As former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was on the verge of leaving the team, he was asked if he’d miss the NFL.
“Is the NFL going anywhere?” Harbaugh said. It was more humorous than obtuse. But Harbaugh is often more obtuse than humorous.
He was more obtuse than humorous earlier today, when Harbaugh appeared on ESPN Radio with Colin Cowherd. (The Big Lead has the audio and video.)
Part of the periodic awkwardness comes from Harbaugh’s desire to win at everything — including press conferences and interviews. At times, he seems to put his intended answers on an invisible teleprompter, reading them before uttering the words. At times during his interview with Cowherd, it sounded like Harbaugh was doing the same thing, giving the kind of short, eventually giving the kind of short, guarded responses that come from a witness who isn’t quite sure where the lawyer is going with his line of questioning.
Part of it comes from Harbaugh’s comfort level. In his recent Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel profile on HBO, Harbaugh had a comfort level with Andrea Kremer; enough of a comfort level that he confessed to a childhood that consisted of the consumption of mass quantities of milk in the hopes of growing to a certain height.
To her credit, Kremer knows how to press the right buttons to make Harbaugh comfortable. In this specific interview, Cowherd didn’t — possibly because Cowherd started the process with a question Harbaugh likely regarded as an attempted haymaker, “When are you at your least intense? ‘Cause you are a pretty intense guy. . . . Is there ever a moment in the day you’re like, ‘Oh, man, I’m cupcake. I’m soft. I’m easygoing. When’s the part of the day when you’re a pushover?”
And with that the turtle jammed his head back into the shell, retreating to his every-question-is-a-trick-question demeanor and never opening up. For example, after a long setup from Cowherd touting Harbaugh for seeming to be “all in” with the community at Michigan, Harbaugh paused (presumably while formulating the answer and running it through the invisible teleprompter) and said, “Uh, yeah. I would agree. Can’t disagree with that.”
To his credit, Cowherd eventually called Harbaugh on it, after Harbaugh openly bristled when Cowherd prefaced a question by saying “you’re not a rear-view mirror guy.”
“You’re not giving me a ton to work with, Coach,” Cowherd said, “So I just want to find something out about Jim Harbaugh the human being. . . . I’m a 4.3 wide receiver. Why should I play at Michigan?”
“You are?” Harbaugh said, equal parts humorous and obtuse.
Harbaugh eventually asked what he could do to make the interview better, but Cowherd opted to pull the plug, admitting that it was a “clunker.”
Indeed it was. Which raises an obvious question: Why do interviews at all if you’re going to treat them like a tug of war from which one side and only one side can emerge victorious?
It’s a question that I’d definitely be asking myself if I were a 4.3 wide receiver considering Michigan as a college football program.
And, no, Jim. I’m not a 4.3 wide receiver, either.