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Unpopular opinion: Jim Harbaugh may be the best candidate for a Lawrence-less Jets


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Being that I made one unpopular thread this week, I figured I should cap it off with another one. That's right: Jim Harbaugh---the same Jim Harbaugh who has "failed" at Michigan---may be the one realistic candidate who can turn the team around the team quickly without the #1 pick. Harbaugh, who Woody Johnson has flirted with for years, has been on the Jets coaching short-lists for quite some time now. He interviewed in 2009, Woody tried convincing him to come here in 2015, and was rumored to be a candidate in 2018. This may be the most realistic chance for the Jets to hire Harbaugh being that his flame not nearly as bright and that he has only one-year left on his contract. To me, it seems clear that he's not making a decision on his contract until he hears from the NFL and is expecting calls (even if he hasn't had much traction already as Jay Glazer reported). Finally, the PR aspect. Woody is going to itch for headlines when he returns, and Harbaugh would be the big name that could help marginalize the chatter about not being able to land Trevor Lawrence. Not that any of this matters, but if Woody settles for this instead of forcing the organization's hand at QB, I'm for it. 

*Let me point out that I really only want 2 coaches: Matt Campbell or Pat Fitzgerald. I don't believe either will come here; those chances will be lost if we don't have the #1 pick. Outside of them, I have a very hard time seeing a 6-10+ year coach out of the crop of candidates. I do feel Harbaugh presents the Jets a better chance of finding success than other candidates who would consider the job, as I get the feeling that the Jets job will not be highly sought after. I ultimately want Joe Douglas to make the call, but I'm not sold on the field of candidates. Most will be unsuccessful (after all, only 30-50% of candidates end up making it to their 5th year). 

 

History Lesson

In 2010, the 49ers had high expectations after registering 8 wins in 2009 under 1st year head coach Mike Singletary. However, the team let down the following season, only winning 6 games and resulting in the coach being fired. Entering 2011, the team was coming off an 8-year playoff drought. During that span, they had a 46-128 record (.359), had fired 3 head coaches, ownership drama, a 2004 1st overall pick Alex Smith who struggled mightily, and became the laughing stock of the NFL. Despite this, they did have a slew of good draft picks the years prior and a GM who at the time was considered a rising star in the industry. The team made a splash by hiring Stanford HC Jim Harbaugh, who they sold to the fanbase as a program builder. Jim Harbaugh came in with a big decision to make at the most pivotal position: whether to draft a QB in round 1 or stick with Alex Smith and bring in additional competition. There was no way the 49ers could justify not adding competition considering Smith was coming off a 6-year span where he only started 50 games (52%) with a 19-31 record, 9400 yards, 51 TDs, 53 INTs, and a 57.1% completion percentage. When Harbaugh announced that Alex Smith would be returning after the lockout, the team was mocked and ridiculed. They further cemented their reluctance to replace Smith that year when the team opted against drafting the popular QB prospects in round 1 (all of whom busted), selected a QB in round 2, and ultimately went with Alex Smith as their starter. 

Smith went on to have an extremely efficient season, posting career bests in several categories as he managed the team to a 13-3 record and won a playoff game. Smith went on to be the starter in 2012 and appeared to be on his way to a career year before suffering a concussion which resulted in him being "wally pipped" by Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers were successful - they made it to the Super Bowl that year (despite losing), Alex Smith was traded to Kansas City and went on to have a lot of success there whereas the 49ers went 12-4 in 2013 and lost in the Conference Championship. It all fell apart in 2014 with rumblings throughout the season suggesting that Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke could not co-exist and that the team would move on from Harbaugh regardless the result. The team went 8-8, Harbaugh left for Michigan, and the team would go on to have two horrific seasons under Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly before hiring Kyle Shanahan. 

 

How Harbaugh's work with Smith could relate to Darnold

I sense that it's very hard to compare Darnold to QBs before him because he's the youngest starting QB ever (21.097). Jets fans know that the Jets "ruined" him in many ways, but I don't think everyone is capable of pinpointing how. I also see a lot of #JetsTwitter and casual fans don't even know what makes Darnold such a tantalizing QB prospect and feel that pundits overrate him because of his struggles and inconsistency on the field. Alex Smith is one of the rare similarities in that he was extraordinarily young entering his rookie season (21.127) and dealt with a lot of adversity to begin his career (RE: injuries, poor play, poor supporting cast, and a poor coaching) yet was able to develop into a very solid winning QB, albeit mostly with a different franchise. 

