If Jim Harbaugh keeps this up, the boss is going to have to learn how to pronounce his name.
Until now, Indianapolis Colt owner Robert Irsay has referred to his starting quarterback as Harbro, a verbal mangling laughed off by Harbaugh, the NFL's most self-deprecating player. Last Thursday, for example, Harbaugh sat on a stool in front of his locker, running himself down. "I'm not a great quarterback," he said, accurately. "Some would say I'm not even that good. I kind of have an ugly style, but it kind of works for me."
Three days later, when substance mattered more than style, there was Harbaugh, working the soft defense of the Miami Dolphins like a baker kneading dough. Harbaugh, who may be best known for having gotten chewed out on television by coach Mike Ditka when he was the Chicago Bears' signal-caller, threw three second-half touchdowns to rally the Colts from a 24—3 deficit at intermission to a 27-24 overtime victory over the flabbergasted fish at Joe Robbie Stadium. "Championship teams, like the 49ers—they don't let this happen," said an extremely peeved Miami nosetackle Chuck Klingbeil afterward. "You never want to lose to anybody, but the Indianapolis Colts? Come on."
The ridicule was undeserved. Indy's third comeback win of the season demonstrated that these Colts, 3-2 after knocking off the NFL's last undefeated team, are not to be confused with the sad-sack squads that stunk up Indianapolis in the decade following the franchise's nocturnal retreat from Baltimore in 1984. "Not long ago, when things went wrong for this team, the players packed it in," says Bill Tobin, Indianapolis's director of football operations. "These guys don't pack it in."
Neither do the Dolphins, but in suffering their worst collapse since 1980, they demonstrated that they need fine-tuning if they want to be one of this season's elite teams. Loaded though it is on both sides of the ball, Miami lacks a killer instinct. Sunday's humiliation bore striking similarities to the Dolphins' 22-21 playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers last January, when Miami blew a 21-6 lead and went down in flames when Pete Stoyanovich missed a 48-yard field goal. On Sunday, Stoyanovich missed twice, including a potential game-winning 49-yarder.
"Disgusting," said disappointed Miami quarterback Dan Marino, on whose parade the Colts rained. A second-quarter dump pass to fullback Keith Byars marked Marino's NFL-record 3,687th completion. Play stopped, the crowd stood, and the strains of the 1812 Overture filled Joe Robbie. The jacked-up Dolphins capped that drive with a touchdown, added a field goal and took a three-touchdown lead into the dressing room at halftime.
Little did Miami know that it would score no more and that Marino would undergo arthroscopic surgery the next day to repair loose cartilage in his right knee. He could be out two to four weeks, meaning the Dolphins may have to take on the New Orleans Saints, the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills and the Chargers with backup Bernie Kosar calling the shots.
Kosar should hope that he'll be as successful as the much-maligned Harbaugh. "This quarterback hasn't beaten anybody all year, and we let him beat us," spat Miami defensive end Jeff Cross, obviously unimpressed by Harbaugh. For the record, Harbaugh has engineered comebacks in each of the Colts' three wins since replacing ineffective starter Craig Erickson in Week 2. He has thrown seven touchdown passes and takes a 107.2 quarterback rating, best in the league, into Sunday's game against the 49ers. Harbaugh also won three of the eight games he started last season but was benched in favor of Don Majkowski, now with the Detroit Lions. Compounding the insult to Harbaugh, the Colts traded their first pick in the 1996 draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 1996 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Erickson, who was handed the starting job. But Erickson played poorly in his two starts, and Harbaugh wrested the job from him.
The old book on Harbaugh: "When I coached against him, one of the things we felt he would do, when pressured, was pull the ball down and run before the pattern had time to develop," says Colts' offensive coordinator and former Green Bay Packer head coach Lindy Infante.
The new book on Harbaugh: "He'll scramble, but he keeps looking upfield while scrambling," Infante says. "He finally understands that quarterbacks in this league are not here to run."