Here is my Tuesday column.
Would Jim Harbaugh willingly coach the Raiders next season?
Is he insane?
He is under contract to coach the 49ers next season, but ESPN reported this past weekend that the Niners will dump him after this season unless the team makes a deep run into the playoffs – fat chance. Almost every other week it seems a new report comes out reminding us that Harbaugh probably is a goner.
ESPN added that the Raiders and Jets would like to trade for him, and that the Raiders are the favorites to land him.
That made me chuckle. How could the Raiders be the favorites for anything, let alone a big-name head coach like Harbaugh? Harbaugh has to agree the trade before it can happen. Wouldn’t he rather coach somewhere else?
Wouldn’t Harbaugh rather coach at the University of Michigan, his alma mater, where fans would worship him and he would make a ton of dough? He couldn’t fail at Michigan. He’s proven he can build a college football program – he already built two, at the University of San Diego and at Stanford. He can build a third program at Michigan, re-build his stock as a head coach and return to the NFL after a few years to a coach a team with real talent.
Isn’t that the shrewd move instead of coaching the Raiders, the least-talented team in the NFL?
Think about it from his ego’s perspective. Harbaugh has a giant ego.
Returning to college football would diminish Harbaugh’s ego. Perception would be that Harbaugh needed to return to college to fix his shortcomings as a coach.
Harbaugh doesn’t think he has shortcomings. He thinks he’s the best coach in the world. He can’t prove that at Michigan, but he can prove it at the Raiders.
If Harbaugh can fix the worst team in football, he can proclaim he is the genius he believes himself to be. And he can show up Jed York and Trent Baalke at the same time.
The Raiders are the perfect match for Harbaugh and his ego.
The Jets are a decent match, but they have more talent than the Raiders and they’re 3,000 miles farther away from the Niners. It would be more pleasurable to show up York and Baalke in their own backyard.
If Harbaugh went to the Jets, he would have to work for general manager John Idzik, a powerful executive like Trent Baalke. Harbaugh might not want to work for Idzik.
Harbaugh probably wouldn’t want to work for Reggie McKenzie, either. He may not have to. Harbaugh would love to work for Mike Lombardi, one of his best friends. Lombardi was the Raiders’ Senior Personnel Executive from 1998-2007. He currently is an assistant to the Patriots’ coaching staff after he spent last season as the Browns’ general manager. Lombardi allegedly tried to trade two third-rounds picks to the Niners for Harbaugh this past February before the Browns fired him (Lombardi).
Mark Davis can fire McKenzie after the season and replace him with Lombardi. That would make Harbaugh happy.
The Raiders would be stupid to trade their 2015 first-round pick for Harbaugh because their 2015 first-rounder could be a top-three pick – a potential franchise player.
But they have plenty of other draft picks to interest the 49ers. They could trade the Niners, say, a third-rounder for Harbaugh. The Niners would be happy because they’d get a mid-round pick for a coach they would just as soon dump for nothing. The Raiders would be happy because they’d get credibility, national attention and sold-out home games for the first time in more than a decade.
Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media Monday afternoon for the first time since ESPN’s report about a possible trade to the Raiders. The 49ers play the Raiders this coming Sunday, and one reporter asked Harbaugh if he can confirm which of the two teams he will be coaching during that game.
Harbaugh stared straight ahead, clenched his jaw and tried to show nothing. And then he smiled. He couldn’t help himself. The question amused him.
He knows that we know he might be going to the Raiders next season. He just can’t say it.
Is he insane? You tell me.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.