Harbaugh with the 49ers: three consecutive runs to the NFC championship game, a 44-19-1 record over four years.
And while we’re at it, this was Harbaugh in his final season at Stanford: 12-1 with a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
If you’re in the market for a guy who can take – as was once said, possibly of Bear Bryant, by somebody else – his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n, here he is. Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier fizzled in the NFL. Harbaugh won big there and won bigger in college.
There aren’t many coaches, now or ever, you’d take over Belichick. Harbaugh, at this moment, is one.
You’re waiting for the “but,” right? Here it is. Harbaugh is an odd duck. His San Francisco tenure lasted four seasons, and the Niners weren’t distressed when he left for his alma mater. Having just seen him miss six games due to separate violations, his alma mater mightn’t be crushed if he took his talents elsewhere.
An NFL team might view someone whose program flouted an NCAA regulation regarding travel in the effort to scout/steal signs as reason to hire the guy. In the NFL, you want a guy looking for angles. In the NFL, you want a guy who’ll outwork the other guys. If you’re an NFL team worried about a history of gamesmanship, that deals you out of the Belichick sweepstakes, too.
I can see Harbaugh alighting in Flowery Branch and driving his new employer nuts. I can also see Arthur Blank forgiving all excesses when Roger Goodell hands him the Lombardi Trophy. Belichick might demand a better quarterback than Desmond Ridder. Harbaugh made one NFC championship game with Alex Smith and two more with Colin Kaepernick. Once a QB, Harbaugh is great with QBs.
In the January 2012 conference final, his 49ers lost to the Giants in overtime when a player who’d already botched one punt fumbled another. In January 2014, the Niners were undone by a great Seattle team after Richard Sherman tipped away a Kaepernick pass in the end zone. That’s how close Harbaugh came to three consecutive Super Bowls.
As of Wednesday morning, the Falcons have interviewed seven candidates to replace Arthur Smith. We assume Belichick is Blank’s top choice, though he might not be. We don’t know if the Falcons are Belichick’s top choice. Major consideration: The market could be shifting.
Two NFC East teams suffered stunning reversals in the span of 32 hours. Dallas got blown out at home by the Packers, whom the Falcons beat. Philadelphia no-showed against the Buccaneers, whom the Falcons also beat. Both Jerry Jones and Jeffrey Lurie could be seeking HCs soon. Both have quarterbacks.
It’s possible neither the Cowboys nor the Eagles will fire an incumbent. It’s possible Harbaugh won’t leave Michigan. It’s possible Belichick is waiting on the Chargers, who have a quarterback. This could go any which way. I’d suggest the Falcons move with alacrity.
The catch: Belichick/Harbaugh could be waiting to see what’s up with Dallas/Philly. (Nick Sirianni, the Eagles’ coach of the moment, is said to be meeting with Lurie today.) If I’m Blank, I make a pick – of the mega-names, my pick is Harbaugh – and make him say no. If he says yes, yippee.
It’s a funny old world. Over two days, the Falcons interviewed the coaches responsible for this franchise’s most excruciating loss and for this administration’s second-worst defeat. We recall 28-3. We tend to forget that, on Jan. 20, 2013, the Falcons led Harbaugh’s Niners 17-0. Pretty sure Blank remembers..
Like somebody – maybe even Bear Bryant – said: If you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em.
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