Published January 05, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO – Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was meeting Wednesday with the San Francisco 49ers about their head coach vacancy, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the interview wasn't made public. Harbaugh returned Tuesday night to the Bay Area from a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in Miami that gave the Cardinal a program-best 12-1 record. He now must weigh his options, which appear to be many.
The 49ers formally picked Trent Baalke as their new general manager Tuesday night and he is now looking for the coach to replace Mike Singletary, fired following a 25-17 loss at St. Louis on Dec. 26 that eliminated San Francisco from the playoffs for an eighth straight season. Baalke had been the team's vice president of player personnel since March.
Team President and CEO Jed York said after Singletary was fired that he would leave the choice of head coach up to the new GM — so apparently this is Baalke's show to try to land Harbaugh. Though it might take a tag-team effort by the front office considering Harbaugh's numerous suitors.
The 47-year-old Harbaugh is 58-27 overall as a college coach and 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford. He took over a 1-11 team when he was hired in December 2006 and quickly turned the program back into a winner and bowl contender.
The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 the next, then improved to 8-5 and earned a Sun Bowl berth in 2009 — the school's first bowl appearance since 2001.
Many believe Harbaugh is ready to make the leap to the next level, eager for a new challenge. He was the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks coach from 2002-03 before spending three seasons as head coach at the University of San Diego.
When Stanford arrived back on campus Tuesday, one man hollered "Stay in the Bay Area!" when Harbaugh hopped off the bus holding his toddler daughter, Addison.
Harbaugh, a college star at Michigan where there also is a coaching vacancy, played 15 seasons in the NFL for the Bears, Colts, Ravens, Chargers and Panthers. A first-round draft pick taken 26th overall by Chicago in 1987, Harbaugh completed 2,305 of 3,918 passes for 26,288 career yards and 129 touchdowns in the NFL. He also ran for 18 TDs.
Aside from his alma mater, the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos are teams believed to have interest in Harbaugh. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, CEO Mike Dee and general manager Jeff Ireland were on the Stanford sideline before Monday's Orange Bowl game.
"When you have a bunch of billionaires chasing you around to be a part of an NFL program ... If Jim feels like he's ready for that, who would blame him?" Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said.
Messages left for Harbaugh's agent, Jack Bechta, weren't immediately returned Wednesday.
The 49ers — who were picked to win the NFC West this year but haven't had a winning season since their last playoff season in 2002 — also were scheduled to interview Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson on Wednesday about the coaching job. San Francisco was given permission Tuesday from Oakland to talk to Jackson.
The Newark Star-Ledger also reported that San Francisco requested permission to interview Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. If Fewell or Jackson interview, the team will have fulfilled the requirement under the Rooney Rule to talk to a minority candidate.
Jackson also could be a candidate for the head coaching job in Oakland after owner Al Davis decided not to exercise the team's option to retain Tom Cable. The Raiders informed Cable of their decision Tuesday.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this story.