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Jim Harbaugh or the Zodiac Killer? An Important Quiz

You say Jim Harbaugh is definitely not the Zodiac Killer. We say take this quiz first and then make an informed decision.

There is a long list of NFL commentators—longer than any of us can quite comprehend, longer than anyone should bear—who will tell you that You Just Never Know In The National Football League. They will tell you this whenever they're asked, or whenever a lag in the action prompts a blurt, or when the whims of some punishment-sogged neurons coax this untreated chunklet of anodyne sportscastering into an open microphone. This is how NFL broadcasts work.


The phrase does not mean anything. It is a thing one says, in lieu of the appropriate profanities, when the Chicago Bears allow a punt to be returned for a touchdown or a costly penalty negates a positive play by the Jets. It is a burp with syllables, and it's something like the median where NFL commentary is concerned.

But, also, it is false. There are a lot of things that we definitely know where the NFL is concerned, and one of these is that Jim Harbaugh—for four seasons the coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and by all accounts the next head coach at the University of Michigan— is definitely not the Zodiac Killer.

Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is not in any way to say that Harbaugh is not a crazy-faced, frightening, transparently emotionally unstable, and otherwise dangerous human being who happens to live in the same part of the United States that the Zodiac Killer terrorized in the late 1960s. It's just that Harbaugh was three years old at the time of the first murder attributed to the Zodiac, and while Harbaugh is and has always been a high-achieving individual, it would have been difficult for a child of that age to have traveled undetected from the Toledo, Ohio area to the Bay Area to commit the murders that have since been attributed to the Zodiac, even given that his parents were probably very busy at the time. So let's be clear on this: Jim Harbaugh is not the Zodiac Killer. But.

But: Jim Harbaugh, in addition to being a good football coach, talks and acts and looks even more like a crazy person than the other similar-in-some-ways-to-but-definitely-demonstrably-not-spree-killer people who work in his field. This is a pretty significant achievement, this whole objectively crazier-than-his-peers bit, if you know what NFL coaches are like.


Still, even knowing the broader answer, and understanding this full well as a thing that we know about the National Football League, there is a secondary question. It is one we ask, here: even secure in the knowledge that they are not the same person, why is it that quotes from Jim Harbaugh and the Zodiac Killer are so similar? This is not a rhetorical question. Read the quotes below and ask yourself: are these the words of a brilliant and vengeful psychopath whose vicious and terrible whims haunted San Francisco for years, or are they from one of the Zodiac Killer's letters?

1) "I don't give speeches. I give information."

2) "I will be your alarm clock, and wake you early."

3) "I have always been here. I am waiting for a good movie about me. Who will play me?"

4) "What you do not know is whether the death machine is at the site or whether it is being stored in my basement for future use."

5) "I must hold his pain where it is. Mine does not matter."

6) "It is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest. Because man is the most dangerous animal of all"

7) "The punishment I inflict, his fatigue, and that he is up against something he does not comprehend is everything."

8) "My opponent is going to have to die. But does he have to kill me, too? He is killing me. But he has a right to. I do not care who kills who now."

9) "I am not sick. I am insane. But that will not stop the game."


10) "What will happen will happen, what won't happen won't happen."

11) "They'd none of them be missed. Uncompromising kind such as wachmacallit, thingmebob, and likewise, well, nevermind, and tut tut tut tut, and what's his name, and you know who. The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave up to you."

12) "I don't take vacations. I don't get sick. I don't observe major holidays. I'm a jack hammer."

13) "Can I do without my left arm? Or left eye?"

14) "I am now in control of all things."


1) Harbaugh

2) Harbaugh

3) Zodiac (or forgery), 5/24/78

4) Zodiac, "Death Machine" letter, 11/9/69

5) Harbaugh

6) Zodiac Cipher, 7/31/69

7) Harbaugh

8) Harbaugh

9) Zodiac, "Confession" Letter, 11/29/66

10) Harbaugh

11) Zodiac, 7/26/70

12) Harbaugh

13) Harbaugh

14) Zodiac (or forgery), 5/24/78