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And the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes has taken one more (and perhaps the final?) bizarre turn. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Harbaugh has agreed to a five year deal with the San Francisco 49ers. No one knows the specifics about what made Harbaugh decide on the 49ers, but it was pretty well-speculated that Harbaugh wanted to stay in the Bay Area, which left the Niners and the Stanford Cardinal as the two likeliest prospects to obtain or retain his services.
Earlier this morning, it seemed like Harbaugh might be heading back to Palo Alto--all reports seemed to indicate Harbaugh liked the offer Stanford had received. It offered more money and better security. The Yorks might have very well panicked when they heard this news, and must have rushed to ensure a final deal would be put in place that Harbaugh would accept.
Of course, knowing this story, it isn't over until it's over. Let's wait for the news to come down before ensuring that the deal is done.
All signs are pointing toward Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh reuniting with quarterback Andrew Luck for one more season. The San Francisco 49ers are holding firm on their initial offer, and don't plan on raising it to meet whatever offer Stanford managed to put together to bring back their prized leader on the gridiron.
Can't wait for the next update to be something about Jim Harbaugh now considering a run for the presidency.
Tony Sparano must be the most patient man in America. The Miami Dolphins seemed to be on the verge of firing him mere hours ago to replace him with Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh. Owner Stephen Ross was planning on making him the highest paid coach in the NFL and there would be a new show in South Beach.
Now? Chris Mortensen tweets that the Dolphins believes Sparano will retain the job (Matt Maiocco, the CSN Insider, confirms this story). Apparently Ross appears to think that Harbaugh must not be interested enough. There are some reports circulating that Harbaugh was miffed that Ross came to him third after Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden, and that Harbaugh was uncomfortable at the thought of Ross turning the Dolphins into the "Lakers of the NFL". That sort of flash might have worked on LeBron James for the Miami Heat, but for the old-school Harbaugh? Not as much. For more on these rumors, check out Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee and Jamie Dukes of the Palm Beach Post for their insights and millings.
Madness. Cross the Dolphins off the list of suitors for the hottest coach in America. It's suddenly looking like a two horse race between the 49ers and the Cardinal.
Jim Harbaugh just got thrown wads of cash to take his talents down to South Beach and coach the Miami Dolphins. He's been coveted by the San Francisco 49ers as the next successful Stanford coach to come in and resurrect the team (Bill Walsh being the first). And of course, he's been linked to the Michigan Wolverines job for a half-decade, the man to revive one of the proudest college football programs.
And after all that hub-hub, could Harbaugh just end up back in Palo Alto? There are rumblings that after all the bells and whistles and contract offers and opportunities and 24/7 watch on this one, the Stanford Cardinal head coach ... could just stay the Stanford Cardinal head coach.
NFL insider Jason La Canfora reports that Harbaugh might ultimately choose between the 49ers and the Cardinal. And La Canfora additionally reports that Stanford actually made a better offer than the 49ers. Is it time for the Yorks to make their re-bid?
Also, Harbaugh probably felt the way we felt about Dolphins owner Stephen Ross entering the fray before resolving the Rooney Rule and Sparano issues; Tim Kawakami tweets that Harbaugh isn't sold on the situation in Miami. Would he really want to work in that type of organization?
According to Mindi Bach, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has left the Bay Area, but he doesn't have a deal with Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh yet. Most of this is due to the fact that Ross hasn't taken care of business in his own house yet.
Adam Schefter mentioned that two things have to take place before Harbaugh can move ahead to accept the offer. As we've mentioned about a hundred times, Tony Sparano is still the head coach of the Dolphins. However, all indications are that if Harbaugh accepts the deal Ross is offering to making him the highest paid coach in the NFL, he will be out. Pretty sleazy, huh?
But also, Harbaugh couldn't accept the deal because the Dolphins need to interview a Rooney Rule minority head coaching candidate, just so Miami will reject that head coaching candidate to move onto hire Harbaugh. Well then.
Basically, the Harbaugh coaching watch is far from over. Stanford, San Francisco, Miami all remain in contention for his services.
