Jim Harbaugh lasted four years as head coach of the 49ers, making him the team’s longest-tenured coach since 2002. On Thursday, he joked this longevity should have qualified him for an endurance medal from the NFL.
The two-time Big Ten East third-place finisher sat down with journalist Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News for a podcast this week. As is his style, the NFL veteran and outspoken NCAA coach pulled no punches when discussing his tenure in San Francisco.
“I think we set the record for being [in San Francisco] the longest under the present ownership,” Harbaugh told Kawakami. “I take pride in that. Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal for that.”
The current Michigan head was one of the most successful coaches the franchise had ever seen. His first season on the sideline improved the 49ers from 6-10 to 13-3. One year later, he took the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years. However, that success couldn’t gloss over the gap between his outspoken style and the oft-dysfunctional leadership in the franchise’s front office. Harbaugh and San Francisco parted ways after an 8-8 season in 2014, a move the coach later suggested was anything but mutual.
Since losing the coach that brought the team to the Super Bowl, San Francisco has burned through two coaches in as many years. Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly combined to go 7-25 with the Niners, plummeting the team back down to the depths of the NFC.
While Harbaugh may have been frustrated with his time in the NFL, his departure came with a silver lining. His release cleared a path for him to return to his alma mater late in 2014. There, he’s brought the Wolverines back to their historical roots as a football powerhouse despite not being able to break into the top two of their division.
Harbaugh touched on several topics during his annual conversation with Kawakami, including his respect for new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, what it’s like raising a newborn at age 53, and why he calls SEC radio tentpole Paul Finebaum “Pete.” You can check out the entirety of the interview in the video above, or over at the Mercury News.