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Jim Harbaugh’s Playing Career Somehow Led to Him Being in an NFL Team’s Ring of Honor

Jim Harbaugh has been a pretty polarizing head football coach. From his time at Stanford to when he coached the San Francisco 49ers, and to now as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh has always made headlines. However, he has maybe been honored more for his career as a player than he has for his career as a coach. He was not that great of a player, but he somehow made it into a team’s ring of honor.

Jim Harbaugh has been a good but not a great head coach

Jim Harbaugh has been a decent head coach. However, his playing career somehow helped him get into a NFL team's ring of honor.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during a game against the Maryland Terrapins in 2019. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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Jim Harbaugh has had some success as a head coach, but his teams have also been disappointing at times.

For four seasons from 2007 through 2010, Harbaugh was the head coach at Stanford. After going 4-8 in 2007 and 5-7 in 2008, Stanford went 8-5 in 2009 and then 12-1 in 2010. Harbaugh even helped lead Stanford to an Orange Bowl win in 2010.

In 2011, though, Harbaugh made the move to the NFL as he became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He ultimately had a ton of success there. The 49ers went 13-3 in 2011 and went to the NFC Championship Game. Then in 2012, the 49ers went 11-4-1 and went all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31. Then, again, for the third season in a row in 2013, the 49ers went to the NFC Championship Game before losing to the Seattle Seahawks.

After the 49ers went 8-8 in 2014, Harbaugh went to Michigan in 2015. In each of his first two seasons with the Michigan Wolverines, he helped lead Michigan to a 10-3 record. After winning the Citrus Bowl in the 2015 season, the Wolverines lost in the Orange Bowl in the 2016 season. They have, however, not won one a bowl game since the Citrus Bowl in 2015. The Wolverines went 8-5 in 2017, 10-3 in 2018, and 9-4 in 2019.

Harbaugh has been a decent head coach. As a player, though, he was just an average quarterback. 

Having an OK playing career

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Coming out of Michigan, the Chicago Bears selected Jim Harbaugh in the first round of the 1987 NFL draft. He then went on to spend seven seasons with the Bears. His best season in Chicago probably came in 1991 when he threw for 3,121 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He went 11-5 as a starter that season too.

Harbaugh then played for the Indianapolis Colts from 1994 through 1997. His best season with the Colts was in 1995 as he earned the only Pro Bowl selection of his career. In 12 starts, Harbaugh threw for 2,575 yards, 17 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He won the PFWA Comeback Player of the Year that season and even led the Colts to the AFC Championship Game.

However, after that season, Harbaugh did not have another season with the Colts where he had a winning record as the starting quarterback. In 1997, Harbaugh went 2-9 as the starter, and then the Colts selected Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL draft.

Harbaugh spent his last three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers. He made 29 starts in those seasons (going 11-18 in those starts), and he threw for 6,016 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 35 interceptions. Harbaugh last played in 2000. For his career, he threw for 26,288 yards, 129 touchdowns, and 117 interceptions.

Harbaugh is in the Indianapolis Colts’ ring of honor

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The Indianapolis Colts have some legends in the team’s ring of honor. Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Jim Harbaugh?

Harbaugh is mostly in the Colts’ ring of honor for leading the Colts to the AFC Championship Game during the 1995 season. They came within one Hail Mary pass of the Super Bowl too, according to the Indy Star, as they lost to the Steelers 20-16. Additionally, the Colts’ 35-20 win over the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card round that year was actually the franchise’s first playoff win in Indianapolis, according to Bleacher Report.

So, Harbaugh led the team to a lot of success. However, he threw for 8,705 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions during his time there. That is compared to Manning, who threw for 54,828 yards, 399 touchdowns, and 198 interceptions with the Colts. How in the world is Harbaugh up there with him? 

Jim Harbaugh is a decent coach and was an OK quarterback. His play was not good enough to warrant a spot in the Indianapolis Colts’ ring of honor, though.

All stats courtesy of Sports Reference