With every loss the San Francisco 49ers have, Jim Harbaugh comes closer to leaving and maybe, just maybe, make up his mind about leaving the NFL and going off to rescue his alma mater, Michigan, which have been struggling getting consistent success with their football program in recent years.
Since Lloyd Carr left in 2007, the Wolverines have gone 46-42, including just 24-32 in the Big Ten. Not one single conference championship. Only one 10-win season, which included going to the Sugar Bowl and winning it. Three losing seasons, including this one, in which Brady Hoke completed four season at Ann Arbor which progressively got worse until he was justifiably fired, not long after the school also replaced athletic directors. When the flagship program, regardless of how well things are going in hockey and basketball, is suffering, it’s impossible to let it fly.
Michigan can’t afford to miss on their next hire. Rich Rodriguez wasn’t a Michigan man and the system pushed him out, although there are coaching problems he is guilty of. Brady Hoke might be a nice guy, but his offense became a mess and an embarrassment at times. His inability to develop players despite strong recruiting classes became to evident and difficult to ignore. The losing which got worse and worse sealed his fate.
Jim Harbaugh is a winner. He took a bad Stanford program and turned it around. Two losing seasons, and then going 8-5 in 2009, followed by 12-1 in 2010, which sent his team to the Orange Bowl which they won. Having Andrew Luck as a quarterback didn’t hurt as well. The foundations he set in the ground were carried on by David Shaw, although things started slowing down this season. Maybe it had something to do with the last of Harbaugh’s recruits leaving?
Harbaugh went to the NFL and immediately turned things around for the San Francisco 49ers, a franchise with five Super Bowls but almost a decade of being irrelevant. Not all the players on his new team were his: Plenty of them just needed the right kind of coaching or yelling to get them where they should be. The 49ers won 36 regular season games during his first three seasons, going to three conference championship games and one Super Bowl. He didn’t win the big one, but he turned the 49ers into an NFL juggernaut.
What happened this season? A lot of things, but his feud with the front office seems to be hovering above it all. There are professional problems, sure: The offensive line is doing terribly, Colin Kaepernick isn’t developing and is being misused by Greg Roman (The offensive coordinator) and the defense, the team’s strong unit, has been plagued by injuries and suspensions. They’re only 7-6, just lost to the terrible Oakland Raiders and are probably going to miss the playoffs.
Rumors suggest that Michigan have already turned to Harbaugh, who has one more year left on his contract with the 49ers, but he told them he’s looking for an NFL team as his next job, if he doesn’t stay in San Francisco. The popular word ‘sources’ suggest the Oakland Raiders, via trade, are his next team, but it’s hard to say at this point. Michigan are still waiting for him, unlike Nebraska and Florida, two major programs that didn’t wait making their coaching change.