It seems like Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh is on every NFL team’s list of potential head coaching candidates. While we’ve largely ignored a lot of the speculation regarding Harbaugh, we do feel that this would be the best time for him to move on from Stanford, as his stock will never be higher and the team he has returning next season will certainly take a step back, especially if/when quarterback Andrew Luck declares for the NFL Draft.
One rumor regarding Harbaugh that is gaining steam makes a lot of sense to us. According to multiple sources he is “in play” as a candidate for the likely soon to be vacant Carolina Panthers job. Current Panthers coach John Fox is known to be on his way out, and his team carries a 1-12 record and has lost seven straight games.
If the Panthers continue on this course, they will end up with the worst record in the NFL and the No. 1 pick in the draft. From what we’ve heard, Harbaugh would love to sign up to coach Luck, his star pupil, for as long as possible. If he went to an NFL team he’d prefer it to be a spot where the team was willing to make a move to draft Luck, even if it means trading up for the No. 1 pick. With the Panthers, that likely wouldn’t be necessary.
Though Carolina drafted Jimmy Clausen to be its quarterback of the future in this year’s draft, the Notre Dame product has yet to show the stuff of a franchise quarterback. We’ve heard that Carolina’s brass has been disappointed with Clausen’s personality and his practice habits. Similar criticisms have dogged fellow Charlie Weis product Brady Quinn.
Clausen has played in 10 games this year and his numbers look terrible. He has completed 115-of-224 passes (51.3 percent), for 1,163 yards, with just one touchdown and seven interceptions. That puts his quarterback rating at 55.0.
Could Clausen turn it around? Certainly, but Luck will almost definitely be coming out and by all accounts he’s essentially the perfect quarterback. Whoever gets the No. 1 pick for April’s draft would be foolish not to take him, unless they’re convinced they have a franchise quarterback in their roster.
As we’ve said, Harbaugh’s stock will never be higher. He’s not a fool, he knows that. He knows that if he wants to move up, he’d be wise to do it now. I could see him taking any number of jobs, but Carolina seems to be an excellent fit, given the circumstances. If he doesn’t go after the Michigan job (which we’re not sure will be open or not), I could see him landing with the Panthers or the 49ers (again, if the job opens up).
If Carolina goes after Harbaugh aggressively, you’ve got to believe he’d take the job and the chance to continue Luck’s growth.