Harbaugh is not the only surprise in Indy. Two years ago the Colts were last in the NFL in team defense. Then Tobin brought in brother Vince, who had last worked in the league in 1992, as Mike Ditka's defensive coordinator with the Bears. Vince has built the league's fifth-stingiest scoring defense. On Sunday, Indianapolis was helped by Kansas City's abandonment of the run. "They put the ball in Bono's hands," said Colt defensive end Tony Bennett after Indianapolis's win, "and we knew coming in that if the game came down to him throwing it, we had a great chance."
That chance was enhanced by an 18-play, 77-yard drive that Harbaugh engineered with howling Kansas City fans drowning out the signals he called. "We were just winging it out there, flying by the seat of our pants," Harbaugh said afterward.
"Forrest Gump should be as fortunate as Jim Harbaugh," says K.C. tackle Will Wolford. "Harbaugh has been magic this year." It's about time Harbaugh's luck turned. The week he got waived by the Bears, he also broke up with his girlfriend and learned that his month-old golden retriever had only a 10% chance of surviving an intestinal disease. He said he felt as if he were living the lyrics of a country-music song. The job, the girl and the dog...and then came Mel Kiper.
After the Colts signed Harbaugh in April 1994, Harbaugh's spirits improved a bit. He remembers watching the NFL draft: "We get Marshall Faulk, and I say to the TV, 'Great pick!' And then we trade up, and we take Trev Alberts, and I say, 'Wow! What a great draft we're having.' Then ESPN puts on draft analyst Mel Kiper, and he rips us and rips me. He says, 'The Colts can't win with Jim Harbaugh. They should have taken Trent Dilfer.' "
Country-music song update: "My career's reborn in Indianapolis," Harbaugh says. "I rekindled with my girlfriend, and we're getting married; we might do it at the Pro Bowl next month. And my dog, Wrigley, made a miraculous recovery. So everything turned out great."
Fiancée Miah Burke is even trying to turn the snuff-dipping Harbaugh into a man of letters. She gave him a copy of Hamlet for Christmas. "There's a line in there, 'To thine own self be true,' " he says. "For a long time I'd watch Joe Montana on tape and think, That's who I want to be like. I'd think I was going to be Montana and end up in the Hall of Fame. Then I'd watch myself on tape and realize I looked nothing like Joe. I don't have the arm of Troy Aikman. Heck, I don't have the arm of [Colt third-stringer) Paul Justin or the ability to read defenses the way Craig Erickson does. I'm an ugly player. But at least now I know what I am."
Right. It's the middle of January, and Harbaugh's one of four quarterbacks left standing. Nothing ugly about that.