Jim Harbaugh is the hottest coach in sports right now. He took Stanford from being an 1-11 cellar dweller in 2006 to 11-1 with the Cardinal's 2011 Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech.
Harbaugh has sent finalists to the Heisman ceremony in each of the past two years, the most recent being the hottest NFL Draft prospect, Andrew Luck.
Harbaugh and Luck both have to determine whether it's their time to go pro this winter. If Harbaugh makes the jump (or stays in college and goes to his alma mater, Michigan) it seems certain Luck will head to the NFL.
The leading rumor right now, as reported by ESPN dynamic-duo Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, is that Harbaugh is leaning towards the San Francisco 49ers.
The change would allow him to stay in the Bay Area, and the Niners seem a coach and QB away from a NFC West title.
The question SF fans want to know is if they land Jim Harbaugh, how do they also get Andrew Luck?
Plan A: Trade With The Carolina Panthers
In order to make a trade work, the Panthers either have to believe Jimmy Clausen (or one of the other 2011 QB prospects) is good enough to take them to the promised land, or SF will have to make Carolina an offer they can't refuse.
I've seen mixed reviews regarding Carolina's interest in Luck. Some have said Panthers brass is taking him if he enters the draft there, and others have said the brass believe in Clausen and they're going defense with the pick.
Twice in the past decade we've seen the San Diego Chargers trade down from the No. 1 pick. So we know it's possible, but it's also costly.
The 49ers hold the No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft which has about 10-15 percent less perceived value than the No. 4 or 5 pick. The have two picks in rounds four, six, and seven.
If the Niners only want to use draft picks, in addition to the No. 7, they will have to include a handful of picks. Either their first from next year or second from this year will have to go.
Their third and possibly one of their fourth-round picks will have to be included too.
As you can see, Carolina trading down isn't too ridiculous because of how rich in picks they would become. The Chargers were able to build a playoff caliber team in no time with the picks they acquired.
If I were SF, I would try to sweeten the deal by adding Michael Crabtree, and possibly taking Steve Smith off Carolina's hands in return.
Plan B: Have Andrew Luck Demand A Trade
If the Carolina Panthers don't want to deal then Harbaugh, Luck, and the Niners could play hardball.
In 2004, the Manning-Rivers deal didn't occur naturally, it was forced by Manning who refused to play in San Diego.
It's hard to see as nice of a guy as Andrew Luck refusing to play for anybody, but all of that would be handled by his agents.
If Luck holds out, Carolina may have no choice but to trade him, and once he earns that veto power, he can hand pick his team: Jim Harbaugh's 49ers.
Plan C: Pray Carolina Passes, Then Trade Up
This scenario isn't likely but, if the Panthers aren't interested in Luck, and nobody is slamming their door down with a trade, things would get really interesting.
Denver's new coach might want Luck, but Tim Tebow looks like a winner in the NFL and if Denver can get slightly less value (we're talking one less late round pick, or a pick one round later) than Carolina for Luck, they could be willing to trade down.
At No. 7, the Broncos may not get a crack at Patrick Peterson, Nick Fairley, or DaQuan Bowers, so the Niners deal would still need to be attractive.
When you break it down, it doesn't seem as far-fetched for the Niners to get Andrew Luck if they can secure John Harbaugh as their Head Coach.
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