Jim Harbaugh has a shelf life. He challenges you, pushes your buttons, makes you feel uncomfortable. He brings discipline and toughness. And he draws attention to himself shamelessly as a way of bringing bravado and togetherness to his teams.
It’s high-intensity in a coaching world that prides itself on being even keel. So eventually, Harbaugh wears everyone out around him. And you can’t wait to get rid of him. The clock is always ticking with Harbaugh. That’s roughly what I wrote when he came to Michigan six years ago. And that’s the phase he’s in now at Ann Arbor. He has played himself out.
Let me get back to Harbaugh in a minute because this is where I write about the Chicago Bears every week and how their great defense was or wasn’t able to overcome the damage done by their inept offense. That’s what I’m doing now too. They lost 24-17 Sunday to Tennessee in their worst, most embarrassing game of the year. But really, how many times can you say the running backs can’t run, the receivers can’t receive, the blockers can’t block, the coach can’t coach and the general manager can’t generally manage?
Let’s move this thing forward. The collapsing Bears are 5-4 after their third straight loss. By the middle of the third quarter, their leading rusher was a linebacker who took a fake punt and ran 11 yards.
“We’re in a situation,’’ Bears quarterback Nick Foles said, “where we’re trying to figure out where we are, who we want to be.’’
The season is more than half over. You don’t know who you want to be yet?
Even if the Bears squeak into the playoffs, they’ll need to clean everything out next year and start all over. Their offense has no direction, no identity, no confidence, no discipline, no future.
The Bears need Jim Harbaugh as their head coach next year.
He’s not the rock star coach anymore. People are dancing on his coaching grave now because Michigan not only can’t beat Ohio State, but they also lost to rebuilding Michigan State and now to Indiana. After all the hype and money and noise made when he was hired, Harbaugh deserves to have his nose rubbed in it.
But he’s still the guy who took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl and those NFC Championship games. He’s still the guy who developed quarterbacks. Before that, he built nerdy Stanford into a tough success.
Harbaugh has had success at multiple places. Michigan was desperate when it offered him, an alum, the world. The university wanted to let everyone know it could land the It coach who could bring the Wolverines back to their days of glory. Except, those glory days aren’t anywhere near what their fans oddly seem to think they were. Harbaugh took a losing program that was headed for irrelevance and put it back into the national picture.
He was supposed to do way more. He never landed a top quarterback or developed one into a star. So he failed. So did Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke before him. Michigan might have more issues than we realize. Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel wrote about whether Harbaugh still has a market to be hired as a head coach in the NFL. There were mixed feelings among sources.
I think he definitely does. He’s just 56 with a hell of a resume.
Maybe Harbaugh is just better suited for the NFL than for major college football. But for an infusion of discipline, toughness and bravado, the Bears should take that chance. Not to mention that Harbaugh is a former Bears first-round draft choice and starting quarterback.
Something tells me that Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky might actually develop under Harbaugh. He has not developed under current coach Matt Nagy.
Trubisky was the second pick in the draft, and Bears general manager Ryan Pace banked the franchise’s future on him. The Bears needed a proven coach to develop him, but instead they hired Nagy, a man who had never been an NFL head coach before.
The Bears offense just doesn’t get any better. It has been stuck for two years.
Nagy never figures anything out. At the end of the first half on Sunday, the Bears started a drive on the Tennessee 48, down 10-0 with 54 seconds left. Then, they had a motion penalty. Then an illegal use of hands. Then, Foles slowly brought the team to the line when it had time for a quick pass to the sideline and then a field goal or Hail Mary. Instead, Foles took forever, then threw incomplete to the sideline and time was out.
They started the third quarter by getting into field goal range, only to move back out again thanks to back-to-back motion penalties. They were forced to punt. Earlier in the game after their successful fake punt, they had to call timeout because nobody knew who was supposed to be on the field.
The offense never gets into a rhythm, and any time it starts to, Nagy makes them stop and huddle-up.
“‘Recurring theme here on offense,’’ Nagy said. “That starts with me.’’
Every good coach has a time and a place. Nagy’s isn’t now and isn’t in Chicago. Harbaugh’s isn’t at Michigan anymore.
Time to create an identity in Chicago and start Harbaugh’s clock ticking with the Bears.