Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has always been a bit of a peculiar duck.
Whether it’s his trademark khakis on the sidelines or fevered passion, Harbaugh is far from boring and bland. In his sixth season at Michigan, Harbaugh has led his alma mater to moderate success but is still searching for more.
In his first stint as a college football head coach, Harbaugh used a player’s blood to his advantage.
Jim Harbaugh is a veteran head coach
Before becoming a college football head coach, football fans best knew Jim Harbaugh for his NFL playing days.
Harbaugh went 66-74 in 177 games (140 starts) as a quarterback for four teams. He completed 58.8% of his passes for 26,288 yards, 129 touchdowns, and 177 interceptions.
Harbaugh went 2-9 in 11 starts for the Colts in 1997, the season that immediately preceded Peyton Manning‘s arrival in Indianapolis.
The son of longtime Western Kentucky football head coach Jack Harbaugh, Jim followed his father into coaching in the 2000s.
Jim Harbaugh went 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford from 2007-10, including a 12-1 showing in that final season.
Jim Harbaugh had his most success with the 49ers
With his work at Stanford done, Jim Harbaugh jumped to the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh’s combination of no-nonsense and unique attitude made him the perfect fit for San Francisco. The 49ers reached three straight NFC championship game appearances from 2011-13.
The last two seasons featured Colin Kaepernick’s rise to the starting lineup. San Francisco came within a touchdown of defeating John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 47.
Harbaugh and the 49ers parted ways following the 2014 season. Rather than take another NFL head coaching job, Harbaugh returned to his alma mater and took the Michigan job.
In his first five seasons at Michigan, Harbaugh went 47-18 and made a bowl game every year. Michigan has still not defeated Ohio State, however, or reached the College Football Playoff.
He reportedly used a Stanford player’s blood as war paint
Coaches will do whatever they can to motivate their teams in rough seasons.
Jim Harbaugh took that idea to another level in 2007, his first season coaching the Cardinal. According to The Michigan Daily, Harbaugh approached Stanford right tackle Chris Marinelli when Marinelli returned to the sidelines with blood on his arm.
Marinelli showed Harbaugh his bloody arm, and the head coach responded uniquely.
“Harbaugh looked at the blood and did exactly what he said he would. He took his hand and wiped it on Marinelli’s arm. The player’s blood was on the coach’s hands. Then, Harbaugh took it a step further. He smeared Marinelli’s blood all over his own face like war paint.”
Stanford finished Harbaugh’s first season 4-8. After going 5-7 in 2008, Stanford didn’t have a losing season from 2009-18.
Stanford is a bit too refined to regularly celebrate gimmicks like blood as war paint. But if the school ever honors Harbaugh, maybe they’ll frame a bag of Marinelli’s blood and Harbaugh’s khakis together.