Stanford Cardinal fans are hopeful that the return of quarterback Andrew Luck would be enough to entice head coach Jim Harbaugh to return. Harbaugh is notably fond of the signal-caller, and the thought of coming back for one last go-around and getting a national championship is entirely compelling.
But it's looking as if Luck's decision will not have any bearing on what Harbaugh will decide to do with his future. The Cardinal Report (Stanford Rivals site) tweets that Harbaugh's and Luck's decisions will be separate. If Stanford wants to get Harbaugh, they'll need to be able to impress him separately. And much impressing will be necessary to match the lucrative offers of the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.
According to Scott Reiss of CSN Bay Area, Harbaugh met with Cardinal president John Hennessy in order to hear their best offer. Although their salary offer will fall well short of whatever a pro team can offer (particularly the Dolphins), there are other incentives they can offer Harbaugh though, like job security and a better work environment (toilets anyone?). Will that (and maybe Luck) be enough to bring Stanford's greatest modern coach back to Palo Alto?
Andrew Luck is returning to the Stanford Cardinal. It's not looking as if his head coach will be joining him.
As we told you last night, Jim Harbaugh received a huge sales pitch from Miami Dolphins billionaire owner Steve Ross, who was willing to make Harbaugh one of the highest paid coaches in all of football. Harbaugh seems to be on the verge of accepting that deal, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports and Linda Cohn of ESPN. Current head coach Tony Sparano seems to be the odd man out, and will be fired around the same time Harbaugh gets elevated to the position.
Harbaugh, according to reports from KNBR Radio in San Francisco, will reportedly be paid eight million dollars a year as Dolphins head coach. That would make him the highest paid coach in all of football. Pretty incredible for a guy that has only spent two years coaching in the NFL (two years with the Oakland Raiders as their quarterback coach in 2002-2003).
SBN Bay Area will let you know if Harbaugh accepts the deal.
Just when you think the San Francisco 49ers might be on the verge of making a big deal to wrap up Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross is flying to the West Coast to make him an offer. Looks like Miami wasn't just chatting idly with Harbaugh when he was there for the Orange Bowl; their interest was genuine.
Now, all reports indicate that the Niners are going to offer Harbaugh a lot. Matt Maiocco reports that Harbaugh would gain significant control over player personnel and be one of the highest paid coaches in the NFL if he accepted their deal. It'd be hard to imagine what Miami would offer to top that--they'd probably have to do the same thing and up their contract offer as well to top Harbaugh.
All this must be rather amusing to Tony Sparano, who is STILL the Dolphins head coach. Given all these movements by Ross, he probably won't be there for much longer.
For a few months, Michigan Wolverines fans have dreamed of replacing Rich Rodriguez with Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh. Don't expect it to happen anymore. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon seemed to dismiss the thought of Harbaugh by making a public proclamation--according to what he told the Detroit News, he thought Harbaugh would be in the pros next season.
While fans of the San Francisco 49ers must be ecstatic, the people down in Palo Alto better just hope that Brandon is blowing smoke here.
This is a serious situation for Brandon, who now has fired Rodriguez and doesn't have the replacement Michigan fans have wanted for quite some time. The current alternative appears to be San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke, who no one seems satisfied with. If Harbaugh doesn't immediately reconsider and take the job, Brandon is stuck between a rock and a hard place unless he can really land a big name like a Les Miles from LSU or Chris Petersen from Boise State.
Meanwhile, Harbaugh remains in complete control of the situation, as he continues his discussions with the 49ers and owner Jed York...
The news out of Ann Arbor is that sources are indicating Rich Rodriguez has now officially been fired by the the University of Michigan. He was reportedly fired yesterday but Michigan denied it fairly vehemently. However we now have a 9:30am pacific press conference scheduled in which the announcement is expected from Dave Brandon.
As all this has gone on, the 49ers have locked in their GM and begun interviewing head coaching candidates. The commonly held belief is that the 49ers will work to get Jim Harbaugh in as coach by the end of today if at all possible. However, now that Michigan is free to completely pursue a new coach one has to wonder if they’ll make a last ditch effort for Jim Harbaugh, a noted Michigan alum.
