Reports are circulating the web that Jim Harbaugh is interviewing the the 49ers, and other NFL programs have expressed interest. Many people, including Michigan AD David Brandon, believe that Harbaugh is NFL bound, if not this year then certainly in the near future.
My question is why?
Jim Harbaugh is an excellent coach, and his style would seem to be well-suited for the NFL, so while many have tried and failed to succeed in transferring their talents from college to the pros, I believe Harbaugh could be one of the few who will succeed.
Yet no matter what he does in the pros, he will never be as revered, respected and credited as he will be in the college ranks. When a coach maintains sustained success in college, they become venerable figures in their community and around campus. People know it is the coach controlling the program, and except for those rare exception years when a superstar powers a program beyond expectations, it's the coach who gets the greatest share of the credit—and rightly so. At the college level, coaches recruit, build and define the programs they oversee.
In the pros, Harbaugh will be reduced to managing Prima Donnas who may, or may not, decide to show up to camp or to give it their all on game day. How often do we hear of NFL players disrespecting their coaches? How often do we hear QBs refusing to listen to the coach's play-call and decide to run their own offense? How often does it seem like these superstars don't care what their trainers are trying to tell them? Too often.
If you were Harbaugh, what would you do?
Will the Cardinals Harbaugh be able to maintain control over his players and help develop them. Just looking at the recent products that have come out of Stanford, and it is obvious that Harbaugh has the knack for developing talent. He will help recruit them from day one and help develop young talent into high-performing athletes.
In the NFL, personnel decisions are often made by the front office, owners and other people not involved in the day-to-day coaching. Why give up the opportunity to shape young mens' lives and trade it in to be a glorified water boy for superstars who already think they know everything about the game?
Furthermore, no matter what goes wrong in the NFL, it's the coaches' fault. If a player underperforms, it's never that player's fault, it's always the coaches' fault. One bad break in a close game? Coaches' fault. One play goes wrong? Coaches' fault. Yet, every time there is success on the field, it's purely the players who take credit. That amazing third down play? It was the receiver's hands and the QB's throw that saved the day, not the coaches' call. That national championship? Thank you ______ quarterback for leading the troops all the way.
Its true, a few coaches, like Bill Belichick, have transcended this mold and become superstars in their own right, but they are few and far between. In the college ranks, a decade of success and a national championship guarantees fame and respect for decades to come. When people are talking about the greatest coaches of all time, they talk about the John Wooden's and Coach K's, who not only won championships but built programs. Harbaugh needs to decide if he wants to build a legacy or if he wants to have to spend the rest of his days begging for respect from his superstar athletes and the fanbase alike.