Tuesday, December 19, 2006

THE HARBAUGH HIRE

A deer caught in the headlights will often squint...

For once the Chronicle correctly frames an issue, in the opening paragraph of its story on the Harbaugh hire:
"Jim Harbaugh is young, energetic and charismatic. He has impressive college and NFL resumes as a player, name recognition and success at running a college football program. Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby is banking that Harbaugh's package of attributes - and not the fact that he has not been a Division 1-A coach - will be the factors that help him turn a Stanford football program stubbornly stuck in the losing column for half a decade."
We don't reject the Harbaugh hire on the grounds that he runs a glorified high school program, or that he lacks D-1A experience (not that those aren't good reasons). We apparently agree with Bowlsby that Harbaugh's lack of experience does not preclude his succeeding on the Farm. The DUI? Not a good indicator, but hardly disqualifying. The hushed rumors about skirt-chasing? Perhaps even more of a concern given Stanford's history in this area, but again not a deal-breaker.

What would trouble us if we were sipping chardonnay in Palo Alto is the fact that Jim Harbaugh has thrown himself at virtually every D-1A coaching vacancy in the past 36 months with no success. Lots of coaches are contacted by search firms and the like in the event of vacancies. Jimbo's taken the middle man out of the process by soliciting opportunities before the print is dry on the press release. It's widely known down here that Harbaugh has shopped himself like an Amsterdam hooker to anyone looking for a good time, er, coach.

And Stanford is the first school to return his embrace.

You expected Alabama and Michigan State to pass. But then Tulane wasn't interested and hired Bob Toledo. OK, you could argue that Toledo makes sense there, even if he is a bit of a retread. Iowa State wasn't interested and hired Gene Chizik. OK, we'll give him that one too - Chizik, despite having no HC experience, is very well regarded. Rice wasn't interested. They hired an assistant from Tulsa who no one had ever heard of (and who has, incidentally, turned out to be a pretty good coach).

North Texas wasn't interested. And they hired a high school coach. We can't explain that one.

And San Diego State wasn't interested. That's the one search we know something about, living as we do in Ron Burgundy's hometown. The Aztec brass returned Harbaugh's calls and had a meeting, but things never became serious and they ultimately hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck Long.

In fairness, that hire was made when the DUI was fresh news, but it still raises important questions. Why would State - a moribund program desperate to generate student and alumni interest - pass on a former NFL star who had taken the Chargers to the playoffs?
  • It's not his personality - Harbaugh has twice the charisma of Chuck Long, who is less exciting than a tuna fish sandwich.
  • It's not the DUI - SDSU offered that job to Mike Price and talked to Dennis Erickson, so it's safe to say they weren't looking for a choirboy.
  • It's not the lack of experience - Long was 42, had never been a HC, and was about to be run out of town by Sooner fans sick of his predictable schemes.
We don't pretend to know what makes a good D-1A head coach: whatever it is, it's the only quality that Jeff Tedford and Pete Carroll share. And Harbaugh might turn out to be just fine given the low expectations of Stanford alums.

But those folks in the red shirts must be racking their brains tonight, trying to answer the following question: What does Bob Bowlsby see in Jim Harbaugh that everyone else over the past three years has apparently missed?

We'll soon find out.

8 Comments:

At 11:15 PM, Blogger Brad said...

i can explain the UNT hire. Todd Dodge, damn him, owns Texas 5A HS Football. The man built a dynasty that has lasted about a decade at Southlake Carroll. His intricate offensive system and strong ties to the north texas area will prolly help return UNT to its "glory days" (a.k.a. not losing by 50 to BCS conference teams).

The befuddling thing for me was why Dodge chose UNT, instead of shopping himself around to other college jobs at more presitigious schools.

 
At 8:43 AM, Anonymous SoCal Oski said...

I know the answer to your closing question: What does Bob Bowlsby see in Jim Harbaugh that everyone else over the past three years has apparently missed?

The answer is what Harbaugh did that Norm Chow, DeWayne Walker, and others didn't. He said "yes" to Stanfurd.

After all, in both cases, beggars can't be choosers.

 
At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hindsight is 20/20. Here we are, four years later. Harbaugh has made Stanford a Pac-10 power, made the Cardinal relevant in the national discussion, and sent two players to the Heisman ceremony.

 
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At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Captain Hindsight said...

You should have kept your mouth shut ape!

 
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