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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Would Jim Harbaugh leave the 49ers?

By Bill Williamson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Get used to this.

Several reports, including from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, have suggested that the University of Texas will include Jim Harbaugh on its list of candidates once Mack Brown is out as coach.

The San Francisco 49ers’ wildly successful third-year coach was asked about it at his news conference Wednesday. He said: “I don’t ever talk about any jobs other than the one I have.”

Don't read too much into the response. That’s his standard answer. It doesn’t mean he is interested in Texas. It doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t, either.

Jim Harbaugh
"I don't ever talk about any jobs other than the one I have," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. But that may not keep Texas and others from pursuing him.
Would Harbaugh leave the Bay Area for Austin?

Never rule anything out. Everything is on the table. But I would be surprised if Harbaugh left the 49ers right now.

At the same time, this probably won't be the last time Harbaugh is connected to another job. It will happen every year. Such annoyance comes with employing a coach with a great reputation. Others want to see if they can snare him. NFL teams by rule can’t touch him yet, but colleges can. Thus, it makes sense that a school with deep pockets, like Texas, might consider Harbaugh.

Again, hard to say with confidence that the job wouldn't appeal to him. The compensation that has been connected to this job is insane. Anyone the school contacts would be silly not to listen. But even if the Longhorns put on the full-court press, I don’t know if Harbaugh would leave.

He seems to be happy with the 49ers and in the Bay Area. He knows he has a great thing going with a strong roster, a young quarterback and a new stadium coming in 2014, not to mention a loyal fan base and an ownership that wants to keep winning. Who’s to say the 49ers don’t have it better than the University of Texas?

Harbaugh is famous for his competitive nature. I’m not so sure he would leave the NFL at this point, especially after he lost the Super Bowl to his brother’s team in just his second season as a pro coach. Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback. He knows the lure of a Super Bowl ring. I can’t see him stopping that chase while with a team that should be in the hunt for the next several years.

Remember, when Harbaugh was at Stanford he turned down a chance to coach at his alma mater, Michigan, to go to the NFL. Why would he want to leave the NFL now when he has it so good?

This interest will only help Harbaugh, though. There has been talk for months of a contract extension. He is in the third year of a five-year, $25 million deal. Just the thought of Harbaugh leaving the Bay Area for burnt orange is probably causing 49ers owner Jed York to reach for his wallet.

Harbaugh is invaluable to the 49ers. The franchise, which won the last of its five Super Bowl championships almost two decades ago, wants to be elite again. They saw their fortunes turn around when Harbaugh made the short drive from Stanford less than three years ago. They couldn’t bear to watch him leave, especially with everything else in place.

I’m sure the 49ers will use this opportunity to show Harbaugh how much he means to the franchise. Will it be enough? I would think so, yes, as it seems like Harbaugh has everything he wants. But that doesn’t mean the outside interest will stop if he doesn’t go to Austin.