Minutes before kickoff of Sunday's butt-whoopin, there was a round of reports saying that Reggie McKenzie will indeed be fired after the season. It is now officially time to address the fact that by all accounts, Jim Harbaugh is the leading candidate to be the next head coach of the Raiders.
Two months ago it would have been considered trolling to suggest such a thing. And seemingly in the blink of an eye, the pigs have started spreading their wings...
Everybody agrees that Mark Davis has every intention of breaking with Raiders tradition and spending the money on a first-rate head coach this off-season. Harbaugh and Jon Gruden were his primary targets. Hours after reports began circulating that Gruden had expressed interest in the Niners head coaching position, which many interpreted as a move to squeeze some more money out of ESPN, Gruden squeezed some more money out of ESPN and signed a new deal with them through 2021.
Harbaugh had been the presumed front-runner for the job for the last couple weeks anyway, so Gruden chickening out on real work for what should be the last time he's ever considered for it didn't change the landscape that much. But the Harbaugh rumor mill started going crazy again this weekend... coincidentally, precisely when it began looking so clear-cut that he was heading to the Raiders that the Niners had no leverage to demand much compensation.
While the 49ers have Jim Harbaugh under contract through next season, they can't ship him off wherever as if he were a player. That's what they get for throwing him under the bus- once they made it obvious to everybody he's gone regardless, he's calling the shots, and the Niners have no bargaining power. You can't get a handful of teams to bid against each other if he only wants to go to one of them.
The Jets and Dolphins have been the only other two NFL teams mentioned as possibilities. It's widely acknowledged that Harbaugh is a California guy (or his wife is a California gal, anyway, and he's not arguing). The Jets are more fucked up than us right now, are completely screwed at QB aside from their upcoming high draft choice, and probably haven't done themselves any favors in looking attractive to Harbaugh in the way they've dealt with Rex Ryan this season. Reportedly forbidding Ryan to speak about his ailing dad in interviews probably didn't sit well with Harbaugh given his background. And he's already spurned Miami once.
Harbaugh's other suitor has been his alma mater the University of Michigan. Supposedly they have offered him $49 million over six years. After hate-following him for the last couple years, I don't see him going back to college right now. Stanford has been a better job than Michigan since he left it. But I think Harbaugh has a point to prove in the NFL, and to his credit, he strikes me as a guy who would be just as, if not more enthusiastic, about turning around a shitty team in the right situation as he would signing on with an already loaded squad. For a California guy willing to roll up his sleeves, Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, a high pick, $70 million in cap space and an owner willing to kiss your ass must sound pretty good. And I shudder to think of what he would have to do to get run out of Oakland after three straight AFC Championship appearances.
Word is that his fondness for and history with Al Davis is playing no small part in his decision-making process. Steve Young was on PTI today and insisted on it, and it was his strong opinion that Harbaugh is trying to make a move to the Raiders happen.
If Jim Harbaugh, of all people, ends up being the silver and black knight riding back in from the past to play savior, instead of Jon Gruden, driven into our arms by the Niners no less... that may just be crazy enough to un-suck us. It would be exponentially more awesome if somebody with a real connection to Mr. Davis resurrects this team, and with Gruden spending an hour a day in the makeup chair through the rest of this century, I'm not sure anybody other than Harbaugh brings that to the table (I've heard Tom Cable may be getting head coach consideration around the league after this season. I'll pass. At best, he's Tony Sparano with hair).
What excites me most about Harbaugh coming to town, other than his track record of recent NFL success unlike every other option we have, is that he may be the perfect guy to work on our refereeing... "issues." He just might have the cache to get us a little more love from the zebras, and lord knows he's not afraid to wield it. I recall after his first victory with the Niners, he wondered aloud to anybody who would listen why the Niners didn't get a bigger share of the national spotlight. So if he can't even wait a week to go in on how the fucking Niners get a raw deal, if he's half the Raider at heart they say he is, holy shit... he's going to literally bite a ref's head off and DDT his corpse before the bye. There will be a veritable cornucopia of JimHarbaughRage.gif's provided to us on a weekly basis.
I have to say... *sigh*... I hope that Jim Harbaugh is the next coach of the Oakland Raiders. That was not easy for me.
And speaking of things I don't want to talk nor think about, there is another huge question mark hanging over this franchise, which we'll address in the Week 16 preview. There is the possibility that the Raiders won't be a good job for a California guy in 2015 after all...