By Sam McPherson
Let’s just put this out there right now: The Oakland Raiders don’t need Jim Harbaugh. That being said, there are many reasons why. And with the news on Tuesday that the University of Michigan now has an opening for a head coach, why would Harbaugh want the Silver & Black?
Either way, the Raiders should just say, “No!” to this silly idea for the following reasons: First, it would cost them draft picks and/or talents players the Oakland organization cannot afford to lose; second, Harbaugh seems to be getting less effective each season as an NFL coach; and third, Harbaugh’s coaching style is not what a young team needs or wants as it tries to get better and shake a tradition of losing—despite his success in San Francisco since taking over there in 2011.
Let’s look at each reason more closely.
To get Jim Harbaugh to come and coach the Oakland Raiders, the organization would have to part ways with draft picks and/or players—and either would have to be valuable. That’s something the talent-low Raiders just can’t afford to do right now.
With the inside track to a Top 3 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, there’s no way the Silver & Black can cough up that kind of position for a coach—unless it was Vince Lombardi or someone of that ilk. And with all due respect to Jim Harbaugh, he’s not Lombardi.
Harbaugh is a good coach, obviously—a winner everywhere he’s been in his career. But despite that winning in San Francisco—three straight trips to the conference championship game—he’s on the outs for some reason and has been for awhile. That’s not a good sign, and it’s not worth any draft picks or players that Harbaugh would need to rebuild in Oakland.
Losing His Edge
It may be nitpicking, but Harbaugh is declining in his role with the 49ers. After a 13-3 debut in 2011, the team went just 11-4-1 in 2012. And then, after two straight division titles, the 49ers were just a wild-card team in 2013. Now, they may not even make the postseason in 2014.
That’s a definitive downward trend. Yes, 41 wins in three seasons (including the playoffs) sound very good to Raiders fans right now, since the Silver & Black haven’t finished over .500 or made the playoffs since 2002. And with that 1-11 record about to go to 1-12 this weekend when the two Bay Area teams play, anything looks better than what Oakland has right now on the sideline.
But Harbaugh may be a guy who is best destined for the college game again, where the pressures are different—not necessarily less, just different—than they are in the NFL. The league may be getting to him a bit too much and figuring him out, to put it politely.
Many different kinds of coaches win in the NFL: quiet types, loud types, angry types, control types, etc. But what is Harbaugh’s “type”? And is it right for the Raiders?
Those are good questions. Oakland is going to have a younger team next year devoid of major talent. Yes, the organization has a few building blocks to work with for 2015: quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray and some young linebackers. But overall, the Raiders are going to need a lot of patience and guidance from their head coach next season and beyond.
Is Harbaugh that kind of coach? Not really. His intensity is well-known, and sometimes that can play well with athletes. But for young players looking to grow and develop, Harbaugh probably isn’t that guy you want on the practice field tearing players up with his tantrums and screams. He’s not Bill Parcells, and that coaching model is past its usefulness in the modern NFL as it is.
The Raiders also have to consider what kind of coach will attract free agents to play in Oakland, as that has been a challenge, too, recently. Harbaugh’s league-wide reputation may not be there for that kind of free-agent draw.
Don’t Do It, Oakland
The Silver & Black need to forget Harbaugh as an option to coach the team in 2015, period.
What they need first is a new general manager, of course, and that GM needs to find a Lane Kiffin/Dennis Allen type of coach who wants to come to Oakland—and can actually give that coach some personnel to work with on the field. Kiffin and Allen weren’t necessarily bad coaches, but they certainly didn’t get much assistance from the front office. Who is the next Sean Payton, for example? The new GM needs to find one of those coaches, and there are plenty of them in the college and pro ranks.
The Raiders need to make the right hire—not just the fancy, headline-grabbing one. Thus, Jim Harbaugh is all wrong for Oakland.
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.