The San Francisco 49’ers have been to three straight NFC championship games and came heart-wrenchingly close to winning a Super Bowl under head coach Jim Harbaugh, but according to reports that have been percolating all season, he may not be with the team next season because of his intense attitude and potential conflicts with the front office.
On Sunday, reports came out that the 49’ers could be looking to trade Harbaugh, with the Oakland Raiders seen as the favorite to land his services and the New York Jets said to be keeping tabs on the whole situation. Jay Glazer had the initial report that the 49’ers were looking to trade the coach, with Adam Schefter speculating on the two aforementioned teams as being potential landing spots.
While there have been reports that Harbaugh’s wife doesn’t want to leave northern California (which would pretty much limit him to either the 49’ers or Raiders jobs), it wouldn’t be an insane thought to think that he could still go elsewhere even if it isn’t ideal. Shelf life for NFL coaches, especially those with the kind of personality that Harbaugh has, is preciously short, and a few years of coaching in another city may not be completely off the table for him.
That leads us to ask this question: should the Bears consider trading a draft pick to try to acquire Harbaugh’s services? He still has one more year remaining on the contract that he signed with the 49’ers when he left Stanford in 2011, but he would likely want an extension before agreeing to any sort of a trade. That would mean that the Bears would be paying both Harbaugh and current head coach Marc Trestman, who has two years remaining on the four-year deal he signed when he took over the Bears in 2013.
Even still, the McCaskey’s should be willing to fork out the extra money if they have a legitimate chance at landing Harbaugh. He is a coach with a proven track record of winning at both the NCAA and collegiate levels, and even though he doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring to flash in everyone’s faces, getting as close as he has as consistently as he has speaks to the kind of coach he is.
That being said, if the Bears are going to end up getting into a bidding war for Harbaugh, it may be wise to back off and choose a different path. This team is going to be in desperate need of draft picks as they try to rebuild an organization that has fallen woefully short of expectations, and surrendering anything more than a mid-round pick to acquire Harbaugh would be detrimental to that objective.
Ultimately, there are two questions that would need to be answered before any pursuit of Harbaugh could take place: are the Bears willing to pull out all the stops to land him (which would mean firing Trestman without the guarantee of getting their guy), and are they willing to concede a draft pick or two, thus hurting their chances of acquiring cheap talent to help bolster their current roster?
If the answers to both of those questions are yes, then the Bears should go for this move. If not, then they need to back off and figure out a different plan of attack. Going in half-heartedly would be a disaster for the team, and that's the last thing that they need right now.