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Midnight runs by billionaire owners, Hall of Fame quarterbacks waiting by the phone for his call and media clinging to his every movement, Jim Harbaugh is the belle of the forlorn franchise ball. While uneasy coaches' wait as the axe hangs loosely over their head, the courtship of Prince Harbaugh has gone from overt to downright obsessive.
But what does this savior of franchises bring to the table that no other man alive can offer? A handful of Super Bowl rings? No. An innovative offensive scheme never seen before on the football field? Sorry, try again. A sure-fire coaching method that is guaranteed to bring instant success to even the most dysfunctional franchises? He's turned a few heads down on the Farm (What's your deal?), but that's a stretch.
No, Jim Harbaugh brings hope. Hope that good genes, an NFL pedigree, and a little attitude have put together a can't-miss coaching prospect that will put butts in the seats, remove the dust from the win column and add Super Bowl hardware to the building of 4949 Centennial Blvd.
However, a quick game of "Who's your coaching savior?" shows that nothing is a sure thing.
Called by a Super Bowl winning coach as "the best play-caller I've ever been around," Candidate A had a strong offensive pedigree having led successful offenses on both the college and professional level. A former quarterback, Candidate A was particularly adept at developing players' at the most important position on the field, grooming All-American and Pro Bowl quarterbacks at both the collegiate level and professional level.
As a college head coach, he elevated a downtrodden college football team into a powerhouse, primarily on the talents of a Maxwell Award winning quarterback projected to be a first round NFL draft pick. During his final season before jumping to the NFL, Candidate A led his school to a 12-1 record, a victory in the Orange Bowl, and a top-five end of year ranking.
Who is Candidate A? No, not Jim Harbaugh. It's Bobby Petrino. Woo Pig Sooooiii! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7x3x6QHlrA)
As a top assistant under a powerful and successful head coach with multiple Super Bowl titles, Candidate B was considered a smart tactician with a strong pedigree when he took over his first NFL job. However, things quickly went south early in his tenure due to a squabble with the team's talented and popular quarterback, fracturing the team and his relationship with the fans.
With his teams consistently falling below expectations, Candidate B left the team and was considered to be a tremendous failure as a head coach.
Who is Candidate B? Not Josh McDaniels, but three-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Belichick.
Candidate C had a horrific two-year stint to begin his NFL coaching career while working under a dysfunctional ownership and management structure. Thought to be a quarterback and offensive specialist, his teams ranked in the bottom half of the rankings in almost all offensive categories.
Following his dismissal as head coach, Candidate C returned to his former position of offensive coordinator, and for multiple years successfully led one of the NFL's top offenses.
Who is Candidate C? Not Mike Mularkey or Marty Morninwheg, but two-time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan, who returned to head coaching with the Denver Broncos in 1995 after a successful three year stint as offensive coordinator of the 49ers.
Does this mean Jim Harbaugh is guaranteed to be a failure at the NFL level like Petrino? No. Does it mean that Josh McDaniels, Mike Mularkey and Marty Morninwheg are guaranteed to be successful? Absolutely not. What it means is that there is no magic formula for creating a Super Bowl winning head coach, and throwing large amounts of money (say $7- 8 million dollars worth) at hopes and dreams is more indicative of a desperate and dysfunctional franchise than of one that has a sound plan for the future.
While the offensive backgrounds and Stanford connection of Bill Walsh and Jim Harbaugh provide nice symmetry for Niner fans to cling to, all hope is not lost if Harbaugh doesn't end up signing on the dotted line as the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
As always 49er fans, keep the faith.