Jed Jacobsohn for Sports Illustrated
Jed Jacobsohn for Sports Illustrated

Harbaugh to Texas? It’s Not So Crazy

The 49ers coach is downplaying rumors he’s a candidate for the Longhorns’ job, assuming it opens. But given his track record and the fact that he turned down a contract extension before the season began, it’s worth wondering whether the fiery former QB is getting restless in San Francisco

By
Jim Trotter
· More from Jim·

Here we go again.

For the second time in three years Jim Harbaugh is being linked to a job he doesn’t hold. In 2011, while coaching at Stanford, he was interviewed for NFL openings with the 49ers and Dolphins. He refused to discuss either situation at the time but wound up accepting a five-year, $25 million deal with San Francisco.

Now in the third season of an incredible run with the 49ers that includes 33 wins in 45 games, two trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance, Harbaugh is being mentioned as a candidate at the University of Texas—which doesn’t officially have a vacancy, though reports say Mack Brown will step down, possibly before the end of the week.

“I don’t ever talk about any job other than the one I have,” Harbaugh said on Wednesday.

Perhaps not, but there are reasons his name is being mentioned. Let’s outline a few:

• Ability

Harbaugh is a terrific coach who’s had success every place he has been, including on the collegiate level. He turned the programs at the University of San Diego and Stanford into national powers at their respective levels. The 49ers hadn’t had a winning season in eight years before he converted them into an NFL powerhouse.

John (right) got a nice bump from the Ravens after beating Jim in the Super Bowl. (John Biever/Sports Illustrated)
John (right) got a nice bump from the Ravens after beating Jim in the Super Bowl. (John Biever/Sports Illustrated)

•  Money

Harbaugh, who’s in the third year of that five-year deal, turned down a two-year extension before the start of the season. Why? Only he knows—and the next reporter he allows behind his mental curtain will be the first. But let’s take an educated guess.

Harbaugh has a firm belief in what his worth is, and at $5 million a year he’s a couple rungs beneath guys like Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and Chip Kelly on the financial ladder. Even his brother, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, gets $7 million annually, after signing a four-year extension in September, following the Ravens’ Super Bowl win over Jim’s Niners.

The details of the extension that Jim turned down are unknown, but it’s likely the 49ers would want a Super Bowl win before moving a coach to the top salary echelon. Money wouldn’t be an issue at Texas, where a well-placed source confirmed that the university is willing to pay as much as $10 million a year for Nick Saban, the Alabama coach who has won three of the past four BCS titles.

The 49ers are likely going to try to revive extension talks after the season. “With three games left [in the regular season], now is not the time,” Niners CEO Jed York said of discussions on a new deal. “I fully expect to sit down at the end of the season and see where we go from here.”

•  Control

At the college level Harbaugh would have complete control over the program; in San Francisco the final authority rests with general manager Trent Baalke. The men haven’t always been on the same page, but their relationship has worked because they respect each other, and because Baalke has made a point of deferring to the coach in certain situations.

Anyone who has watched Harbaugh on the sideline or seen a GIF of his intense emotional outbursts can deduce that he’s tightly wound when it comes to football, and multiple people who’ve worked with him have told me privately over the years that he can be difficult. They didn’t say it was a bad experience, just that he can be difficult because he’s so intense. Which leads to another potential explanation …

•  Restlessness

Is Harbaugh ready to commit to a place long-term? He spent three years at the University of San Diego and four at Stanford. If he returns to the Niners next season it will match his coaching longest tenure in one place. Although cryptic and unforthcoming with the media, he’s very good at reading the landscape. Maybe it’s the quarterback in him; he played 15 seasons in the NFL.

As much as he pooh-poohed the Texas talk on Wednesday, I can’t help but to think back to his reaction last year when asked about reports (one by me) that the staff could have damaged QB Alex Smith’s confidence by taking the ball out of his hands late in a 13-7 win over Seattle, calling for rushes on 2nd-and-17 and 3rd-and-17 the series after Smith threw his fourth interception in eight quarters.

Harbaugh said the reports were “gobble, gobble, gobble turkey from jive turkey gobblers.” Smith, however, was benched for the season four games later, then traded to Kansas City in March. So regardless of how many times Harbaugh says or insinuates that he’s not interested in Texas, the link will remain until the Longhorns’ situation is resolved.

