The Stanford duo of quarterback Andrew Luck and coach Jim Harbaugh has captured the imagination of sports fans, who want to know what their future will be.
From my personal observation, I had expected that Luck would stay at Stanford, and he made that announcement Thursday. Luck is much more than an outstanding football player. He is very intelligent, with a 3.5 GPA at Stanford, and a very well-balanced young man who is serious about his education.
This will be an especially difficult year for a rookie quarterback because of the NFL labor struggle. The owners and Players Association are far from an agreement, so the minicamps will be wiped out, because the players don’t want them anyway. Training camp may be shortened or even eliminated. So, a rookie quarterback will have a very limited time to learn the offense. I’m sure that factored into Luck’s decision.
Harbaugh has a good extension offer from Stanford, but he’s interviewing with NFL teams now, which is an indication he won’t return.
At one time, I thought Harbaugh would stay in college because he likes the hands-on approach, and NFL coaches are more like CEOs, with assistants doing the real coaching.
But where would he go? I’ve laughed at speculation that he’d return to his alma mater, Michigan, because I know that’s been a dead issue since I interviewed him just after he’d taken the Stanford job, when he pointedly criticized Michigan for putting athletes in classes that kept them eligible but did nothing to educate them. I thought at the time that he was deliberately cutting his ties with Michigan, and when I next saw him, he told me my San Francisco Examiner column had made him persona non grata in Ann Arbor.
But if Harbaugh thinks Michigan doesn’t educate its athletes, what must he think of other schools, especially the top football schools? The best jobs are probably in the SEC, where they have the breathing rule for incoming athletes: If they can breathe, they’re admitted.
I can’t see Harbaugh going to any of those schools.
There is a way Harbaugh could thrive as a pro coach: If he delegated some administrative duties, he could continue to coach quarterbacks, his specialty.
At Stanford, he designed the passing offense and the offensive line coach designed the running game. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s exactly how Bill Walsh and Bobb McKittrick did it with the 49ers.
The 49ers would love to have Harbaugh do that for them, and they interviewed him for six hours on Wednesday. But working so close geographically, he knows how dysfunctional the organization is. He’d have to have much more control than a coach normally would have, which is not likely to happen.
The Raiders? He worked as quarterbacks coach for them earlier so he knows that organization well. Do I have to say more? Al Davis hasn’t been able to get a coach on the rise since Jon Gruden.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.