Opinion: Jim Harbaugh picks next job when he's ready
If the past is any clue — and with Jim Harbaugh, it's the best clue we've got — then the next week or so will be wild wild crazy wild.
OK, the last few months have been plenty wild already, but Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of next week should really test all boundaries of the Harbaugh rumor mill.
But within the wildness, there will be little or no word from Harbaugh as he decides his future. That's my prediction.
That's how he does this. I can vouch for this, because I've reported about his coaching future very, very often and this is the pattern: Lots of reporting around him, and when the time comes, Harbaugh goes into a bubble for a day or so and nothing gets out until he picks a direction.
I have every belief that this is exactly what's happening now… and this is exactly how Harbaugh will make his decision at some point next week.
The last time Harbaugh went through the process of picking a job, it was January 2011, and it was unlike anything that had come before it.
He had just led Stanford to a victory in the Orange Bowl. He was being pursued by the Miami Dolphins, the University of Michigan (despite the denials) and the 49ers and meanwhile Denver was waiting to get in line and Al Davis even tried to get in a call at the end.
Oh, and Stanford was making large amounts of money available to Harbaugh if he would stay one more year to try to help get Andew Luck a Heisman (big bonus offered if he did) and get Stanford into the national title game (big bonus if he did).
Harbaugh had all of these things going at once back in 2011. Then he went silent. Nobody heard from him for more than a day… and he finally picked the 49ers.
I get a headache just recalling the mayhem that proceeded Harbaugh's introductory presser with the 49ers, but here's my summation of it back then.
So I imagine the December 2014/January 2015 festivities will be just as tumultuous.
That's just the way Harbaugh does things — he doesn't think through his process by whispering to confidantes or reporters, he doesn't ask his agent to negotiate in public, he just doesn't do all the normal stuff that normal high-profile candidates do.
And I give him credit for that. (Doesn't mean his agent, David Dunn, can't do some of that anyway, but I'm fairly certain that Harbaugh doesn't ask Dunn to do it and doesn't need Dunn to do it.)
It's also why I presume that nothing has been signed, nothing has been agreed to, nothing has been decided, at least by Harbaugh personally … and nothing will be decided until he finishes up this 49ers season, has every option laid out in front of him by his agent David Dunn and other advisers…
Everybody I know who knows Harbaugh says he really is just that focused, just as Harbaugh says he is — get through a season, try everything you can to win every game, THEN he will assess his options.
And Harbaugh will make a call only after all that.
Even then, there might be further steps that have to be taken, because if it's another NFL job, the Harbaugh camp will have to engage the 49ers about either letting him out of his contract (by firing him) or figuring out what kind of trade is palatable all three sides (Harbaugh, the 49ers and the new team).
I know Michigan fans revile me for saying that I believe Harbaugh would prefer to stay in the NFL, but one more note:
I would normally say that it's not a good sign that Michigan's presumed offer has been out in the public for so long without Harbaugh taking it … normally, the offer that sits out there in public the longest is the one that basically has already been turned down.
But I'm not saying that with Harbaugh because of what happened in 2011 … when he had a long negotiating session with Jed York and Trent Baalke and others, discussed the terms he was comfortable with … then he skipped out to talk to Miami and to talk more with Stanford.
That would normally have been a sign that Harbaugh was done with the 49ers — he'd gotten their best offer and didn't take it.
Then after the one-day walk-about … Harbaugh called the 49ers back and they finalized the deal.
If Harbaugh history is a guide, we don't know what he's going to do, no matter whatever other clues are discovered or suggested. He'll make up his mind in the quiet, without whispers, and we'll know when we know. Just about the same time all the teams buzzing around him will know.