Although the reports indicate Jim Harbaugh will not go to Michigan, I’d have to imagine the Wolverines will make one final push for their famous son. Although they may not get him, they could still have a chance to throw some money at him and try and play on the whole school pride angle. It doesn’t appear likely to work, but this is basically their last chance with him.
It’s basically become a race against time now as Michigan and the 49ers would both appear to be in pursuit of Harbaugh. Add in Denver and Miami as possible suitors and it’s safe to say Jim Harbaugh has as much leverage as he may ever have. While he’s done well for himself at Stanford, it’s safe to say he’ll be cashing some truly serious paychecks soon.
Things are officially crazy in the Wolverine State as the rumors swirling around embattled University of Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez have reached a frenzy. Earlier today all reports indicated Rodriguez had been fired in a private meeting with the Michigan athletic director.
However, the rivals.com Michigan page just posted that the decision will reportedly not be made until tomorrow:
The players’ meeting that had been scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m. has been delayed until tomorrow at 4:00.
If the private firing has not yet occurred I really don’t know what is now holding it up. One reasonable explanation could be that Michigan still thinks it can get something done with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and wants to buy some more time. Brady Hoke had emerged as the new candidate of choice, but maybe Michigan just can’t quit Jim Harbaugh. The infatuation, particularly in the fan base, has been there from day one and it can be hard to get over that.
Whatever the case, it sounds like we’ll be right back here tomorrow wondering when Rich Rodriguez will officially get his pink slip. It seems crazy to think he’d hold on to the job at this point.
And just when you thought Jim Harbaugh was down to the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos for NFL coaching candidacies, the Miami Dolphins have thrown their hat into the ring. The Dolphins were talking to Harbaugh during the Orange Bowl weekend down in South Florida according to NFL Network Insider Jason La Cafora, and he's definitely a candidate if he wants to be one. Tony Sparano is in a precarious position after two straight 7-9 seasons, although Miami probably won't fire Sparano unless Harbaugh is willing to commit.
There's some attractiveness to being the Dolphins head coach. He wouldn't have to deal with the curious ownership situation in San Francisco. He wouldn't be second fiddle to stars like Tim Tebow and John Elway. And with the focus around LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, Harbaugh can steal the spotlight by resurrecting Miami back to national prominence.
It's just more intrigue in a coaching race that seems to have no end.
According to the same people that reported the firing of as Michigan Wolverines head coach, Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh is NOT the primary target for athletic director Dave Brandon, but instead San Diego St. Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke. Ryan Ermanni of FOX 2 in Detroit was just on ESPN News with Linda Cohn, and reported that his sources close to the situation are telling him Hoke will be the guy to end up the job. Despite 90% of Michigan people wanting Harbaugh, Harbaugh apparently has turned away from Ann Arbor.
Hoke, like Harbaugh, is a Michigan man, having coached the defensive line under Lloyd Carr from 1995 to 2002. While he lacks the appeal of Stanford football's leader, Hoke seems to have a resume similar to that of Harbaugh--he turned around the Ball St. Cardinals over a six year period and led them to 7-6 and 12-1 season before moving onto San Diego State. In two years he took them to the Pointsettia Bowl and led them to a victory over Navy and a 9-4 finish. He clearly has shown the turnaround ability Harbaugh exhibited with the Cardinal. His defensive pedigree also will be much needed for a team that's been lacking defense of any sorts for the last few years.
Perhaps those early rumors about Harbaugh losing interest in the maize and blue weren't as far-fetched as originally thought. Which makes you wonder exactly what soured the Harbaugh-to-Michigan deal in the first place.
The people really cheering are in Palo Alto and in San Francisco, who thought Harbaugh was as good as gone as early as a week ago; their chances at keeping or landing him respectively just skyrocketed. But don't rejoice yet Cardinal fans; Ermani also said it's almost certain Harbaugh is going to the NFL. And so it continues.
