see, things to do, things to fall in love with. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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