49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 6, 2011
Hurricane Harbaugh: Sifting through the confusion

Yesterday afternoon the 49ers were poised to land Jim Harbaugh. This morning, the Dolphins had made such a grandiose offer that Harbaugh was swept off his feet. Now, ten hours later, Harbaugh is suddenly wringing his hands and reconsidering all of his options. The 49ers are back in play. And so is Stanford. Denver is calling out his name. Then again, billionaire owner Stephen Ross could swoop in with his private jet at any minute and whisk him away to South Florida.

What the Harbaugh is going on?

There are two ways to look at it. Jim Harbaugh very well could have been turned off by the Dolphins, who came on to him like a drunken - albeit, filthy rich -- prom date. There's an interesting story in The Palm Beach Post about how Ross wants to turn the Dolphins into the Lakers (The SoFlakers?) with the handsome and charismatic Harbaugh the centerpiece of the show. Would Harbaugh, who was reared in a football family and is a football purist, go for that?

He could be put off by the fact that the Dolphins already approached Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden about the job before fueling up the private jet and seeking him out. While the 49ers clearly targeted Harbaugh, he was Miami's No. 3 choice. And that's not to mention the fact that the Dolphins still haven't told the current coach, Tony Sparano, he's been fired nor have they conducted any "Rooney Rule" interviews.

Harbaugh also was said to be angling for an NFC job to avoid the awkwardness of regularly playing brother John (Never mind that the 49ers visit Baltimore next season). He might not like the fact that Sparano and GM Jeff Ireland were a package deal when they were hired and that he is suddenly being crammed into an awkward package. There are a lot of reasons for him to be skeptical.

Then again, maybe all of this contemplation that's currently going on is a sham. It's entirely possible that Harbaugh was dazzled by the massive amount of money that Ross offered and has quietly agreed to a deal. Pretending that he can't decide buys Ross and the Dolphins extra time to take care of their business - fire Sparano, interview a minority candidate - that they should have taken care of before approaching Harbaugh.

The only thing that's clear is that Harbaugh's agent has done a masterful job. Will he? Won't he? Is he going here? Is he going there? That ping-ponging sensation you feel in your brain is the work of a master craftsman who's got at least three organizations upping their bids to astronomical heights on a man who has never been an NFL head coach. Bravo.

Unfortunately, knowing who's pulling the strings doesn't make it any easier to predict the outcome. And the show goes on ...

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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