Sources told FOX2 in Detroit that Michigan Wolverines head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired in a private meeting with athletic director David Brandon. (The Detroit Free Press confirms this story). Rodriguez's final game at Michigan was probably the dagger, as a 52-14 blowout to Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator Bowl seemed like a pretty meek response for a coach fighting for his job.
Rodriguez finishes his career 15-22 in three years at Michigan and only one winning season, this year's 7-6 bowl eligible Michigan squad. Although he was finally able to recruit the type of players necessary to run his potent spread offense, the hiring of Greg Robinson for defensive coordinator was his death knell, as the Wolverines defense plummeted to one of the worst in college football the past two seasons.
So now the speculation begins in earnest--is Rodriguez's departure a sign that Jim Harbaugh is on his way to Ann Arbor? The report earlier today signifying Harbaugh wasn't interested as much in the job as before could be a bad sign, but Rodriguez being fired indicates Michigan might be willing to throw the treasure chest at the Stanford Cardinal head coach in order to get him to come. Brandon firing Rodriguez like this seems to indicate that he has someone in line to replace him.
In a stunning development to Michigan Wolverines fans everywhere, Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbuagh seems to be downplaying the idea of heading back to his alma mater and replacing the beleaguered . While it makes sense that his primary focus would be the NFL, more puzzlingly, he seems to be preferring a return back to Stanford after Adam Schefter said he was as good as gone from Palo Alto over heading to Michigan. The Detroit Free Press has more on the story.
This smells like shenanigans to me. Why would Harbaugh suddenly just lose interest in the Michigan job after conventional wisdom stated that he would be head back to take over the program?
I think this might be more contract leveraging by Harbaugh and his agent, which is exactly like what we thought Harbaugh would do after winning the Orange Bowl. The NFL will obviously offer him the highest price, but Michigan should definitely be able to offer him more than Stanford. Perhaps this is just to open up the wallet of Wolverines donors and boosters a little bigger...
Don't think Harbaugh is out of the Michigan coaching candidacy yet.
The San Francisco 49ers ownership and Michigan Wolverines donors probably flinched at the dominance of Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal in a nationally televised beatdown of the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2011 Orange Bowl. Harbaugh seemed to dismiss any notion that his team was distracted from the mission at hand (winning the game) by rolling off 27 unanswered points in the second half, as his Cardinal offense and defense shut down a Hokies team on an eleven game winning streak coming into this affair.
The question remains: How much does this improve Harbaugh’s situation? Darren Rovell, CNBC sports business reporter, tweeted that no coach has ever been sought after in the way that Harbaugh will be over the next few days. This provides more leverage for Harbaugh to demand a higher contract, as Stanford seems more and more willing to shill out the big bucks for a successful football program and could very well drive up his market value. Michigan and the other NFL teams interested in Harbaugh will probably have to fork over a little more. There’s no sign he’s coming to a decision anytime soon and will begin leveraging his name for all it’s worth.
Josh McDaniels was fired by the Denver Broncos after losing 17 of his final 22 games as their head coach. With the regular season concluding and a 4-12 season on their hands, it’s clear Denver needs to make a big change—interim/running backs coach Eric Studesville isn’t really a long-term answer.
Former Denver great John Elway is about to be tapped as executive vice president for the Broncos, and he’s looking toward his alma mater and Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Elway will be at the Orange Bowl as an honorary captain for Stanford in their matchup against Virginia Tech.
It would be an interesting coaching hire if Elway could sway Harbaugh to the Broncos. However, the big question is whether Harbaugh would be able to handle the quarterback situation. It’s clear that Denver is committing themselves to Tim Tebow as the new quarterback, and it’s hard to see if Harbaugh would be interested enough in trying to develop him into a real pro starter.
So fill this rumor in the “highly unlikely” box.
Jim Harbaugh and his agent were probably the big winners from the 2011 Gator Bowl. Dan Mullen and the Mississippi St. Bulldogs made Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines look feeble offensively and toothless defensively in a 52-14 obliteration, piling up 485 yards of total offense over 35 minutes. Brian Cook of MGoBlog mentioned yesterday that the hiring of Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator was a total disaster, and it sure looked like that as the Bulldogs scored more points against Michigan than they did against patsies like Memphis or Alcorn State.