The Harbaugh and Smith relationship didn't end on the highest of notes, yet Smith still has tremendous respect for Harbaugh which speaks volumes to me. For one, Harbaugh was clearly interested in Peyton Manning a year after Alex Smith led the team to a 13-3 record, and it was an awkward tap-dance between he, the player, and other teams involved in free agency. Then there was the benching for Kaepernick, which Smith reluctantly accepted and was better in the end for it. He too was shocked how the SF-Harbaugh relationship didn't work out, citing Jim's success and his own career reset with the help of Harbaugh. But in getting a glimpse into Harbaugh's 2017 reflection on the Alex Smith experience, there were some key takeaways that I found important as it pertains to the Jets specifically.

 

Quote

 

“It was a long process, many hours. This is the job I knew that nobody would be spending more time on it, or thinking about it more than I would. And also getting the input from the coaches, and people within the organization, and the staff. At the end of the time, you know that it’s your decision to make because you’re spending the most time on it, you’re thinking about it the most.

“And did just that. Spent a lot of time watching Alex, and came to the understanding and realization that he was really good. And he needed to be put in a better position. There was play action passing that was missing, and that he would be really good at, and getting out the pocket more than had been done. Just fitting our scheme. I can just visualize where he would be very successful. But it was a long process to look at all options an do the diligence for what was best for the team.”

 

 

Are the situations identical? Far from it. The 49ers had a more talented team overall, making it easier for their team to prioritize the defense and run game with Alex Smith effectively being used as a game manager. However, the main reason I think Harbaugh could be the a realistically good hire here is because of his history and principles. He builds teams around the QB. He finds what the QB is good at and tailors the offense around it, trying to implement aspects that make things easier on the QB. Any football fan with eyes can see that Sam would be best in an offense similar to what Harbaugh helped build for Alex Smith, and being that he successfully revitalized a QB who faced similar unfortunate circumstances to begin their career is something the Jets could really use. Furthermore, lets not forget that Colin Kaepernick played by far his best football on Harbaugh coached teams. 

I see Darnold being similar to Smith, but I have much higher expectations. It's also part of the reason why I wouldn't be totally upset with Harbaugh. I'm a Sam Darnold truther, and if the Jets don't have the #1 pick I want them to hire the coach that will be a CEO type but also get the most out of Sam. Harbaugh's done this before, and although it didn't end well in SF due to a power struggle, he was a winner there and did in fact get the most out of his QBs. I think Sam is a much better prospect than Smith or Kaepernick were (and Smith was a very good one). He's not nearly as far gone as Alex Smith was entering his 4th year, let alone his 6th when he broke out. I think Darnold has done more-with-less than guys like Alex Smith or Eli Manning did to begin their careers, and I think the main reason this year went off the rails was because of a horrific coaching staff that was unable to adapt to the pandemic. I think Darnold is a legitimately talented passer with franchise QB-caliber ability who has been corrupted by a trash organization. All being said, he's still *only* 23 years old. There's still hope for his career. And even if the chances have dwindled, the "hope" is that the Jets can get it out of him. Worst case you have a coach who has worked with a number of QBs in his coaching career and was able to get good play out of most of those QBs, largely due to implementing a run-heavy scheme with an emphasis on efficiency and defense. Best case is that coach puts Sam back on the franchise QB trajectory and puts the team back on the map for the long-haul. 

