Hey hey, my my. Sage words from Neil Young. All this recent talk of Bill Walsh and his trials and tribulations in his position of being a head coach leads me to wonder about Jim Harbaugh. Walsh, as noted in some recent articles (thanks, Chico), was demonized by the intricacies of preparing for game day. His greatness was overshadowed by his all-encompassing need to be the best, the most prepared, and the most dominant coach of his day. He was fueled by Paul Brown’s rejection of him as his heir apparent, and the thought that Brown sabotaged Walsh’s name to other NFL execs. Even with the Super Bowl wins there was always room for improvement. To the detriment of his team, his family, and his health. Walsh always seemed unflappable, stoic, and above the usual rigamarole of guys like John Madden or Dick Vermeil. Guys who burned real bright and burned out quickly.
Enter Jim Harbaugh. He of course was the fair-to-middling quarterback for a bunch of teams who played with a burning desire not seen in too many players. He won through strength of will, hard work, and determination. His coaching style seems to be molded in the same vein. He took a moribund 4-7 USD program and turned them around in 3 years to win the Pioneer League and go 11-1. He took a lousy 4-8 Stanford football team and spun them into an NCAA powerhouse in 4 years, winning 2 bowl games, going 12-1 in 2010, and earning them a #4 ranking.
Is Harbaugh on a fast track to burnout? If anything, he’s even more spread out than most other coaches. He has 6 kids (3 grown), including a one-year old son. He does loads of charity work for his Harbaugh Hill foundation, the Jim Harbaugh foundation, he anuually takes a couple weeks off to travel to Peru to build houses in remote jungles, and is co-owner of an Indy-car racing team, among the day-to-day deal of raising a family. He’s not quite 50, but criminy, he’s either one of the best in the world at time management or he’s awake 22 hours a day. His coaching style resembles a volcano poised on the edge of erpution. His explosion over the red-flagged pass last weekend was pretty epic. He jumped, slammed the turf with both hands, and his headphones exploded in fear as they flew off his head. This has been repeated in one way or another about 40 times this season. He’s already been treated for an irregular heartbeat (and missed like 3 hours of coaching time) and his stress levels during game day is likely off the charts. His description of game day is like a 3 hour root canal with no anesthesia.
Can he keep this up? Harbaugh looks like he’s in good shape and takes care of himself, but with the heart problems already known about, and the fact that he’s as intense as any 12 people, you have to wonder how long he can keep this up. One thing is, he appears to be able to turn the coaching guy off and focus on other aspects of his life.