The Michigan regents, who’ve long been considered unhappy with the results Rodriguez has produced the past few years, now have further justification to let him off the hook and pursue Harbaugh hard. Plenty of ESPN commentators were ready to bring his name up as well, as if they already knew the hammer was about to drop. On the flip side, the Michigan loss can only add more leverage for Harbaugh to pursue the best possible contract from the Wolverines. Considering Michigan’s interest in Harbaugh is beyond transparent, and there will be demands from other places like the San Francisco 49ers, he’ll be free to demand whatever he wants if athletic director Dave Brandon decides to cut the cord with Rich Rod.
Anxious Michigan fans will now have a long two days to wait between here and the Orange Bowl before they know what the near future holds for their program.
All signs are pointing toward Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh packing his bags for Ann Arbor and the Michigan Wolverines coaching job. Current Michigan head coach would be sacrificed in the process. With this potential change in the works, we brought in Brian Cook, the proprietor of MGoBlog, the best Michigan blog on the Internets, and founder of the Blogpoll, to come over and discuss the ramifications of this potential coaching change. We thank Brian for taking the time out to answer these questions.
1. How satisfied are you with Rich Rodriguez’s performance at Michigan through three years?
Not very, but it’s hard to tell how much is on him and how much is on the combination of circumstances that saw Nick Sheridan play half of Rodriguez’s first season and other such cosmic/crossover/transition issues.
Obviously the bit of the team he specializes in is headed towards a conference championship level. Obviously the bit he doesn’t is a total debacle. Hiringwas indefensible at the time and is even worse now; that and his inability to get along with Scott Shafer [now at Syracuse], who appears to be a decent DC after all, are large black marks.
2. What would be the ramifications of Rodriguez being fired and Harbaugh getting hired?
Either one hell of a recruiting job by Harbaugh to keep Denard Robinson around and some continuation of the spread ‘n’ shred or hurray more painful transition. At least Rodriguez would presumably leave Harbaugh with someone from the Gardner/Forcier/Robinson trio to play QB.
3. Harbaugh’s biggest calling card was his ability to find and develop the impeccable Andrew Luck. Is there anyone in Ann Arbor or down the pipeline that could be developed into that type of signal-caller, like Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner?
Gardner is the most likely. He’s got NFL size but came out of high school fairly raw as a thrower. As he develops he should become the sort of guy who can work in any system. Forcier and Robinson are guys highly dependent on taking shotgun snaps so their vision isn’t obscured; Forcier does have the passing ability to be a functional pro-style guy but it’s probably not the ideal fit.
4. Jim Harbaugh runs a flexible pro-style offense at Stanford (with 2009, he went power run behind Toby Gerhart, and in 2010 he went to a vertical passing game behind Andrew Luck), and he was good at finding offensive lineman that could push around Pac-10 defenses. Does he have the personnel ready to execute that system, or will he have to adapt to be successful?
Possibly. Michigan’s offensive line returns three starters, one of them one of those ideal NFL left tackle prospects—Taylor Lewan—that works in any system and another a Rimington finalist who was recruited to play under Lloyd Carr. They’ve got plenty of backups and a couple of road-grader types at guard waiting in the wings. Outside WR is the same in any offense, and Michigan has a couple upperclass TEs who would do fine in a pro style system.
The main issues are at the other skill spots. At quarterback you’re either going with Robinson—uh—or a guy who is not Robinson—argh. The main guy at RB this year was 5’6" guy who made everyone wince whenever Michigan lined up in the I with him, and Michigan’s got the #1 spread-style back in the country committed… for now. They do have a few RBs who would probably do well in that system but it would be another transition. And then they’ve got a half-dozen slot receivers who are out of a job.
