Jim Harbaugh was pre-fired by the 49ers before the season even began, and now it’s a matter of where he’ll land – and one of the major potential pieces of the puzzle has just been removed. The Dolphins say they’re keeping Joe Philbin for another year, eliminating the possibility of Harbaugh heading to Miami, where he’d have been a natural fit with fellow University of Michigan alum, owner Stephen Ross. That narrows his landing spots slightly, with the Oakland Raiders, the New York Jets, and of course Michigan being prime targets, and the Chicago Bears also being a possibility. Here we handicap the odds.
Michigan: 40%: This is the only college job which Jim Harbaugh would even consider taking at this point, but it’s also the lone college job he covets. He was a star QB for the Wolverines, the program is in disarray and has been for awhile, and he could cement his legend there by being the returning hero who saves the day. Still, he has yet to win a Super Bowl, and it’s at least a little difficult to see him leaving the NFL before he accomplishes that feat. So we’ll give the pro teams a collective sixty percent odds of landing him.
Oakland Raiders: 35%: There are numerous reasons why Jim Harbaugh might not want to head to the Raiders: their new owner Mark Davis seems like a dunce. Their roster is largely depleted. They may not even be playing in Oakland by 2016. But various reports have his wife preferring to remain on the west coast, and this is the only NFL head coaching job available in the pacific time zone. Also, rookie quarterback Derek Carr looks like he could be someone to build around. And unlike some other teams contemplating firing their coaches, the Raiders job is already open; Dennis Allen was fired months ago and Tony Sparano won’t be given the job permanently. So we’re giving the Raiders the best odds of landing Harbaugh of any pro team.
New York Jets: 15%: Rex Ryan is nearly a lock to get fired. But the Jets are nearly as devoid of talent as the Raiders, giving them little appeal to Harbaugh beyond the larger spotlight of coaching in New York City.
Chicago Bears: 9%: The only thing that could attract Harbaugh to Chicago would be his knack for trying to salvage damaged quarterbacks, and Jay Cutler certainly fits the description. But the whole thing seems unlikely, even if Marc Trestman is fired.
Miami Dolphins: 1%: Yes, Stephen Ross just announced that Joe Philbin will return in 2015. But the mercurial Dolphins owner’s decision making has been so incoherent when it comes to the head coaching position that he appeared to make his decision to keep Philbin based on the euphoria of a blocked punt, and a few years ago he tried to hire Jim Harbaugh while Sparano was still his coach. Little in Miami would surprise us, and that would include Ross changing his mind and going after Harbaugh after all, so we’re forced to give this a non-zero percentage. But the situation with the 49ers has deteriorated to the point that we’ll continue to pencil the odds of him remaining in San Francisco as zero.