“Jim Harbaugh is crazy” is a truthism that we reflectively accept. His craziness isn’t meant to be an insult - but rather a simple observation rooted in our shared experience. You accept it without question, like if someone tells you “it’s gonna be a hot one today” or “politicians are crooked” or “the NCAA is both corrupt and inept.” You don’t argue against something obvious.
And the evidence certainly suggests Harbaugh is crazy. Take this episode in 1988.
A short time later, when the same police officers were investigating another disturbance at 1 W. Division St., Harbaugh showed up and started shouting obscenities at them again, Nelson said. They tried to take him into custody, but Harbaugh ran away. Nelson said the police officers chased Harbaugh back to SheNannigans, where he was arrested in the basement. The officers used ‘’necessary force’’ to handcuff Harbaugh, Nelson said. ‘’It`s kind of hard to disturb the peace in that area-people are always loud,’’ Nelson said. ‘’He must have been really obnoxious. Evidently, he just got way out of line.’’
Who is the guy who gets arrested in the basement of a place called SheNannigans because he was yelling obscenities at police? The crazy guy, that’s who.
But while his arrest record followed him into coaching, his craziness was marked by goofy if mostly harmless routines, followed by some danged good play. You probably remember the “what’s your deal” episode.
But do you remember the circumstances? Harbaugh was in just his third year with Stanford, and proceeded to completely whip Pete Carroll’s USC team by a final of 55-21. The “deal” was Harbaugh had gone for two in the fourth quarter while his team was up by 28. It was at that time the most points USC had ever given up and Pete Carroll’s first loss in November.
The success and craziness followed to the NFL and the 49ers, where Harbaugh became the first coach to reach a conference championship in his first three seasons. Despite this, the 49ers were completely done with him by his fourth year. The 49ers front office was so annoyed with him that they moved on to Jim Tomsula, who is mostly known for possibly farting during a press conference.
He parachuted to Michigan, and yet again, his success and craziness followed. Everyone vaguely remembers that he slept over at a recruit’s house, but do you remember this extravaganza?
Not many coaches would put on a whole show for their new recruits and call it the Signing of the Stars, much less invite Ric Flair to speak at it. Harbaugh did that and delivered on the field, as the Wolverines turned in a strong 2015 season behind Jake Rudock and were a true contender in 2016, losing out on a playoff berth by a hair against Ohio State. The future was never brighter, and Harbaugh’s antics became something of a lovable rallying point for the Michigan faithful.
2017 brought us Harbaugh meeting the pope and giving him a football helmet, though the football was mostly known for being the sole B1G team to lose a bowl game. 2018 brought us the Revenge Tour, and once again Michigan was a true contender, and was favored to beat Ohio State, win the Big Ten, and make the playoffs. Then, as you remember, OSU offensive coordinator Ryan Day ripped out Michigan’s still beating heart.
Ryan Day, it is typically thought, is more or less a glorified pen salesman. He rarely talks about anything but watching film. He is decidedly not a walking sound bite and you wonder if he even knows who Ric Flair is. But behind this careful facade, there lurks a little bit of crazy.
For one, Ryan Day has a wet jump shot.
25 years ago today, Central HS won the hoops championship over Winnacunnet. This guy knocking down three's turned out to be a pretty good football coach too! @ryandaytime @OhioStateFB #wmur pic.twitter.com/32WRj9XWKq— Jamie Staton (@JamieStatonWMUR) March 16, 2021
Now, having a wet jumper is not necessarily crazy, but in my experience, people with wet jumpers are 90% more likely to smoke large amounts of weed and be involved in threesomes. Not crazy, but pretty cool.
But there are signs of craziness. Like, perhaps, he ran on a basketball court and confronted a 12 year old kid who supposedly sucker punched his own kid. He railed against his own conference for not playing during COVID. He took a shot against players who sat out his past year. When the times turned crazy, Ryan Day rose to meet them. But where was Harbaugh?
Since 2018, the Harbaugh Antics Machine has ground to a halt. Signing of Stars seems to be no more. The 2019 team was all right, going 9-4 and getting eviscerated by Ohio State again. The 2020 team was mostly a dumpster fire, going 2-4, with three losses by double digits, and they didn’t even play the Buckeyes. Crazy Harbaugh were nowhere to be found, instead replaced by boring cliches and tired quotes, which matched the product on the field.
In fact, the only notable story about Harbaugh lately involved him supposedly whining that OSU was breaking NCAA rules by having too much on field coaching (or something, I refuse to dignify the NCAA by looking at their rules). Ryan Day, yet again, sounded like the crazy person in the room, supposedly telling his team that “Michigan better hope there’s a mercy rule, because we’re going to hang 100 on them.”
Michigan finds itself at a crossroads this season. Harbaugh was brought back, somewhat reluctantly. He has new hires everywhere, uncertainty at quarterback, uncertainty on defense, and a general lack of enthusiasm by the Michigan fanbase. To be the national contender that Michigan fans want, Harbaugh desperately needs to access his crazy side, or maybe this thing has run its course.