5. If you were the AD, and you had to pick between keeping Rodriguez or hiring Harbaugh, what would be your decision?
Rodriguez on the condition that he hires an actual defensive coordinator and lets him hire who he wants under him with the possible exception of Tony Gibson, a key recruiter. I think making a change is an inevitable offensive downgrade in year one and if you’re changing the D coaching staff anyway it seems like the team would be better next year if Rodriguez is around.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN (who is also a Michigan Wolverines alum), the days of Jim Harbaugh as Stanford Cardinal head coach are numbered as much as Rich Rodriguez coaching the Michigan Wolverines. Because Harbaugh will soon be on the verge of taking Rodriguez's job. You can listen to Schefter talk with Ross Tucker on the ESPN Football Today podcast about the rumor. Start around the 18:45 mark to get the full quotes.
"They'd [The San Francisco 49ers would] love Jim Harbaugh from Stanford. My understanding is that it's going to be very difficult for them to get him, and I don't think he'll wind up there. The sense is that Jim Harbaugh will wind up at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, coaching the Maize and Blue.
"Again, this is the buzz around the league. This is what people, smart people think is going to happen. That's the sense of people that I know and trust and respect, that Harbaugh will not go to the Niners, that he will go to Michigan, and it'll be up to another NFL job to see if it could entice him and prevent him from going to a place like Michigan."
So you can see that Schefter isn't completely sure that Harbaugh will go to Michigan. The San Francisco 49ers want Harbaugh as well, but they might need to really spice up the offer to sway him away from the maize and blue. The situation couldn't have worked out more perfectly for Harbaugh, who has plenty of parties interested in him, and is free to leverage his contract buying price as much as he pleases.
The only thing Schefter is convinced about? Harbaugh is leaving Stanford right after the bowl game, and then Andrew Luck will leave for the NFL Draft once his coach leaves. Not good news for Cardinal fans, although Schefter is less sure about Luck's future than Harbaugh's because of Luck's desire to complete his degree.
As we chronicled earlier this week, NFL GMs I talk to, including some looking at coaches, think Harbaugh goes to U of Michigan
Stanford Cardinal athletic director Bob Bowlsby seemed very confident this offseason that head coach Jim Harbaugh was ready to come back, and that they were prepared to throw more than gold toilets at him. Harbaugh currently earns $1.25 million dollars a year, and Bowlsby indicated the hottest coach in America would "be willing to accept his offer".
However, Harbaugh has refused to discuss anything about the upcoming coaching frenzy that'll follow the Orange Bowl between Stanford and Virginia Tech. He's been all business, which has to be a worrying sign for Cardinal fans--all he had to say was he was working hard to reach a contract agreement with Stanford and boom, fears assuaged. When asked to press on the matter by the media, and also to talk about what Bowlsby had to say, Harbaugh responded (and I quote)
Yikes. Never a good sign when your athletic director and coach are miscommunicating like that. Cardinal fans better hope this is just gamesmanship, because the talk around Harbaugh continues to heat up as 2011 approaches.
Jim Harbaugh has become the most popular coach in the Bay Area after an 11-1 season for the Stanford Cardinal. A lot of San Francisco 49ers fans have been turning their eyes to Palo Alto as their season went south. Now, with Mike Singletary gone, it might be time to start calling him up.
And perhaps that was exactly what Jed York had in mind when he fired Singletary a week before the season ends. As we discussed earlier on this stream (and David touched on at Niners Nation), Harbaugh could be a strong candidate for the Michigan Wolverines job if Athletic Director Dave Brandon decides to fire current coach Rich Rodriguez. That decision could come as early as this weekend. By firing Singletary, the 49ers can start making their pitch to Harbaugh if they’re interested in him. That would give them a leg up on the Michigan pitch that could be waiting once the New Year’s rolls around and Rodriguez’s buyout price decreases.
For more on the 49ers coaching search, check out the SB Nation storystream dedicated to this topic.
Obviously, the job that Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh has been rumored around the most is the Michigan Wolverines. Harbaugh’s alma mater expressed interest in him a few years ago when Lloyd Carr first retired, but they eventually backed off and locked onto West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Rodriguez moved the Wolverines away from their stodgy old-school way of playing football and began the transition to his high-octane spread offense. Unfortunately, the change has taken time to implement. Michigan went 3-9 and 5-7 in their first two seasons, and despite finally earning a bowl berth in 2010, they were a meek 3-5 this season in conference play, and now 6-18 in the Big Ten through three years.