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140 comments
XeronTafford
XeronTafford

"At the college level Harbaugh would have complete control over the program"

My understanding is that the UT coach is integral to The Longhorn Network, including a coach-led cable show, weekly media appearances, even up to taping practice for TV with the assistant coaches miked up.   The politics of the UT Board of Regents (or whatever they call themselves) seem to indicate constant interference with the football program, and the amateurish method of ridding themselves of their current, successful FB coach would seem to indicate that JH would be the big rod in a Texas-sized lightning storm.  This coach will never leave for this college program.

Folsom49er
Folsom49er

"It's Not So Crazy"

Ummm......

Yes It Is.

Randall_Pink
Randall_Pink

Hack journalism. No story so the amateurs create one. Leave it to guys like Trotter to try and keep a non-story alive.

myusrnam
myusrnam

Yesterday, Mack Brown resigned.  So, now there *is* an opening.  However, I am hoping Jim Harbaugh is *not* chosen, even if his coaching capabilities could turn the Longhorns back into a national champion-level team.  Isn't Jim Harbaugh the coach who refused to shake hands with an opposing coach, after a game?  And, doesn't he continually go into rages on the sidelines?  Mack Brownalways treated opponents and players respectfully.  OK, some say he has coddled players and that's one reason the team has gone downhill. I don't like that, but I do value the respect and decency.  Harbaugh seems to have anger management problems.  That's not an OK trade-off for me.  (I have similar problems with MIke Gundy, not anger in that case, but he presided over the football program that SI documented as, essentially, prostituting young girls as part of the recruitment process----similar to how I feel about Harbaugh, why can't we find a winning coach who is a decent human being?)

WillJamison
WillJamison

I want him to stay at the 49ers and continue to drag them into a slow decent which coincides with his mental stability.

AugieJanke
AugieJanke

I can only hope and pray that 1 day coach Harbaugh will come home and lead the University of Michigan Football Team! I know its wishful thinking but i still will keep hope for that day! He is a strong leader like his former coach Bo! He speaks his mind and has unwavering belief in his ability to lead. I also hope that the alumni base will drive out the current administration and get one that can make better decisions.

True Lies
True Lies

Yes, Noah, i thought that "benching" angle was extremely misleading.  When i read it, i thought major "Huh??" 


OTOH, Pete Carroll started the rumor just to create angst. :)

NoahYeoman
NoahYeoman

Gee could you be anymore misleading with your Alex Smith angle... He wasn't simply benched. He was performing well and then got hurt while Kaepernick exploded onto the scene. akin to the Bledsoe/Brady situation but you try to make it seem as though Harbaugh had it planned and lied to you. Its sad how you have to make stuff up as you want it to be so you can push your agenda. This junk is precisely why everyone hates the media

pjk
pjk

Harbaugh will definitely not be coaching in Frisco next year; Frisco is losing the 49ers to Santa Clara, about 40 miles away.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

Texas has a coach. The only guys who have fired him are ESPN and SI. The University of Texas hasn't.

joeg
joeg

The big advantage for Harbaugh  moving to UT is that at UT he doesn't have to deal with a salary cap.

j7apple
j7apple

Media jiber-jab  Harbaugh aint going no where 

CaseyLytle
CaseyLytle

I can see how a return to the college ranks would be appealing. As far as wanting a Superbowl ring there are two issues, is Kaepernick the kind of quarterback who can win a superbowl, or is he going to become the Tim Tebow of the NFC? And has Seattle turned in to too big of an obstacle to SF getting back to the big game? SF has high expectations. There is going to be a lot of heat on a coach who can't get them to the Superbowl each year.

bigjanks
bigjanks

Hey Jim- why don't you add in Jed York's full transcript:


"The only thing I’ll say is he’s in the third year of a five-year contract, and I love the job that he’s doing.

But now is not the right time to talk about anything like that. We’ve got three games left in the regular season and a potential playoff berth, and that’s what everybody here’s focused on.

We’ll sit down at the end of the season and talk about all this–and I hope he has the utmost leverage when we do that… meaning after we win a Super Bowl."


Harbs is not going anywhere.  


It would appear your boss agrees:

On the fate of JIm Harbaugh, from one of the best beat men working any NFL team, @mattbarrows: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/12/5996803/barrows-no-way-harbaugh-is-leaving.html

JubJub
JubJub

I don't see him leaving SF.


I can't stand the guy and am not a 49ers fan, but he has done a great job in the NFL.  He's an extremely competitive guy, and I just can't see him leaving an NFL job -- which is the pinnacle for coaches -- for a college job.   

