Because the 49ers have a young, inexperienced president and CEO? Because the 49ers are supposedly dysfunctional at the top? Because the 49ers have promoted an insider to the post of GM instead of bringing in a top candidate from the outside?
Ludicrous, is what I say. I believe the 49ers represent the ultimate challenge for an ambitious coach like Jim Harbaugh and represent the perfect fit for Harbaugh. What better situation could there be than to restore the luster to a franchise that is among only a few to have ever won five Super Bowls?
Harbaugh left the NFL to become the head coach of the University of San Diego despite the warnings of Al Davis. The University of San Diego is no USC, Davis allegedly told Harbaugh. A few years later, Harbaugh chose to come to Stanford, which was not exactly known as a football powerhouse in the Pac-10 the past few decades. Stanford could hardly fill their stands this past season despite the best record in decades, but Harbaugh coached them anyway, and boy did he coach them.
Harbaugh is not the type of man to be scared away from a challenge like San Francisco, if he is really who he appears to be, which is a man on a mission to prove he can win wherever he goes despite the admonitions of others.
Certainly Jed York should have toned down his remarks that he was going to conduct a national search for a new GM and that money was no object. However, despite the cries from outsiders and so-called experts that the GM search was a sham, I believe Trent Baalke is driven to succeed and apparently came with a strong recommendation from Bill Parcells. He has been called a "Grinder" by some who say he is willing to work tirelessly to identify and bring in talent to the team.
If I were Harbaugh, I would rather work with a young, hardworking and ambitious GM like Baalke than some other so-called "expert." I also believe the selection of Baalke signals to Harbaugh that he will have a lot of say in player-personnel decisions. By keeping an insider on the job, Jed York has actually kept some power close to his vest in his appointment of Baalke to the job. This is power that he will be able to bestow on his new head coach.
Some say Harbaugh would have preferred to work with Mike Lombardi as a GM in San Francisco. No offense to Lombardi, but if he is that red hot of a GM prospect, why is he working as an analyst and commentator in sports as opposed to a head of player personnel somewhere? Perhaps Lombardi was right in noting that the GM search was somewhat of a sham with Baalke the frontrunner all along, but I found his going to the press right after his interview with comments that Baalke was a lock at the GM position showed a lack of maturity and discretion—a turnoff and warning sign to me. It was almost like Lombardi was more interested in getting a news scoop as opposed to just waiting out the interview and selection process.
The San Francisco 49ers became one of the greatest franchises in NFL history after a young, inexperienced owner, Eddie DeBartolo, took over the team in the late 1970s. DeBartolo, like his nephew Jed York, made mistakes and learned from them.
Jed York is no dummy in diapers. He grew up around a championship team and a winning organization. He still has Uncle Eddie to talk to, and by all accounts, he is talking to Eddie.
Some say Harbaugh would prefer to be in Carolina or Denver—teams with an actual chance to land Andrew Luck in the 2011 NFL Draft. Balderdash, I say! Harbaugh is the type who could draft a Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker and turn him into the next Joe Montana (or Tom Brady, if you wish). Harbaugh doesn't need an Andrew Luck to succeed in the NFL. Quarterbacks like Andrew Luck need Jim Harbaugh to turn them into great players.
Jim Harbaugh may not ultimately choose to coach in San Francisco for any number of reasons both personal and professional in nature.
However, if Jim Harbaugh wants the ultimate challenge in NFL head coaching, if Jim Harbaugh thrives on taking the underdog and turning around bad teams, I can think of no better match than the San Francisco 49ers.