Al Davis

Jim Harbaugh: a pro-style coach with many options

I better hurry up and write this post quickly, because it seems like the story with Jim Harbaugh changes by the hour. It’s really too much, if you think about it. We’ve truly reached the point where we are going to need to see written contracts being signed in person before we believe anything anymore, because people report things as if they were done just because some source told them it was “a done deal.”

So even though I just established that we don’t know anything, let’s explore the vast number of places Jim Harbaugh could conceivably coach next season. Nothing else to do while we wait for him to make his decision, right?

For the purposes of this exercise, no option will be counted out, no odds will be given. Why? Because like I said, I have no freakin’ clue how this is going to turn out. And if the hiring of Trent Baalke or some assumption by Peter King or some other well-paid rumor mongerer makes you think you have a better idea about what’s going to happen than anyone else who isn’t involved in the process, you are way too trusting. Accuracy stopped being the top journalistic priority years ago. It’s all about who can tweet plausible stuff fast enough.

Anyway, here are his options, as far as I can tell:

Stanford Cardinal

Why he’d choose to coach here: If Andrew Luck decides he could use the extra seasoning (a la Peyton Manning), Jim Harbaugh would have a decent shot at contending for the National Championship with a team that should still be really talented with or without Luck in 2011. Plus, as any of you who’ve done it before know, moving sucks. Just awful. Just getting your cable switched to another location is like dental surgery.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: Stanford doesn’t draw fans, and they’d rather switch from Fiji Water to Arrowhead in the cafeterias than pay Harbaugh $5-$7 million per year.

Michigan Wolverines

Why he’d choose to coach here: It’s his alma mater, they draw 90,000+ fans even when they’re horrible and they’ll spend money — not just on the players, but on Harbaugh’s salary.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: He’d have to install a brand new offense, recruit like crazy and build another college football powerhouse with whatever RichRod left him. Even though Michigan is a storied program, Stanford’s recent success makes heading to Michigan a lateral move.

San Francisco 49ers

Why he’d choose to coach here: He wouldn’t have to move, the 49ers are showing the most interest, and the franchise seems desperate enough to give him a lot of decision-making power in terms of personnel. Plus, have you heard that the NFC West is not a good division? It’s actually pretty bad. No, seriously. In a related story, Harbaugh would have the chance to run up the score on Pete Carroll twice a year.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: So far, the Yorks haven’t proven one time that they’re actually willing to pay (read: overpay) for coaches or executives. One has to figure they went the cheap route again in retaining Trent Baalke; will they actually give Harbaugh a $30M-$40M contract over five years? I know Harbaugh’s supposedly sharing a hot tub with Jed York at some Econolodge in Brisbane while I write this, but I’ll still believe the 49ers want to spend money on a coach when I see it happen. And I mean I want to see Harbaugh sign the contract on TV, like when the president signs some noteworthy bill.

Denver Broncos

Why he’d choose to coach here: John Elway (who suddenly made an appearance wearing a Stanford polo shirt on their sideline during the Orange Bowl) was always a better player than Harbaugh, and the fact that Elway’s on his knees, begging for Harbaugh to come to Denver, has to feel good. Also, Tim Tebow kind of has that “Hardcore Christian dude with crazy eyes” thing going that Harbaugh did/does.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: John Elway, who was always a better player than Harbaugh, would be his boss. It would almost certainly be easier to bully Baalke come draft time. And this team goes into next season as the worst team in what has turned into a very competitive division.

Oakland Raiders

Why he’d choose to coach here: He wouldn’t have to move, and he is one of the six or seven people left on planet earth who reportedly has a good relationship with Al Davis.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: If you had the most bargaining power of any head coaching candidate in recent memory, would you work for a guy who’s notorious for changing his mind on coaches and then attempting to not pay what he owes them? I believe that Harbaugh and the octogenarian are bros, but I’m guessing Harbaugh sees Al kind of like his crazy uncle. Cool to talk to during family reunions, but not someone he’d want to spend every day with.

Miami Dolphins

Why he’d choose to coach here: Miami, like the Raiders and to a lesser extent the 49ers, seemed like a team that was just a player or three away from making the playoffs. And Miami’s weather is really nice and warm.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: Facing the Patriots and the Jets twice a year is a tough way to start your NFL head coaching career. Harbaugh isn’t known as a Bill Parcells disciple either, and there’s enough of those guys floating around the league that Parcells can probably find someone to replace Tony Sparano who he’s more familiar with (and cheaper).

Carolina Panthers

Why he’d choose to coach here: They have a job opening and the No. 1 overall pick.

Why he wouldn’t coach here: As good as Andrew Luck is, Harbaugh has seen every floater Luck’s thrown across the middle that either was or should have been intercepted (it’s true — Luck’s a great prospect but he’ll put it up for grabs sometimes). Not to say this is a Carroll/Taylor Mays situation, but does Harbaugh really want to go Charlotte (where he has no obvious ties) to lead what was by far the worst team in the league last season, just because he could have the chance to continue to coach an early-entry QB who Harbaugh’s presumably already taught everything he knows?

So there you have it. Two college teams. Five pro teams who, if they signed him this week, might not see Harbaugh coach in a game until 2012 if this CBA thing doesn’t get figured out. It’s impossible to know anything for sure at this point, other than that these last few days have been the most interesting for 49ers’ fans this entire season. Besides Michigan, San Francisco wants him the most. Will they get him? Depends on if Jed can get an advance on his allowance.

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