Bill Cowher vs. Jim Harbaugh: Who'll Have More NFL Success in 2011?

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2011

Bill Cowher vs. Jim Harbaugh: Who Has More NFL Success in 2011?

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates a play with Andrew Luck #12 against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Stanford won 40
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The hottest coach on the planet is currently Jim Harbaugh. He led Stanford to a 12-1 record and a top five ranking.

    His brother John has made the playoffs three years in a row with the Baltimore Ravens, so there is little doubt that Jim will have plenty of success at the pro level.

    Bill Cowher has been quietly sitting back and waiting for the right job. By working for the CBS crew the past four years Cowher has stayed immersed in the league.

    So where will the two hottest prospects end up in 2011 and beyond? Let's check out a a few scenarios for both Harbaugh and Cowher.

Harbaugh Stays In-State, Goes to the San Francisco 49ers

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 02:    Ahamd Brooks #55 of the San Francisco 49ers intercepts the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on January 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Isn't the easiest move to make the one where you don't have to move?

    If he coached the 49ers, Harbaugh would be in charge of one of the NFL’s most seasoned franchises.

    He has the potential to right the sinking ship that was the Mike Singletary era and build a new winning legacy in the Bay Area.

    Harbaugh begs the Panthers to trade them the No. 1 pick so he can draft his guy in Andrew Luck. His pleas fall on deaf ears, as the 49ers are forced to draft Ryan Mallett.

    Unfortunately for Harbaugh, Mallett turns out to be a colossal bust, and the blame falls into the head coach's lap.

    Harbaugh can't right the ship with Mallett, and the 49ers put up a disastrous 4-12 season.

Cowher Kicks Out Coughlin and Takes Over the New York Giants

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    LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 02:  Linebacker Keith Bulluck #53 of the New York Giants intercepts a pass against the Washington Redskins during their game at FedEx Field on January 2, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The Giants won the game 17-14.  (Photo by Win McNa
    Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Sure the Giants told the media that Tom Coughlin's job was safe as head coach.

    But once Cowher talks with owner John Mara, the tide turns in a hurry.

    Cowher agrees to coach the G-Men, and fans in New York are ecstatic. Cowher brings a new voice and refreshes the talented yet underachieving Giants.

    His first priority is to get Eli Manning back to form. Manning ends up having one of his best seasons as a pro. The defense forces enough turnovers to take the pressure off Eli, and the Giants end up back in the postseason.

    Cowher cements his legacy as one of the best in recent league history.

Harbaugh Takes the Money and Coaches the Miami Dolphins

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 02:  Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots pressures Chad Henne #7 of the Miami Dolphins on January 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    What sounds better to you...$4.5M or $7M and no state tax? The Dolphins could grossly overpay to get their man, and that offer would be hard to pass up.

    The former NFL QB will save a franchise that has a talented team except for one position: QB.

    Harbaugh drafts Jake Locker and takes the criticism as Locker struggles in his first season. But after an offseason to learn from Harbaugh and a season under his belt, Locker blossoms into a top 15 QB, and the 'Fins return to relevance.

    Harbaugh is deemed a QB genius, and the love affair in Miami reaches deafening heights—but not before going through a rough first season in the NFL.

Cowher Is Consolation Prize for Miami Dolphins

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    DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 11:  Former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher attends the game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils on February 11, 2009 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin Cox/Gett
    Kevin Cox/Getty Images

    Another team on Cowher's "wish list," the Dolphins throw a boatload of cash at him, and the two sides agree to terms after Harbaugh signs elsewhere.

    Cowher turns the Dolphins defense into a top five unit within the first two years. He installs his schemes, turning the 'Fins into one of the most disciplined and physical units in the league.

    But Cowher's downfall is the lack of a decent QB.

    After a failed season with Vince Young at the helm, Cowher drafts Boise State QB Kellen Moore in the 2012 draft, and the pace of the Dolphins offense speeds up tremendously.

