Despite three straight trips to the NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl appearance, rumors continue to swirl regarding San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh’s eventual departure.
Talk of a divorce started this past summer when whispers of a rare head coach trade involving the Cleveland Browns surfaced. Harbaugh and the Niners denied the reports, but comments from Browns owner Jimmy Haslam only added fuel to the fire.
Since then, some have been counting the days until the end of the 2014 NFL season, pointing to a volatile relationship between Harbaugh and San Francisco’s front office. In fact, FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer has said he “doesn’t see any way” Harbaugh is back with the team in 2015, “even if” they won the Super Bowl.
Whether Harbaugh is on his last leg in San Francisco or not remains to be determined, but if he is, it’s certainly worth wondering where he’d go after his exit.
Would the 49ers trade him, would he get axed and sign on with another NFL team or would he bolt for a return to the college scene? Let’s take a look at his five most likely destinations if he indeed leaves the 49ers in 2015:
Harbaugh played quarterback for the Wolverines in his college days, so he understandably has some very real ties to Ann Arbor. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to return to the college game, though. He’s already put in his time working his way up through the ranks, and at 50 years old he may want to stick around to match his brother John and get his first Super Bowl. However, if he did bolt for the college scene again, the Wolverines have to be the frontrunner for his services.
If Harbaugh is back on the table, why not go back to where this whole mess began? Haslam clearly had interest in Harbaugh and trade talks died down. That doesn’t mean the Browns wouldn’t ditch current head coach Mike Pettine, as Harbaugh is arguably a better coaching talent and in just three years as an NFL coach has reached three conference title games. That kind of experience is nothing to sniff at. Even Pettine would have to understand to a certain degree.
It sounds interesting enough, but it’s not likely. Pettine appears to be in control and as dysfunctional as Cleveland has been throughout their history, it seems like they finally have their heads on straight. Firing their head coach for the fourth time in four years would be beyond reckless.
St. Louis Rams
This is the revenge factor. If the Niners flat out fire Harbaugh and the Rams think Jeff Fisher has taken them as far as he can, they could see Harbaugh as the guy to get the job done. Harbaugh, in turn, could see a quality Rams defense and an offense with potential. More importantly, he’d get to battle the 49ers twice a year and show them how big of a mistake they made by letting him walk.
These other options above are more dramatic than realistic, but the Cowboys could be a team Harbaugh actually sees as a good fit. Dallas has turned it on this year and could be legit, but if they crumble like they seemingly always do, it could be the end of head coach Jason Garrett. Owner Jerry Jones has been loyal to Garrett thus far, but he also hasn’t had much of a choice with a weak crop of head coaches year in and year out. This summer could be different if Harbaugh is given his walking papers.
Unlike the first three options, the Cowboys would give Harbaugh a potentially elite offense and he could get to work on their middling defense. After seeing how quickly he turned a bad San Francisco team around just a few years ago, it’d be very interesting to see what he could do with Tony Romo and the ‘Boys.
Marc Trestman has proven to be a sound offensive mind and a quarterback whisperer, but he might not have what it takes to be an NFL head coach. That realization could have the Bears looking for a new leader for the second time in the past three years, and that could potentially be Harbaugh. Like Dallas, they have a long way to go on defense, but they have all the parts of a successful offense. Harbaugh could do wonders with this unit if the interest is mutual.
There are a few others teams that could express interest, as Marvin Lewis could finally be on the hot seat in Cincinnati if the Bengals don’t finally win a playoff game, while teams like the Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and others could very well be looking at a change up top. One way or another, it sounds like Harbaugh is done in San Francisco after this season and where he winds up coaching in 2015 will be one of the hottest stories to follow in the off-season.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ron, the lead editor of FantasyFootballOverdose.Com – great source of football news and rumors. You can follow @NFLRankings via Twitter or via Google+ for more updates.