San Francisco 49ers: Could the Miami Dolphins Steal Jim Harbaugh Away from Them?

S LCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2011

CORVALLIS, OR - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinals looks out at the action on the field in the third quarter of the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

After meeting with the San Francisco 49ers for several hours on Wednesday, Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh looked to be close to filling the 49ers' vacant head coaching position. According to ESPN, the Miami Dolphins have decided to get involved in the sweepstakes for Harbaugh's services.

According to the report, Dolphins owner Steve Ross, his assistant Carl Peterson and general manager Jeff Ireland are on their way to the Bay Area to meet with Harbaugh. The Dolphins are willing to offer Harbaugh between seven and eight million dollars per year. That would make him the highest paid head coach in the league.

The NFL Network reports that the 49ers' offer was only at $4.5 million per year. Harbaugh is likely seeking a deal that matches that of Seattle head coach Pete Carroll's contract that he received last season at five years for $33 million.

Harbaugh is the 49ers' top candidate and after Stanford's big win at the Orange Bowl on Monday, the 49ers hired Trent Baalke to be their general manager. With Baalke's position set, the 49ers now have to figure out how they can convince Harbaugh that San Francisco is his best option.

Earlier in the day, the 49ers met with Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson about the open head coaching job. With that interview, the 49ers have met the requirements of the Rooney Rule. The rule states that a minority candidate must be interviewed before a team makes a hire. The Dolphins still have Tony Sporano under contract as their head coach and have yet to to meet the Rooney Rule requirement.

It looks like Harbaugh has to weigh both offers and figure out which appeals to him more. He could take the bigger paycheck and go to Miami or he could take the 49ers' offer and stay in the Bay Area. Harbaugh attended high school in Palo Alto and is currently raising his family here. Also, the 49ers have a good handful of draft picks that can be used to help secure a franchise quarterback. The 49ers could very well give Harbaugh significant control over the roster if he is hired.

The Dolphins are taking a huge risk for a man that has never coached in the NFL before. However, it is the kind of splash that the Dolphins need to change up their team. It's the same kind of splash the 49ers are hoping to make as well. 

Ultimately for Harbaugh, he has to decide between the money in Miami or the opportunity in San Francisco. If 49ers president Jed York sticks to his word, claiming that money is no object in the head coaching search, then maybe Harbaugh could have both with the 49ers. That, however, doesn't seem likely.

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