Why Harbaugh Should Not Go Pro

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 29, 2010
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Life sure is good for Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. The Cardinals are 11-1 (losing only to Oregon in Eugene), have the country’s eighth-ranked scoring average and a combined GPAbetter than most debate teams. Because of this and his two-year stint as the Oakland Raiders quarterback coach, Harbaugh can have his pick of college jobs and more than a few in the NFL.

Although the NFL is the obvious pinnacle, it is not a job that fits Harbaugh or any coach with an ounce of common sense.

The resurgent Dallas Cowboys are a prime example of the inherent benefits of the college game, namely that a coach can maintain control instead of biding his time until the players start looking for someone to blame for their own failings.


At the beginning, Wade Phillips seemed to be a curious choice for the Cowboys’ top job. After the tenures of undistinguished coaches such as Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and a disemboweled Bill Parcells, the team needed an infusion of enthusiasm but instead hired someone whose selection seemed based more on his ability to nod his head in agreement with his owner. But Phillips got it done.

His .607 winning percentage is second-best in team history, tying him with Tom Landry. Yet, because of their annual post-season flop and the players’ typical three-year attention span, Phillips was canned after his team quit.

Revolts don’t happen in college, and Harbaugh’s fuse is much too short to deal with the immaturity of athletically mature athletes.

Harbaugh is a tough coach. He’s a chip off the Bo Schembechler block who is the unquestioned leader of his program, and he has absolutely no patience for those who play with anything less than their absolute best. Bobby Knight once said he would make a lousy NBA head coach. Why? Because his dictatorial style of coaching and his demand for accountability in everyone but himself simply does-n’t work in the NFL. Harbaugh has much of the same personality without the outrageous ego.

If the Phillips’situation isn’t good enough motivation for Harbaugh to stay in college, then Mike Krzyzewski is. The Duke coach has had big league offers but wisely turned them down because a move to the NBA would cost him the control that he demands. Like Harbaugh, he is a disciplinarian secure in his knowledge of how to mold a group of individuals into a cohesive unit. Krzyzewski was smart enough to know that in college he enjoys something that no professional coach has: job security. So can Harbaugh.


The former Michigan QB and 15-year NFL veteran isn’t long for Stanford and its generally disinterested fan base. With the success of his brother John in Baltimore, everyone is curious to see if genetics plays a role in NFL success.

But that would be a big mistake. Harbaugh is a tough guy in a tough sport who needs a job that allows him to be boss and not kowtow to a smart businessman turned ignorant owner. The NFL doesn’t allow that, but college does.

Areturn to his alma mater, should that job open, just makes sense.

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