Rumors that John Harbaugh could leave the Ravens for a top college coaching job have popped up periodically over the past couple of years. Harbaugh has always dismissed such talk, reiterating that he has the job that he wants.
With the Ravens at 1-4 heading into Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers and several big-time college programs suddenly in need of a football coach, it was probably inevitable that Harbaugh’s name would be tossed around for one of the openings.
Dan Patrick said on his radio show Thursday that Harbaugh is “high” on the University of Southern California’s list to replace Steve Sarkisian who was fired earlier this week. Patrick didn’t say that Harbaugh is interested in the job, only that USC is interested in him.
Harbaugh, 53, hasn’t had a college job since he was a defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator for Indiana University in 1997, but good coaches can succeed at any level. His leadership skills would certainly translate. And there’s little doubt that Harbaugh has the charisma, confidence and work ethic to succeed on the recruiting trail.
But why exactly would Harbaugh be interested in leaving for USC?
Money? Harbaugh earns nearly $7 million per year and is one of the NFL’s highest-paid coaches. And Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti certainly could open his checkbook if it meant keeping his Super Bowl-winning head coach in Baltimore.
Stability? From Bisciotti to president Dick Cass to general manager Ozzie Newsome to assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, the Ravens organization is one of the most stable in the NFL. Harbaugh, who has guided the Ravens to the playoffs in six of the past seven years, is under contract through 2017. Bisciotti added an extra year on the back end of Harbaugh’s contract after the Ravens missed the playoffs in 2013.
New challenge? Is it possible that after eight years, Harbaugh is ready to try something new? Sure. But you can only take Harbaugh at his word and he’s said repeatedly that this is where he wants to be. He’s said that he relishes the challenge of getting the Ravens back to the Super Bowl. His coaching history doesn’t indicate that he’s the type of person who will walk away when things get tough, like they are right now with the Ravens.
Worn out his welcome? This is probably only worth mentioning because of what happened with John’s brother, Jim, in San Francisco. Harbaugh, by all accounts, has a very good relationship with Bisciotti and the Ravens’ front office. Even with the Ravens off to their worst start in franchise history, there have been no signs of discord. Ravens veterans, like quarterback Joe Flacco and left guard Kelechi Osemele, have credited Harbaugh this week for being supportive and steady through this difficult stretch.
Allure of college? If Harbaugh has this burning desire to be a college coach, nobody I’ve spoken to that knows him reasonably well has ever mentioned it. In fact, the thought that he’d consider leaving the Ravens for USC was greeted with a chuckle yesterday at the Under Armour Performance Center. There has always been a prevailing belief that if Harbaugh was ever to leave the Ravens for a college job, it would be to coach Michigan, given his family’s ties to the school. However, his brother is doing just fine coaching the Wolverines. As for USC, Harbaugh really doesn’t have any obvious connection there.
So, what does that leave, the weather? OK, that certainly would be one reason. Otherwise, I’m not buying it. USC is a great job, but Harbaugh has a great job right now. And if things go sour with the Ravens, I’m sure he’d have his share of NFL suitors.