Remaining candidates for Jim Harbaugh with Dolphins out

Can Inman
San Jose Mercury News

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on Sunday said coach Joe Philbin would return next season. So now that the Dolphins are out of the picture in the running for Jim Harbaugh's services, here's an update on some possible remaining candidates:

Michigan: Harbaugh already has gone from the Bay Area to Ann Arbor, when he graduated Palo Alto High School to play under the legendary Bo Schembechler from 1982-86. Multiple reports last week said Michigan is offering a six-year, $48 million deal that would be college football's richest. Harbaugh's father, Jack, coached at Michigan from 1973-79. Jim Harbaugh got his head coaching start in the college ranks and delivered success at the University of San Diego (2004-06) and Stanford (2007-10). Rebuilding the Big House would be a big move.

Raiders: This is where Harbaugh embarked on a coaching career after suiting up 15 years as a NFL quarterback. During those 2002 and 2003 seasons as an offensive assistant, Harbaugh learned valuable lessons from the late Al Davis, and Harbaugh cherishes those memories. A touted allure of this troubled franchise is its proximity, seeing how Harbaugh and his family could stay in their Atherton, Calif., home, although it would mean a daily commute across the San Mateo Bridge and up that beast known as Interstate 880. Derek Carr has had an encouraging rookie season, as witnessed first-hand by Harbaugh in the 49ers' Dec. 7 loss at Oakland. Harbaugh likely could assume personnel control or pick a successor to general manager Reggie McKenzie. John Madden surely would give his blessing to Harbaugh as coach.

Bears: This franchise must hold a special place in Harbaugh's heart since he began his NFL career in 1987 as a Bears first-round draft pick. Awaiting him are offensive weapons (Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett) and a high-profile quarterback (Jay Cutler) that needs a savior. What may sell Harbaugh on the Bears, too, is the fact they are less than a two-hour drive from Harbaugh's parents, who've made multiple trips each year to the Bay Area to visit their grandchildren. Personnel control could be in play for him.

Jets: Money and personnel control should be there if Harbaugh wants to relocate to the East Coast, closer to his brother, John (Ravens coach). He could try sparking Geno Smith's career, or he could hand pick his next quarterback, or he could do both (see: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick). The Jets haven't been to a Super Bowl since Joe Namath made good on his guarantee to cap the 1968 season.

Giants: Tom Coughlin's magnificent career is coming to a close. Harbaugh is familiar with the Giants, having faced them four times in the past four years, most recently last month when the visiting 49ers won 16-10 with the help of five interceptions of Eli Manning. Harbaugh doesn't mind chaos, and the New York media market certainly will enchance that. Total control won't happen under the Mara family.

Falcons: Mike Smith's seven-year tenure likely hinges on if the Falcons (6-9) can win the NFC South next Sunday at home against the Carolina Panthers (6-8-1). Working with quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones should be enticing. The Falcons' new stadium is expected to open in 2017, and Harbaugh now knows what distractions may accompany that. Owner Arthur Blank may want to keep general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who'll surely consult with Trent Baalke on whether this pairing would work.

Washington: Could Jay Gruden really be one-and-done? If owner Dan Snyder picks Robert Griffin III over Gruden, Snyder will need to shell out massive money to lure Harbaugh to fix Griffin, who picked Baylor over Harbaugh's Stanford. Coaching close to brother John's Ravens could be an appeal. Harbaugh will be asked to end a 23-year Super Bowl victory drought; the 49ers' now stands at 20 years.

Broncos: Pursuing Peyton, the sequel. Say the Broncos fall short of a Lombardi Trophy for the third straight season with Peyton Manning. Say John Elway makes the bold move to ditch John Fox despite AFC West titles in each of Fox's four seasons. What do you say, Jim?