Jim Harbaugh will coach his final game of the 2014 season with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. After that, his spectacular run in the NFL is expected to end with his decision to accept the head coaching job at Michigan.
Michigan officials, who have offered him nearly $50 million over six years to coach at his alma mater, reportedly were in San Francisco to meet with him before the 49ers’ regular-season finale against Arizona. Dave Feldman of Comcast Bay Area announced Harbaugh’s decision, saying that Michigan would have a press conference Tuesday. Feldman, who went to high school with Harbaugh, hosts the 49ers’ pregame show and his report echoed one from the Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole, who cited 49ers’ staff sources. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a Michigan alum, and the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport report that no deal is in place yet and that the Oakland Raiders have not been told they’re out of the running.
One person who knows the Harbaugh family told the Post’s Mark Maske on Sunday that Harbaugh returning to his alma mater as the coach is “not a done deal yet, but it could get there pretty quickly.”
Harbaugh’s name is the sexiest of those who are expected to hit the market when NFL coaches are fired after the regular-season games Sunday. Although he has been mentioned in connection with other NFL gigs, also possibly including the Bears’ and Jets’, the college game may be more suited to his temperament. His fourth season with the Niners has been marked by an inability to co-exist with General Manager Trent Baalke and, after a series of postseason appearances, there’s a sense that he may not be getting through to some of his players, too. Harbaugh was 29-21 in four years at Stanford and, in college, he would indisputably be in charge of the program. And, every few years, the roster completely turns over, minimizing the chances of player burnout.
Still, he has unquestionably been successful in the pros and the Niners’ decision to part with him would be controversial. He has one season left on his contract, but talks were set aside before a season in which it was clear that a Super Bowl trip was the only acceptable outcome after so many near misses. Because of his contractual situation, a team that wants to hire him would have to complete a trade with the 49ers. The end of the Harbaugh would come, Cam Inman of Mercury-News.com notes even though “a fumbled punt kept them from one Super Bowl, an end zone interception kept them from another. The one they made, Super Bowl XLVII, was theirs to win, with four downs inside the Baltimore 10.”
And not all players are as disgruntled as the front office appears to be.
“I didn’t enjoy it here until we started winning,” Frank Gore, who is in his 10th season, told Inman. “Since he’s been here, I’ve won. I got a chance to let the world see my talent. I love the man. I love the way he coaches.”
If Harbaugh does go to Michigan, he would leave the NFL with the best winning percentage of any coach who spent only four years in the league — another sign of the red-hot intensity he brought to the job.
“Everybody has their own opinion about people,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree said, “but he’s been a good dude to me and this team. … He’s a player’s coach and just a good dude.”
Early Sunday afternoon, Feldman added that Harbaugh planned to be at Michigan early this week, which would certainly be awkward if he isn’t going there…