Jim Harbaugh Deal Falling Through on 49ers, Billick Is Next Best Candidate

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst IJanuary 6, 2011

If the Harbaugh deal falls through (which is likely) then Billick should be the front runner
If the Harbaugh deal falls through (which is likely) then Billick should be the front runnerMike Stobe/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins seem to have stolen the leviathan most 49ers fans believed their team had hooked. Jim Harbaugh is being wooed by the Miami Dolphins with a sum of money—believed to be to the tune of nearly $8 million—that San Francisco may simply not be able to compete with.

Just as the more skeptical fans were warming up to the idea of Harbaugh in the wake of his Orange Bowl domination, it appears the high-profile coach is out of the 49ers reach.

*Update: Tony Sparano will remain as the Dolphins' head coach. Miami will not be hiring Harbaugh.

**Update: The 49ers have signed Harbaugh to a five-year deal. This article is now irrelevant, but please read further is you wish.

So What's Next?

The 49ers are moving forward, interviewing more candidates each day, and although there is no reason to completely abandon hope of keeping Harbaugh on the Peninsula, contingency has suddenly become a true necessity.

Josh McDaniels seemed like the logical next guy. As a young offensive mind with a reputation for grooming quarterbacks, McDaniels is basically a can of Harbaugh Lite. The former Denver head coach reportedly is not interested in the San Francisco 49ers head coaching position at all.

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Well, if an unemployed coach is going to be that picky (it's believed he'll seek an offensive coordinator position instead) then he's probably not the right guy to lead the 49ers back to the playoffs.


Yes, the playoffs, or as the 2000 Baltimore Ravens put it, "Festivus."

If that seems like it came out of left field, it's a reference to a team that was run by the man who may now be the best fit to coach the 49ers: Brian Billick.

In 1999, Brian Billick took over the Ravens and led the team to its first non-losing record. The next year, they went 12-4, and then they kept winning.

Billick enforced a strange rule that year. Players were not to mention the playoffs, or the Super Bowl. The head coach even fined nose tackle Tony Siragusa for using the word. The players in response began referring to the playoffs as "Festivus" and the Super Bowl as "Festivus Maximus" after a classic episode of Seinfeld.

When the Ravens finally made the playoffs that year, the ban was lifted, and Billick's team went on to win the Festivus Maximus.

Billick's strictness in disallowing the P-word and the S-B-word was not to meant be at all tyrannical. Rather, the point was to make the players concentrate on football, and not concern themselves with the larger eventual goal.

Career differences between Billick and Singletary (and why Billick can be The Man in SF)

The 49ers are a team looking for change. Specifically, they are looking away from the Mike Singletary era, and trying to move forward with the foundation Singletary created.

Singletary was a legendary Hall of Fame linebacker. As a head coach, however, Singletary quickly found himself lacking in the experience necessary to succeed at the NFL level. Although Singletary had a fine start as a linebackers coach, he struggled to tread water as a head coach.

Billick, on the other hand, was drafted by the 49ers in the 11th round of the 1977 draft. He was cut, then signed by the Dallas Cowboys, and then cut again. He never played in a regular season NFL game.

Billick then turned to coaching. First he worked dual jobs at Redlands High School (where he had played quarterback and cornerback) and Redlands University. From 1979 to 1980, he was the 49ers assistant director of public relations.

He then returned to coaching with at San Diego State, where he was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator from 1981 to 1985. He was then named the offensive coordinator for Utah State, and he turned the second-worst offense in Division I-A into a top-10 offense in three seasons.

Shortly after, Billick was hired by Dennis Green as assistant head coach and tight ends coach at Stanford for three seasons.

Billick followed Green to the Minnesota Vikings as offensive coordinator in 1992. During Billick's and Green's times in Minnesota, the Vikings never posted a losing record and missed the playoffs only once. In 1998, the Vikings set an NFL record (since broken) for points in a season.

By virtue of Dennis Green, Billick can be considered a product of the Walsh coaching tree.

Singletary ruled by fear, and kept many of the 49ers players wound so tight, they were not able to loosen up and make big plays. Vernon Davis recently pointed out the fear that 49ers players had.

"They were more worried about coach Singletary getting on them than playing football."

Singletary's iron-handed rule would last two and a half years in San Francisco, but it eventually became clear his regime was limiting the success of a talented 49ers squad.

Conclusion? Yeah, right.

Jim Tomsula took over the 49ers head coaching job for one game at the end of the 2010 season. The 49ers played a loose and inspired game and, albeit against a sad (and reeling) Arizona Cardinals team, the 49ers cruised to a one-sided victory to end a painful year on a slightly higher note.

The scary Mike Singletary caveman-football era is behind them now, and the club can move forward with a liberated creativity.

Billick is often viewed a defensive mind because of the Ravens' success in that area. His resume, however, tells a different tale. If there is a position besides general manager that Billick is cut out for, it looks like SF has an opening. Maybe he was never that great a player, but Bill Billick has sure been one hell of a coach.

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