Hackett was hailed as a hero in Ann Arbor for nabbing Harbaugh and reversing other unpopular moves by his predecessor, but things haven't quite played out on the field as many fans had hoped. Harbaugh logged a 28-11 record in his first three seasons and has yet to beat Michigan's chief rival, Ohio State.
Meanwhile, just a short distance away, it's tough to argue that Hackett is outplaying Barra, at least on the scoreboard that Wall Street and other outsiders can see. Ford's stock price is down, analysts have been agitated by vague messaging, and Hackett has launched a turnaround effort that's more extensive and costly than many experts had anticipated.
Hackett said Harbaugh's critics are misguided and short-sighted. "If I hear that," Hackett said, "I ask them if they know football."
Hackett's comments left the impression that he, similarly, hasn't been rattled by the mounting questions about his leadership of Ford and intends to keep barreling forward, demanding patience from stockholders and employees.
Hackett said he often listens to sports talk radio while commuting from Ann Arbor to Dearborn and grows agitated by callers criticizing Harbaugh, who opens his fourth season this weekend as a one-point underdog against Notre Dame.
"One of the things I worry about is I'm going to call in one day," Hackett said near the end of his hourlong appearance on the Harbaughs' podcast. (The episode, released Tuesday, was titled "Think Ford First" and also revealed that Hackett gave Harbaugh a Mustang convertible this summer.)
"I can't take some of the mythical -- they don't understand how good we are, how great we have it, so I hold back," Hackett said. "They won't give him enough credit for what he's done since he's here."