RCH
RCH

Problem with going to the college level from the pros is the colleges want the new coach in now, not in the middle of January after the bowl games are over with and with SF looking at the playoffs that could be the middle of February. I don't see Harbaugh pulling a Bobby Petrino and dumping his team with 3 games left.


College coaches that jump between schools usually don't even hang around to coach their current team's bowl game.

blunot78
blunot78

The Niners are moving to the NFL's newest SOTA stadium next year, the team is stocked with young talent and future draft picks, and Harbaugh has yet to win a SB. And as someone else pointed out, no successful NFL coach has left the NFL to go to a college program (Nick Saban was a bust his one year in Miami). And Texas, famously, is one of the more bureaucracy heavy programs in the NCAA. He would not have the control there that Saban, for example, has in Alabama. In other words, it ain't happening.  

A.F.Davis
A.F.Davis

Outrageous speculation!


Let the contract get close to ending before you dredge up this crap!


Why would he leave anyway?


Besides, football is still being played!


This kind of article is made for the SLOW OFF SEASON!


Pizzasaurus
Pizzasaurus

"Here we go again" - right, here we go again with a mid-week rumor masquerading as news because web sites need to fill up space. But this one is notable for being based on nothing at all - not even the ever popular 'un-named sources'. 


Is there a single real reason to link Jim Harbaugh with the Texas job rather than John Harbaugh or Jon Gruden or Jim Schwartz or Jason Garrett or Tom Landry's fedora? All I've seen is some mindless speculation about how nice it would be to pay less in taxes - if that's all, then every non-Texas coach in the nation is a hot candidate for the job.


I see a lot of stories complaining about the way Harbaugh treats the media, and how he's got his QB also treating the media with contempt. Stories like this make me think the media probably deserves all the contempt it can get.

pjk
pjk

$10 million a year for a college football coach. What do the professors get paid at these "institutions of higher learning?"

heardhimsay
heardhimsay

Harbaugh would keep over 20% more of his salary working in Texas than he would SF.  Check out the ESPN report about Cano keeping $24 mil more of his salary playing for the Mariners than he would making the same money in NY - in taxes alone!  Texas would be an even bigger spread in take home pay.  This does not even bring into account the ridiculous endorsement money he would get in Texas.  

heardhimsay
heardhimsay

Harbaugh knows he made a mistake with Kapernick so now that he has an out, he just might take it.


jhymas25
jhymas25

"As much as he pooh-poohed the Texas talk on Wednesday, I can’t help but to think back to his reaction last year when asked about reports (one by me) that the staff could have damaged QB Alex Smith’s confidence by taking the ball out of his hands late in a 13-7 win over Seattle, calling for rushes on 2nd-and-17 and 3rd-and-17 the series after Smith threw his fourth interception in eight quarters.


Harbaugh said the reports were “gobble, gobble, gobble turkey from jive turkey gobblers.” Smith, however, was benched for the season four games later, then traded to Kansas City in March. So regardless of how many times Harbaugh says or insinuates that he’s not interested in Texas, the link will remain until the Longhorns’ situation is resolved."


This right here is stupid. Smith may have technically been benched four games after the Seattle game, but he only played 1.5 due to injury. The benching had nothing to do with Smith's confidence and everything to do with Harbaugh using an injury to play the guy he wanted to play. Also a quick look at the stats show that his confidence was not shaken. 25 of 27 for 302 yards with 4 TDs and no picks really show how damaged Alex Smith's confidence must have been. Way to try to make your question seem legitimate a year after the fact. Obviously, Mr. Trotter is hurt by the fact that Harbaugh dismissed this question and was correct in doing so. That last two paragraphs were a terrible part of what was otherwise a decent article. 


My take on it is that Harbaugh won't leave. I could be wrong but what I read is that he's extremely competitive. Without having accomplished the ultimate goal of a championship, I would think it would be hard for him to leave what right now is the most competitive division in the NFL. Maybe I'm wrong, but as a competitive guy myself I would have a hard time leaving until I reached the pinnacle of the sport. Turning down the contract was probably because the 49ers offered him less than his brother and he thinks he's worth more. 

