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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Will Jim Harbaugh Leave Stanford for Michigan or NFL?

After leading his team to an 11-1 season, there is plenty of speculation that Jim Harbaugh will leave Stanford following the Orange Bowl for another coaching job. He has been rumored to be targeted by Michigan in the collegiate ranks, and Carolina, San Francisco, Denver, and Oakland in the NFL. Quite simply, he is one of the most coveted coaches. The question is whether or not the former quarterback will be available.

It’s hard to get inside Harbaugh’s head to know what he’s thinking, and not even his brother knows what he’ll do (either that, or John Harbaugh won’t tell us the plans), but that won’t stop us from speculating. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck is projected to be the top pick in the NFL draft should he leave school. We shared a report suggesting Luck is leaning towards returning to school, which would be an incentive for Harbaugh to remain on the Farm. Still, I think Harbaugh’s leaving for the NFL after the game, and here’s why.

Harbaugh has led Stanford to two straight bowls, coached two straight Heisman Trophy runner-ups (Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck), and he’s beaten USC three of four times. His credentials can’t get much more impressive and his stock cannot get much higher. Stanford is not a destination job and it is unlikely that this is where Harbaugh wants to remain for the rest of his career. In short, what better time to leave than now, especially if Stanford beats Virginia Tech.

I don’t think Harbaugh is going to Michigan for a number of reasons. Three years ago, he criticized his alma mater for their academic treatment of athletes. Even though there are new people running the show in Ann Arbor who would love to replace Rich Rodriguez with Harbaugh, we’re talking about a guy who turned down Michigan after Lloyd Carr was fired. Harbaugh is putting together a dominant program in the Pac-10, if he leaves, why make a lateral move to another college, especially one he hasn’t spoken about fondly the past few years.

In contrast, Jim Harbaugh played professional football, has many connections in the NFL, and his brother coaches the Ravens. Harbaugh strikes me as a guy who would want to coach in the NFL to compete at the highest level where the pay is also the greatest. He also did not outright deny interest in the Raiders job two years ago when it came up, unlike the Michigan job.

There are four jobs in the NFL currently available (Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, and San Francisco), and there could be more (Cincinnati, Oakland, Tennessee). Harbaugh will likely be able to dictate his salary, role, staff, and anything else he wants from one of these teams. Everything adds up to Harbaugh ultimately leaving Stanford for the NFL after the Orange Bowl.

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