Stanford Football: It Was Andrew Luck, Not Harbaugh, Who Revived the Cardinal

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Stanford Football: It Was Andrew Luck, Not Harbaugh, Who Revived the Cardinal
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck celebrates his team's 40-12 Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech. Contrary to popular belief, it was Luck, not Harbaugh, that led Stanford out of obscurity and into the national spotlight.

As a lifelong Stanford and 49ers fan, I am obviously quite upset with the Miami Dolphins signing Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach.

Actually, I don't think "upset" is quite the right word here. "Infuriated" is more like it.

Mr. Harbaugh, as I will refer to him from now on, had the chance to do something really special at Stanford, if not to revive a program in danger near his home. Instead, he chose to do what pretty much everyone else does, going with the money over everything else.

You may be the highest-paid coach in the NFL, sir, but you do not receive any respect from me.

With that in mind, I started thinking about something. What if it really wasn't Mr. Harbaugh who revived the program after all? What if all the stories we hear from the media about Harbaugh this and Harbaugh that are merely lies designed to distract us from what actually went down during the last four years?

What if it was really QB Andrew Luck leading the resurrection of football on the Farm all along?

It sure seems far-fetched, until you take a look at the numbers.

In the three seasons after the legendary Tyrone Willingham left Stanford, the team suffered under the leadership of a guy whose name hints he should never be a head coach: Buddy Teevens. During this time, the Cardinal posted a horrendous 10-23 record, 5-19 in the Pac-10. Naturally, he was fired after his third straight losing season and replaced by a guy named Walt Harris.

Who was more responsible for Stanford's turnaround?

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As it turned out, he wasn't much better, as the Card finished 6-17 during his two-year tenure, and 5-12 in the Pac-10. Worse yet, they only won one game in 2006 and wound up finishing dead last in the conference, something that had not happened in 23 years. Clearly, Walt Harris was not the answer at Stanford.

Then along came Mr. Harbaugh.

To the naked eye, Harbaugh took a one-win program to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory in a four-year span. Impressive, right? Sure, until you take a closer look at the situation.

Harbaugh took over in 2007, while Andrew Luck didn't play a snap until '09. In 2007 and 2008, the two seasons before Luck took over under center, Harbaugh's Cardinal posted a 9-15 record, 7-11 in the Pac-10. In addition, he never finished higher than T-sixth in the conference during this time.

That's only slightly better than the oh so horrible man who he succeeded, who actually led the team to a better conference finish (T-fourth) in his first year than Harbaugh did in either of his first two seasons.

So basically what we have here is a coach who, although he improved the program, wasn't all that distinguished from others as his Cardinal were still in the middle of the pack in the Pac-10.

Enter Andrew Luck.

In just two years, Luck took a team that wasn't even good enough to play in a bowl game the previous year to one of the biggest bowls in the nation, posting an impressive 20-5 record as a starter and causing his coach to look like a total genius in the process. I don't know about you, but 20-5 sure seems a whole lot better than 9-15.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is carried off the field after his final game with the team. Contrary to popular belief, Harbaugh was NOT the main benefactor in Stanford's turnaround.

Which is why Mr. Harbaugh should probably thank his young quarterback for all the millions he is about to receive. Without him, it is safe to assume that Harbaugh would still be leading a struggling Stanford team to another mediocre bowl game rather than being headed to a lofty contract in South Beach.

Over the next few days, you will probably hear a lot of talk among 'Fins fans about how Harbaugh revived the Stanford program and will hopefully do the same in Miami. Feel free to turn around and enlighten them:

Harbaugh didn't revive Stanford. Luck did.

And Luck, a man who understands that money is not the only thing that matters, is staying at Stanford.

Meaning that Harbaugh signing with Miami does not spell doom for Stanford.

If anything, it will only make Luck strive to be better as he attempts to prove critics wrong.

Which of course he will.

Just wait and see.

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