 

 

Other defenses for hiring Harbaugh

  • Harbaugh wore out his welcome in San Francisco because his personality and intensity were too great at times, but Trent Baalke does not deserve a pass. Trent and ownership sought to micromanage Harbaugh. The GM was similarly abrasive, and his personality clashed with Harbaugh's since day 1. In 2 years, Joe Douglas has shown us that he is not the abrasive, micromanaging type. He has given Adam Gase a lot of slack despite some really odd decisions and blunders. Gase infamously clashed with Miami's ownership, and while it came off as brown-nosing, does have a good relationship with the Jets ownership and team president. Despite our ownership being very suspect, they have never been accused of being micromanagers (how can anyone forget Jed York and Cassie Baalke criticizing his personal friend and colleague - Greg Roman - on twitter). There's reasons to believe that Harbaugh could have a better experience with New York's front office than he did in San Francisco. 
  • Expanding on personnel, Harbaugh and Douglas share the same vision. They believe the game is won on the lines of scrimmage, and *if* Harbaugh isn't hellbent on having personnel control/trusts Douglas, it can be a harmonious relationship.  
  • Expanding on tenure, one popular narrative is that Harbaugh only lasts 4-5 years before wearing out his welcome. He made San Diego into a winner and took his natural jump to a bigger job at Stanford. He lasted 4 years there, rebuilt the program while also grooming David Shaw, and made his jump to the NFL - a move he was long rumored to be entertaining. He lasted 4 years in San Francisco and was wildly successful, only to be forced out/hired by Michigan. He hasn't reached the unnaturally high expectations that came with taking the Michigan job, but the mockery is way too much. Prior to his arrival, Michigan was an inconsistent and troubled program coming off a 5-7 season. He immediately injected life into the program, registering back-to-back 10 win seasons. Prior to this year, he guided a winning program each year having 3 10-win seasons, 1 9-win, and 1 8-win team and 4 top 19 rankings. He's spent 6 seasons at Michigan, which is a pretty long time for any coach with his type of star power. 
  • Harbaugh's overall career coaching record: 156-71-1 (.686). That's pretty damn impressive and would seem to me that at the end of the day, the guy knows how to win football games even if he's not winning the big games he was hired to win at Michigan.
  • Some will argue that Harbaugh didn't develop QBs at Michigan. While he didn't ever land the top recruit or develop a kid into becoming the next great QB, he did get the most of what was available to Michigan.  
  • At 56, Harbaugh feels a lot more like Pete Carroll (who joined the Seahawks at 59) than your run-of-the-mill retread. 
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2 things; Harbaugh would need someone to pay off Michigan with his steep buyout. People don't walk away from $10 million, and Michigan is not going to fire him if only to avoid the buyout clause. And while he might be intrigued by working with Trevor Lawrence, the dog's breakfast QB situation here makes this a rather unattractive job for him. 

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50 minutes ago, Ruby2 said:

He is staying at Michigan 1, and 2 Brian Daboll is a better choice.

I like daboll. Normally I would be against newbie hcs but daboll has had a lot of position coaching experience and has done well. Another guy who at least deserves a look is pettine. Sure he didn’t do well in Cleveland but who has? He knows rex’s defense without rex’s baggage.

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Harbaugh is a hardass disciplinarian and we don't have a discipline problem.

We have a talent problem.  10 years of John Idzik and Mike Maccagnan.  Flipping the head coach after 1 draft and 1 free agency period solves nothing.  And, if we bring in the wrong guy, sets us backwards.

The players respond to Adam Gase.  Jim Harbaugh?  They'd probably balk at the guy and want out.

SAR I

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43 minutes ago, kelly said:

so,.. sar... when did u first start having these  " thoughts "  ?   😳

Say what you want about Gase's playcalling but you can't have anything but positive things to say about his ability to motivate a weak roster decimated by injuries and a bust quarterback.

Gase is a great rebuilding head coach.  Once we're good again, different story.  But for now, Gase is what we need, not Harbaugh.

SAR I

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1 hour ago, SAR I said:

Say what you want about Gase's playcalling but you can't have anything but positive things to say about his ability to motivate a weak roster decimated by injuries and a bust quarterback.

Gase is a great rebuilding head coach.  Once we're good again, different story.  But for now, Gase is what we need, not Harbaugh.

SAR I

...

Edited by Maxman
politics
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35 minutes ago, SAR I said:

Say what you want about Gase's playcalling but you can't have anything but positive things to say about his ability to motivate a weak roster decimated by injuries and a bust quarterback.

Gase is a great rebuilding head coach.  Once we're good again, different story.  But for now, Gase is what we need, not Harbaugh.

SAR I

now sar,.. 