Michigan has been mum on Rodriguez. Athletic director Dave Brandon has refused to stifle the rumor mill on his head coach. This little quip of information also doesn’t make things any easier.
If Brandon and school officials decide to fire Rodriguez without cause on or after Jan. 1, the buyout drops from $4 million to $2.5 million.
Rich Rodriguez coaches Michigan against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl on January 1st. Jim Harbaugh coaches Stanford against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on January 3rd. If anything is to happen on the Harbaugh-to-Michigan front, it’s likely to happen New Year’s week, so Michigan and Stanford fans should keep their eyes peeled.
The Carolina Panthers, despite a victory last week over the Arizona Cardinals, are still in the driver’s seat for obtaining the number one draft pick. At 2-12, and with road dates at Pittsburgh and at Atlanta looming, Carolina seems guaranteed to finish in last place in the NFL this season, and place themselves in plum position to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes—if Luck decides to turn pro.
With John Fox almost certainly on his way out at season’s end, we have a definite opening for an NFL coaching position this offseason. This leaves Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh one possible landing spot in the big-time, because it’s one of the few places that is likely to have both a quarterback and coaching change next season. Will Harbaugh be interested in joining one of the the main reasons for his success at Stanford in a possible package deal?
People already have been throwing around Jim Harbaugh’s name and I think there are at least logical reasons for the Panthers to take a look at him. Harbaugh’s had success at Stanford and he’s young and enthusiastic. He also is the guy who has been coaching Andrew Luck. In case you haven’t heard, there is a pretty good chance Luck will be the first player chosen in the 2011 draft. There’s an even better chance the 1-11 Panthers will hold that pick.
Harbaugh may be a college coach, but he had a lengthy NFL career, so the transition wouldn’t be that dramatic.
There is one problem: Jimmy Clausen. The Carolina brass might not be quite ready to quit on their supposed future franchise quarterback.
But I’m not convinced the people who still will be in power are
ready to give up on Jimmy Clausen, although Fox never embraced him. It’s possible the Panthers could hire Harbaugh and ask him to develop Clausen.
If that’s the case, it could be quite possible that Luck’s draft status for next season could be directly influenced on whether the Panthers want Clausen as their man. And by proxy, Harbaugh’s decision between the pros and the collegiate ranks could be directly influenced as well, since coaching AND quarterback changes on one team are highly unlikely to happen in many places this offseason.
In the NFL, new hire college head coaches often have difficulty adapting to the pro game for whatever reason. Whether it be the recruiting and talent disparity of college football or dealing with millionaire athletes, college head coaches have generally struggled when they move to the pro level. One reason people predict success at the NFL level for Stanford football head coach Jim Harbaugh is the fact that his brother John Harbaugh has been successful with the Baltimore Ravens. It’s the idea that coaching and the game of football is in the Harbaugh genes.
Whether that’s true or not, it shouldn’t be surprising that John weighed in on the possibility of his brother Jim coming to the NFL. John seemed to think Jim was inclined to stick with Stanford, but he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an NFL team making a hard push for Jim. Yet even he isn’t totally sure what will happen:
“I have no idea what he’s going to do,” Harbaugh said. "We do talk about it all the time. He’s having a baby, he’s not, Sarah’s having a baby, in four or five days, and they’ve got the bowl game, so he’s just swimming right now. So, he’s not even thinking about it right now.
“I think he wants to stay at Stanford, I think he’d love to stay there, but then again, you just have to see what happens. He’s not the kind of guy that’s going to make any kind of commitment until he’s ready to make a commitment. I think his commitment right now is having a baby and winning the Orange Bowl. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Over the next two weeks as Stanford prepares for the Orange Bowl, I’d imagine we’ll get little comments like this from a variety of sources. However, once the Orange Bowl is complete, it will most definitely be game on. I’d imagine the first questions about taking a new job will come as soon as the post-game press conference. Really the first one will probably come from the sideline reporter as soon as the game is over. January will likely prove to be a crazy time in the Harbaugh household no matter what decision he makes.
