It has been widely reported that Jim Harbaugh—who agreed to mutually part ways with the San Francisco 49ers following their win against the Arizona Cardinals—has already lined up his new position as head coach of his alma mater, the University of Michigan. However, if it is a done deal, no-one has told the Oakland Raiders, who are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Harbaugh in California, with sources close to the Raiders confirming that they are preparing to make a huge bid for the recently ousted head coach.
The Oakland Raiders have been vocal in their desire to secure a “superstar” head coach to help rebuild their ailing franchise. For many, Jim Harbaugh seemed like the most obvious candidate, as a head coach with a winning record during his tenure in San Francisco, and two recent trips to the Super Bowl.
However, with all signs pointing to Harbaugh returning to his alma mater to lead the Michigan Wolverines back to relevance, Oakland Raiders fans have been preparing for the worst. However, sources close to the Oakland Raiders have confirmed that they still consider themselves “in the running” for Harbaugh, and that they are willing to make a “substantial bid” for the former 49ers head coach.
The sources indicated that they had been in contact with Harbaugh’s agent, David Dunn, who advised them that Harbaugh had not accepted the Wolverines offer, and had interest in remaining in the NFL, if the right offer came his way. The team was advised that Harbaugh would be handling most of the negotiations himself, with Dunn merely formalising any deal, and therefore the Raiders were unable to formally approach the head coach until he was officially released from his contract by the 49ers.
When asked about the specifics of their bid for Harbaugh, sources indicated that it would be “significant”, and that they could “easily improve” on Michigan’s reported $48 million, 6 year offer. The Michigan deal averages $8 million per season, so any improvement on this would make Harbaugh the highest paid NFL head coach, though the sources would not comment on specifics at this point.
The source did, however, indicate that there were numerous ways that they could sweeten the deal for Harbaugh beyond mere financial compensation. The deal would grant Harbaugh final say in personnel decisions, including front office staff, as well as carte blanche as to how he wants to structure and build his coaching staff.
Although previous reports indicated it would be difficult to replace current general manager Reggie McKenzie, who still has two years left on his current contract, the source indicated that the team are willing to shoulder the financial burden of releasing McKenzie from his contract if it helped to secure an “elite” coaching candidate.
Harbaugh would also be given complete discretion with players, and would have the freedom to “clean house” and “completely rebuild” the team, if he saw fit to do so. The Raiders are expected to have more cap space than anyone else in the NFL in 2015, which is considered to be a major selling point for Harbaugh.
Additionally, while the Raiders are aware that returning to his alma mater is a big draw for any coach, the team believe that they hold a trump card here too. Harbaugh has spent the last 8 years in the Bay area, during his time with both the 49ers and Stanford Cardinal, and the Raiders feel that not having to relocate his family may be a deciding factor for Harbaugh. Harbaugh has strong ties to California, having played high school football there, ending his NFL career in San Diego, and having spent his entire professional coaching career between the Bay area, and San Diego.
Harbaugh deflected rumours that he had already signed a deal with the Wolverines during his exit press conference in San Francisco, but also indicated that a formal announcement could come soon.
The Raiders are prepared to move quickly, hoping to arrange a meeting with Harbaugh while he is still in San Francisco, before he travels to Ann Arbor. It is widely expected that if he gets to Michigan, he will not leave without a contract in hand, with provisional press conferences to announce Harbaugh scheduled at the university for as early as Tuesday.
Whether the Raiders will be able to sway Harbaugh remains to be seen, but by all accounts, they are not willing to resign themselves to losing him to Michigan.