Harbaugh Decides on Denver Broncos

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos looks on against the San Diego Chargers at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Who saw new Broncos VP of Operation John Elway standing on the Stanford sidelines at the Orange Bowl?

    Elway could possible sway Harbaugh with his intriguing QB situation.

    Tim Tebow is one of the NFL's biggest wild cards.

    He is not damaged goods like Alex Smith and is young, hungry and full of energy. Tebow just needs a good coach to polish his skills as a pocket passer.

    Enter Harbaugh.

    Harbaugh grooms Tebow towards NFL stardom. The Broncos turn into one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NFL, and Tebow becomes the next coming of Elway in Denver.

    The defense still stinks though, and the Broncos will find themselves in plenty of shootouts over the next half decade.

Cowher Agrees to Coach the Carolina Panthers

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Jason Snelling #44 of the Atlanta Falcons breaks a tackle by Sherrod Martin #23 of the Carolina Panthers at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Panthers have always been on the Cowher rumor list because he owns a house in North Carolina.

    Cowher realizes that Andrew Luck is a franchise QB to build around and he decides to jump on the Luck gravy train.

    Unfortunately for Cowher, the Panthers have far more holes than just QB, and the team stumbles early and often. While Luck gets a year of experience under his belt and proves to people why he was deserving of the first pick, the team has a disappointing but improved 5-11 record.

    Cowher's Panthers take off in 2012 and beyond.

Harbaugh Takes Michigan Job

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Kevin Koger #86 of the Michigan Wolverines breaks tackles following a reception against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida  (Photo by Rick Dole
    Rick Dole/Getty Images

    OK, let's face it...Habaugh coaching Michigan this year is as likely as a baseball player getting voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year.

    The Wolverines are in a huge slump, and it's going to take years to bring them out of the gutter. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon fired Rich Rodriguez on Wednesday after three seasons and a 15-22 record and said he is launching a national coaching search.

    They have Harbaugh as their No. 1 target, and they aren't being secretive about it.

    Sure, Harbaugh played and coached there, but that doesn't mean he wants to take over a spread offense and rebuild for the next three years.

    Sorry, Michigan fans, IT AIN'T HAPPENING!

Cowher Decides the Houston Texans Are Right Fit

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    HOUSTON - JANUARY 02:  Glover Quin #29 of the Houston Texans and Brian Cushing #56  celebrate after recovering a fumble late in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Lev
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The last team on the infamous "wish list," the Texans would fire Gary Kubiak in a spilt second if Cowher wanted to come into town.

    The offense is already a well-oiled machine, and Cowher will focus solely on the horrid Texans defense. His ability to motivate and inspire the defense will be the difference as the Texans make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

    Cowher is immediately given an extension after the season, and it looks as if he will be in Houston for the next decade.

Harbaugh Stays at Stanford

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: (L-R) Quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinal celebrate on stage after Stanford won 40-12 against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3,
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Harbaugh decides he is just fine at Stanford, and after a huge pay raise, he rejoins the Cardinal.

    His bid for Andrew Luck to stay fails, and the Stanford program falls back to seven- or eight-win status. The appeal of Harbaugh is damaged, and the best job he lands in 2012 is an offensive coordinator position with the Bengals.

    This leads to the subsequent second-guessing that haunts him for the rest of his career.

Cowher Keeps Yukking It Up with CBS Crew

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    WASHINGTON - APRIL 4:   Co-host Bill Cowher (L) and Hall of Famer Dan Marino during the NFL PLAYERS Gala at the Washington Hilton on April 4, 2008 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images for PLAYERS INC)
    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Cowher realizes that spending 20 or so hours a week analyzing the NFL for a few sound bites is a lot better than spending 100 hours a week breaking down the footwork of the Bills punter.

    Cowher continues to fake laugh at Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe while spending time with his family. His blood pressure stays at regular levels, and his overall health remains intact.

    In November a new "wish list" of teams he would like to coach emerges, and we start this process all over again.