Despite being publicly linked to the soon to be vacant Texas Longhorns job, don’t expect to see 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh packing his bags and bolting the Bay Area any time soon.
In his press conference with the media on Wednesday, Harbaugh stuck to his standard line regarding any job opening he is linked to, stating: “I don’t ever talk about any jobs other than the one I have.”
Technically the Texas job is not even open yet, though it is expected that if Mack Brown does not voluntarily step down, he will be relieved of his duties by the university.
While there are plenty of reasons that a NFL coach would consider heading back to the college ranks, such as having total control of the team and recruiting, no salary cap, and less media invasion — let’s admit it, that last one may appeal to Harbaugh — it’s very unlikely any of the above would compel him to leave a very good situation in San Francisco.
The 49ers turned around their status as one of the NFL’s weaker teams back to their former elite status in Harbaugh’s first NFL season, being within one fumbled punt away from a trip to the Super Bowl in the NFC Championship game. In his second season they made it to the Super Bowl only to lose to Jim’s brother’s team, the Baltimore Ravens, in a game they could have won.
The highly competitive Jim is not likely to bolt back to the college ranks after having sniffed a Super Bowl ring in each of his first two seasons, and with a team that still has a wide open window to compete for a Super Bowl ring that should last several more seasons. A former NFL quarterback himself, Harbaugh wants that ring and I don’t see him leaving the NFL with unfinished business.
The 49ers, already a destination for players looking to compete for a ring, are also moving into their new, state of the art Levi Stadium next season in Santa Clara.
The one major appeal to Harbaugh, a raise from his $25 million, five year contract (average of $5 million per season), should also be a non-issue.
49ers ownership, namely Jed York, was already rumored to be preparing for a contract extension with Harbaugh as early as this offseason. The prospect of losing the man who turned the franchise around is likely to send York running for his checkbook and sliding a blank check across his desk in Harbaugh’s direction.
Okay, maybe it won’t be a blank check, but the amount is sure to exceed whatever offer Texas would place in front of him.
Harbaugh, as happy as he may be with his current position, would be foolish not to use the leverage of top-college job offer as a negotiating chip with the 49ers front office for a new deal, but at the end of the day, that’s all it will be, a leverage move.
It’s worth noting that for Texas that is all this essentially is as well, a leverage move to help them land their true target, Nick Saban.
Tossing names like Harbaugh’s into the mix gives them back some of the leverage they were previously lacking in attempting to lure Saban away from Alabama.
Get used to hearing Harbaugh’s name connected to college jobs though. His reputation and prior success in the college ranks at San Diego and Stanford is going to have suitors running to him every year when openings pop up. He apparently already flatly rejected the USC job earlier this year.
He’ll reject the Texas job as well, but he may still wind up walking away from it with a fatter bank account by way of a new deal from the 49ers thanks to the leverage this gives him in extension talks.