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What the Rockford Files Taught Jim Harbaugh

Updated: Apr 9

Sam Farmer wrote extensively about the television show "The Rockford Files" in the LA Times on Monday.

Why? That's a great question.

Coach Jim Harbaugh name-dropped the show back in February at his initial Chargers press conference and mentioned how much he loved watching it as a child when it aired from 1974 to 1980. “Laying on your stomach, hands on your chin, elbows on the floor, looking at the palm trees and mountains, sun, ocean,” said Harbaugh, “`Wow, I want to be there someday.’”

Private eye Jim Rockford (portrayed by James Garner) solved cases by day and lived in an RV by night in Malibu—which to Harbaugh came to represent the perilous magnetism of Los Angeles.

A sun-baked cavalcade of dreamers and sinners in which Garner's salt-of-the-earth detective races a gold Pontiac Firebird around town in weekly chase scene trying to pin bad guys to the crime.

"I want to drive my RV out and go to a trailer park down by the water or by Disneyland, the two that I've researched that are close to the facility," said Harbaugh. "'I want to Jim Rockford it for the next couple months until we move to the new facility. I have that thought going through my head."

And. . . he did it. That's the story. According to Farmer, Harbaugh was joined by new offensive coordinator Greg Roman in an RV lot in Huntington Beach near the team's facilities.

Farmer's article offered no insight into who the team is targeting in the draft. No attempts to map a famous "Rockford" plot onto how the team plans to capitalize on quarterback Justin Herbert's golden right arm. Not even a look into what types of meals Harbaugh and Roman were eating down on the beach. Do they cook? Do they Doordash? Did they stream movies, or was it all DVDs like the "Rockford Files" ones that Harbaugh gave Roman when he eventually left the RV park and moved into a house?

It would seem like Harbaugh name-dropped a television show—that Sam Farmer also enjoyed—which led to a James Garner appreciation piece in the last weeks before the NFL Draft. The LA Times article is best filed under the title: Slow News Day.

And it is behind a pay wall.

Rivers Lake Yacht Club would like to save you that subscription fee and a little time by summarizing the rest here.

Did Farmer share Harbaugh's affinity for the series and want to give it some shine? Reading between the lines, it seems like Harbaugh did not give Farmer much (access) to work with. Instead the article veered into what a grounded, humble, and accessible actor James Garner was. Why else are you calling the deceased actor's daughter for a quote?

The story mentions the time Garner punched a producer at the studio's gates who had tried to pitch a knockoff series that stole some early Rockford scripts.

At this point Farmer could have compared it to the time in 1997 that Harbaugh threw a punch at Jim Kelly (working as a broadcaster at the time) for criticizing his toughness. The Indianapolis Colts were 0-7 at that point, and Harbaugh was their banged-up quarterback. The punch was thrown at a hotel the night before a game against the Chargers in San Diego. It fractured a bone in his throwing hand.

Apparently you should never question Jim Harbaugh's toughness. Those are fighting words.

One would hope that Harbaugh offered Kelly the chance to step outside like they do in the Westerns. Either way that sounds a little bit like a "Rockford Files" episode.

“He’s the hero who it doesn’t always go perfect for,” Harbaugh said to the LA Times. “It’s more like real life. He doesn’t get paid in the end, or he takes a bullet in the hip. But he’s really loyal, a force for good. More like a real person."

From there we learn about how hard the Harbaugh brothers were on their first vehicles as they tried to emulate their hero behind the wheel of that Firebird. Jim drove a brown 1966 Mercury Comet affectionately nicknamed “The Vomit” that was totaled running into a curb.

Was this a metaphor for the fullback crashing down into the B-Gap, or perhaps some insight into the abrasive personality that can wear thin on some? No, this was just basic reporting on self-destructive behavior typical for teenagers and first-time drivers.

“We never had a cool car,” said John Harbaugh, Jim’s older brother and coach of the Baltimore Ravens. “We had a red VW bug that leaked more oil than it burned gas. We shared it once Jim got his driver’s license.” The Volkswagen was eventually crumpled into scrap when John rear-ended another car.

They both have Ferraris now. Expensive, high-performance sports cars named Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert.

Farmer and Harbaugh obviously share an affinity for the “Rockford Files.” Lost in the nostalgia however, the Times buried the lede. James Garner was a Raiders fan.

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