In a few short years, Jim Harbaugh has turned a dormant Stanford program into a winner.
Behind him and quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal are heading to a BCS bowl game for the first time since 1999 when Stanford plays Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
But as his status rises in the college ranks, Harbaugh has also become a hot commodity in the NFL as one of the "it" coaches that could make the move to the next level. He's already been written about as a possible replacement across the Bay in Candlestick for 49ers coach Mike Singletary.
So here are the 20 reasons why Harbaugh will be in the NFL in 2011.
Harbaugh has proven he can win at every level.
He took over losing programs at both San Diego and Stanford, and inside of a few years, had each program finishing no worse than second.
Harbaugh also has a history of leaving after a few years and the next big step would be the NFL.
Harbaugh has shown he's a strong recruiter, signing Andrew Luck, along with four four-star recruits in this upcoming class.
NFL teams must be looking at that and willing to offer Harbaugh a coach/GM job either right now or somewhere down the line.
At least if Harbaugh signs, he will have a big say in personnel decisions wherever he goes.
It's no surprise that a huge chunk of Harbaugh's success at Stanford is due to the fact that Luck and Toby Gerhart joined Harbaugh in Palo Alto.
With Gerhart already in the NFL and Luck primed to be the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft, will Harbaugh find it high time to leave as well?
Where Luck will end up is still unknown, but there is an opening with Gerhart in Minnesota (don't know if you heard, but the former coach was fired).
Would Harbaugh leap at the chance to coach Gerhart and the Vikings?
If nothing else, the former NFL quarterback might be able to communicate with the Vikings' current quarterback. They're both played in the league at the same time (until Favre misses a game, I refuse to believe this is it).
Harbaugh's pro-style offense at Stanford is already conducive to building NFL talent. And the ability to develop Luck into a star (albeit Luck had a lot of the tools to be one to begin with) is something the NFL is sure to notice.
He's very attractive to a team that has a young quarterback they want to develop from someone who's extremely familiar with the league.
Harbaugh was a quarterback for more than a decade in the NFL and briefly a coach with the Raiders.
He's aware of how the league works and how it can be. T
hat kind of familiarity makes him a lot different than many of the other college coaches that have tried to coach in the NFL and failed.
The lure of the NFL might be too much for Harbaugh, who's been pursued very publicly by Kansas, and has already turned down any interest in the Miami job.
But if an NFL team were to come calling, would the lure be too much for Harbaugh to overcome?
Harbaugh already has coaching lineage in the NFL: Brother John is the head coach in Baltimore.
One has to wonder if John has Jim's ear about coaching in the league, and perhaps may be a swaying influence into whether he stays or goes.
John has been a very impressive coach himself with the Ravens, which might suggest that good coaching runs in the family.
Would Jim also listen to the possibility of coaching against John?
John tried to be close to his brother before.
He interviewed for the open position at UCLA when Karl Dorrell was fired before he took the job in Baltimore.
Since they would've played every year if John had gone to UCLA, they would like to coach against each other in the NFL.
Harbaugh was smart enough to install a pro-style offense at Stanford. Because of that, he won't have to make many fundamental changes, if any, to an offense he would run in the NFL.
It's shown he can make it work in college with the players he had, and providing he would get the chance, it would work in the NFL as well.
Other college coaches have tried and failed in the NFL.
Steve Spurrier tried to install a run-and-gun offense in Washington and it didn't work, to say the least.
Lou Holtz was the coach of the Jets for a forgettable year, and even tried to install a fight song.
Harbaugh is a pro-style coach who has the ability and the style that will translate well to the NFL.
Harbaugh's defense at Stanford is near the top of the Pac 10 in the major categories.
The Cardinal are second in pass defense, second in run defense and No. 1 in the conference in scoring defense.
More often than not in the NFL, the same old cliche rings true: Defense wins championships.
Harbaugh stayed three years at San Diego and led the school to 11 wins before leaving for Stanford.
He's been at Stanford four years and led the Cardinal to an 11 win season this year.
One has to wonder if the trend to move on is calling him once again.
He's also shown a penchant for building a winner, so maybe Harbaugh will think that his work is done.
Harbaugh has a pretty good setup at Stanford.
There are reports that Harbaugh and the school are working on a deal to extend him at least through next season.
That means that Harbaugh doesn't have to take any job, he can definitely be selective about which jobs he takes and which ones he doesn't.
In term, the ones who want him will definitely be willing to sweeten the pot.
The freedom of choice is a very powerful thing, especially in sports.
How many times do we hear about the same coaches (Turner, Gailey) being recycled for jobs around the league?
Harbaugh would be fresh blood and a young face in a field where too many mediocre coaches are being re-hired just because of experience in the league.
More and more, there are young coaches getting their first chances in the league.
Why not Harbaugh?
Just like a good recruiter, a good Draft person recognizes the talent and how it fits into the system and the scheme of a team.
Harbaugh would have a good handle on the talent in the college ranks, and whether or not they are a product of the system or can be molded into an NFL player.
It sounds somewhat simple, but it gives teams a big advantage in drafting.
By reaching out to him about an extension, Stanford has shown they're willing to pay.
But it will be hard for the school—or any school for that matter—to offer what an NFL team can in terms of a contracts and perks.
He'll be financially secure whichever he decides, but an NFL coaching contract will provide more.
Harbaugh is 46 years old. Middle-aged for sure, but he's a youngster in the head coaching field.
Head coaching, especially in the NFL, is a more demanding job than it once was (just ask Urban Meyer).
Harbaugh has the energy and the stamina to fulfill all the demands.
Harbaugh is a no-nonsense guy, which is definitely a plus in the NFL world, but can be a bit of a throwback in the college ranks.
He suspended receiver Richard Sherman back in 2007 because he showed poor sportsmanship after taking an unsportsmanlike penalty.
I could only imagine what he would do if faced with a Braylon Edwards or Albert Haynesworth-type of situation.
In all his years in the league, Harbaugh never was able to get to a Super Bowl or get a ring.
The closest he came was with the Colts in 1995, and the fateful Hail Mary that hopelessly fell to the ground against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
If he takes an NFL job, especially with his ability to build a program, he might finally get his ring.