Mech
Mech

Harbough hates to lose and both times in the last two stints he has big losses to Pete Carroll,,his nemesis. They truly dislike each other. At USC Carroll was B-slapping Harbough continuously and now in the NFL the same thing is happening. Yeah he would love to move where Pete isnt.

matt37
matt37

@WillJamisonYou win the contest for most ignorant comment of the day.  LOL. 

matt37
matt37

@NoahYeomanNever mind the fact that the entire idea of Harbaugh to Texas is based on Kirk Herbstreit,very admittedly, pulling ideas out of his rear. 

joeg
joeg

@j7apple Thank you, Mrs. Harbaugh, for clearing that up.

blunot78
blunot78

@CaseyLytle  The "Tebow of the NFC"? You might want to check your QB ratings. Kap is 8th, ahead of Brady, Luck, Flacco, Roethlisberger.....if Tebow were that good he'd be on somebody's roster starting now. 


http://espn.go.com/nfl/qbr


Yes, he's struggled compared to last year but he also just started his 24th game, two thirds of which the Niners have won. As for Seattle, they've split the last four games they've played, though I think Seattle is clearly a bit better now, the Niners just got their two best receivers back. Lots of football to be played still. 

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

@CaseyLytle Those are not two issues. Those are 2 foolish and ignorant observations by you.

MarcusHalberstram
MarcusHalberstram

@A.F.Davis are you kidding?  Outrageous?? DID YOU READ THE ARTICLE?!  yes football is still being played but if the niners miss the playoffs?  we will know that w/in 3 weeks Mr. Davis.  No reason a deal can't be talked about between Jim and TX then when the niners come up short he packs his gear/family for big time $ and the #1 College Job in the Country - probably close to doubling his annual salary now - FOR A MAN WHO'S GONE TO THE SUPER BOWL!  Come on Jim that 8-10 million a year will go LOTS further down in Austin.  Get a house on Lake Austin - only a 15 minute drive to campus......

JohnMelton
JohnMelton

@pjk College football is BIG BUSINESS...Texas, Alabama, OSU, and USC are some of the most valuable franchises if you will in all of sports...all from football...


badcyclist1
badcyclist1

@heardhimsay Yeah, but there is a big catch: he would have to live in Texas.


He won't move to Texas, not even to Austin.

Plainview
Plainview

@heardhimsaygood point, didn't think about that; San Francisco would have much higher taxes than Texas would.  However, this article brings up Nick Saban money which isn't a very apt comparison in my opinion.  If they would pay Saban 10 million, they'd probably pay Harbaugh 7-8 million. 

matt37
matt37

@MechYou bring about as much authority, logic and facts to your comments as the author did to this article.  Which is to say, none.

Pizzasaurus
Pizzasaurus

@Mech Harbaugh is 6-3 lifetime against Carroll,  and has a 4-2 record against Carroll in the NFL. If anyone is looking to run and hide, I'd guess it'd be Carroll, who once famously got upset because he thought Harbaugh beat him by too many points.

piggymcpiggy
piggymcpiggy

@Mech Um, really? Harbaugh coached Stanford from 2007-2010. Stanford won in 2007 and 2010, and handed USC their worst home loss ever in 2009. If that's getting "b-slapped", then I would line up to get "b-slapped".

matt37
matt37

@StephenMichaelW@heardhimsay The man has started 20 regular season games, and has won most of them.  He's won 2 playoff games and almost brought his team back in the Super Bowl.  He's been without the majority of his passing attack from last year.  Relax, he'll be fine.

Mech
Mech

@matt37@Mech Yeah well I guess you morons forgot the last two seasons when Seattle crushed SF at home and then was barely edged at SF. Over the last two years we lost to SF twice by a total of 9 points while beating you twice at home by a total of 55 points. You always crow about that crappy team but they have a 10-4 record and they will NOT beat Seattle for the NFC west crown nor will they go anywhere in the playoffs,,,,crappy team and Harbaugh knows it. He hates losing to Carroll and he is doing just that. 

True Lies
True Lies

piggymcpiggy@Pizzasaurus @Mech


Don't confuse a Mech mind with facts.  


In 2007, upstart Harbaugh's first yr at Stanford, FORTY-ONE pt underdog Stanford beat USC in the Coliseum although USC had a 16-7 lead entering the 4th Q.


In the 2009 meeting, USC sustained their worst loss in 43 years and surrendered the most points to an opponent.  USC was a 11.5 home favorite & lost 55-21.


Mech is simply meh with the facts as he put it "continuously".

matt37
matt37

@Mech@matt37Seattle is the best team in the NFL right now.  Can't argue with that.  But that's not the point here.

You said "At USC Carroll was B-slapping Harbough continuously and now in the NFL the same thing is happening."

Both of those are patently false.  You can beat us by 100 points in Seattle.  Harbaugh still owns Carrol in the Win/Loss column.

I guess Seattle fans were too busy celebrating the biggest win in franchise history in Week 2 of this year for you to learn a little bit about what you were saying. 

Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

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