312778_2281718176431_1587634172_n.jpg?_n

... don't get ur  " Tinsel in a Tangle "   🎅   

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9 hours ago, Ruby2 said:

He is staying at Michigan 1, and 2 Brian Daboll is a better choice.

 

FWIW I don't think Daboll will come here even if we're interested. I get the sense he will be the frontrunner for the Chargers job once it opens up. 

9 hours ago, Bugg said:

2 things; Harbaugh would need someone to pay off Michigan with his steep buyout. People don't walk away from $10 million, and Michigan is not going to fire him if only to avoid the buyout clause. And while he might be intrigued by working with Trevor Lawrence, the dog's breakfast QB situation here makes this a rather unattractive job for him. 

Not quite. His school buyout is around $10 million when you factor in his $6.37 million school buyout plus all other compensation, not including insurance coverage until he either finds another job or for 18 months. Again, the important designation is that it's a SCHOOL buyout. However, if Harbaugh were to leave Michigan for another job, his new employer would be responsible for... $285,715 (which is his the equivalent to the prorated amount of his $2 million signing bonus). High-profile HCs usually get their way on NFL buyouts (i.e. Daboo Swiney's is $0), but the younger guys often include stricter terms... for instance, Matt Campbell's is $6 million and Matt Rhule's was $6 million. 

9 hours ago, Adoni Beast said:

Unfortunately, it looks like he is staying at Michigan. 

They just fired their DC. You don’t fire an assistant after the season if you’re not coming back.

I'm not so sure. Firing of Don Brown was always happening. Michigan won't fire him because the money he's due;  Harbaugh won't leave without a new job and may consider coaching out the final year of his deal. Both can use the DC firing as a scapegoat if they rekindle their relationship. To me, it just seems like both Harbaugh and Michigan have been dragging their feet as Harbaugh evaluates his options and neither are eager to reach a new agreement. I think in a weird way both hope Harbaugh gets an offer because Harbaugh is ready to return to the NFL and Michigan is ready for a reset. 

It was "rumored" by a NYT writer that he's heard from 5 NFL teams, but this seems fluffy. I don't think Harbaugh is highly sought after by the NFL for several reasons, the main one being money. And it would be costly. If your Harbaugh, why leave for anything short of your current salary ($8.5 million)? Secondly, his brother is the 6th highest paid HC at $9 million per year. Matt Rhule and Sean McVay make $8.5 million a year. Shouldn't we expect he'd want to be in that territory?

And for that reason, among others, I don't see many teams being interested. The 3 most likely are DET, JAX, and NYJ. 

Detroit is close to Michigan, but unsure the fit there (plus Saleh is the favorite). Jacksonville and New York would be the right situation given the perks (draft capital, money, etc.). Jacksonville will have their choice at any candidate they want and they could easily prefer someone else over Harbaugh. The Jets, however, have an owner who is returning from the UK itching to make a high-profile change and has long admired Harbaugh. If Douglas and Harbaugh were mutually on-board, I wouldn't doubt Woody stepping in to make a massive offer for him. 

 

My biggest concern with Harbaugh would be his relationship with Douglas. Harbaugh has developed a reputation for being hard to work with and overstepping. If Harbaugh is forced on Douglas, it's going to be another circus act. If Harbaugh respects Douglas as an evaluator/GM and the latter plays a significant part in hiring him, it could be a nice pair. 

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On 12/23/2020 at 10:50 AM, SAR I said:

Say what you want about Gase's playcalling but you can't have anything but positive things to say about his ability to motivate a weak roster decimated by injuries and a bust quarterback.

Gase is a great rebuilding head coach.  Once we're good again, different story.  But for now, Gase is what we need, not Harbaugh.

SAR I

He’s not motivating them. They are mostly a bunch if guys with borderline talent who may never get this much playing time again mixed with rookies and year 2 guys trying to make sure people know they belong.

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On 12/23/2020 at 9:00 AM, Ruby2 said:

He is staying at Michigan 1, and 2 Brian Daboll is a better choice.

Daboll, Arthur Smith and Greg Roman if the Jets choose an OC. Lincoln Riley or Matt Campbell - if they can convince either to come without Lawrence - if they go the college route.

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