Stanford Cardinal football head coach Jim Harbaugh is at the peak of his powers. He's led the Cardinal from the ignominy of the Walt Harris era to the top of the heap in college football. Stanford went from 1-11 in 2006 to 11-1, the #4 overall ranking, and a BCS berth in the Orange Bowl four seasons later. He is, by all accounts, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the program.
Unfortunately, this is where things usually unravel for the Cardinal. Because after only a short run of success, modern coaches have tended to bolt from these safe environs for higher, more prestigious openings.
So is Harbaugh next? We take a look at the biggest possibilties.
NFL team (Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, etc.)
Taking the path of so many others, he could try and land a gig with the cream of the crop. As the leader of a tough-minded, power offense, he immediately displays the qualities of a coach that can replicate that level of success at the next level. There are a lot of choices for a pro team, but what would be most tantalizing is if he could end up with whomever gets the first pick in the NFL Draft ... who would likely be his current quarterback Andrew Luck (if he decided to turn pro). Carolina, with John Fox likely on his way out, would be ripe for the taking.
There's a lot to like. He'd get to join his brother John in the pros and prove that he's just as capable of being a successful coach. He'd become one of the quirkier personalities in a league that embraces press conference quotes, bizarre headlines, and that sort of "winning attitude" that media-types love to pontificate.
Here's the big question though: Would Harbaugh be just as savvy at evaluating pro personnel as he is at building a strong collegiate team? Would he be willing to wait a few years to have a team that low build up from the top? Of course, the special relationship he and Luck share could be a deciding factor.
If he doesn't want to wait that long? Enter San Francisco, a team that seems to be only a few pieces away from playoff runs. Harbaugh wouldn't have to move from his Bay Area spot (especially with the team on the move to Santa Clara), and he could help revitalize a franchise that's been searching for that next elusive step. Perhaps he trades up to get Luck, or he goes in another direction to get the pieces he wants to build the team he desires. Although I'm sure San Francisco fans are a little skittish about hiring another coach with primarily college experience (it's been a LONG time since Walsh and Steve Mariucci), they'll probably get over it to rid themselves of the stench of the disappointing Mike Singletary era.
Harbaugh's a Michigan man, and he coaches Michigan style. Extra offensive linemen, power run, I-formation heavy football? Sign up every fan over the age of 50 (and when it comes to Wolverine football, there's a lot of those).
People at Michigan bemoan how slow the rise back from obscurity things have been with Rich Rodriguez. And a lot of college football fans know how stodgy Wolverine fans and alumni can be--when they get impatient, things can get ugly fast.
On the other hand, Harbaugh has pretty much been linked to the Michigan job forever, but I'm not so sure this is where he'll end up. For one, Michigan has devoted themselves to recruiting spread players for the past three years to get the type of team Rodriguez wants for his offense. To renege on that effort just to hire a hot talent seems like a big risk, and could mean another three to four years of rebuilding for a Wolverine program that seems on the verge of turning the corner. Would Harbaugh be willing to wait that out? And is Rodriguez actually going to get fired? Mum's the word at Michigan, meaning we're in for a long month of rampant speculation for the Maize and Blue.
Also, Scott Wolf says he'd go to Michigan. We've already shown why that isn't very likely.
Why leave when the going's good? Harbaugh will never feel any real pressure at Stanford the way he would at Michigan or in the pros. He's free to do as he please with minimal interference and no real media crunch in the laid-back South Bay environment. He could struggle for the next decade and not win ten games for another five to six years, and he'd still be in plum shape to be Stanford's coach.
The only real question is legacy. As a college football coach, you can only be considered so great for so long doing what Harbaugh does at a middling program with minimal fan support. If you go to Michigan or the NFL and become successful with a franchise, you get to be one of the immortals (like Walsh) in football lore. Could that be the deciding factor that finally drives him to make a bigger name for himself?
It's shaping up to be one intriguing winter for the hottest coach in America.
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