Should the Bears consider hiring Jim Harbaugh at head coach?
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
The season isn’t over yet, and the Bears are still very much mathematically alive for the 7th and final playoff spot.
But at the same time, a six-game losing streak this season pretty much did in Matt Nagy. I mean, does George McCaskey really want to give Matt Nagy another shot at head coach? This offense has been putrid, especially during the third quarters of action.
Even during that 36-7 blowout win over the Houston Texans, the offense STILL only managed three total points of offense in the third quarter. The Bears under Nagy have been notoriously bad on offense whenever the third quarter starts, and to be perfectly frank, this team was a lot worse than what their original 5-and-1 record said to the fans.
The fact is Nagy just isn’t the offensive guru that Ryan Pace thought he hired, and honestly, Pace should be fired as well from his current general manager position.
So when George McCaskey, Ted Phillips, or whoever else the executive vice president of football operations will be for the Bears in 2021 look at who needs to lead this franchise as the man with the main headset, who should they pick?
I’m going to make the case for Jim Harbaugh. Yes, I know that Harbaugh is on the path to being let go from his second consecutive major head coaching gig, but still….he was a winner with the 49ers and at Stanford.
And if we’re being injected with truth serum, Michigan has been very competitive under his leadership. Are they currently a juggernaut to compete in the College Football Playoff? Absolutely not. Are they at the same level of Ohio State? In a word? No. But you can’t deny that Michigan finds itself with 9 or 10 wins every season, and some of that is because of Harbaugh’s recruiting and overall coaching strategy.
Another reason that Pace (or the new GM) would want to hire Harbaugh is his familiarity with the franchise. Remember: Harbaugh was a first-round pick during the 1980s decade, and he knew how to deal with Mike Ditka’s mannerisms. Ditka gets the reputation “Da Coach” for being an excellent Xs and O’s guy, but he wasn’t exactly a player’s coach. Still, Harbaugh lasted with the Bears through much of the Ditka tenure.
Harbaugh has seen firsthand the struggles that Bears upper management have had with player personnel decisions, and since he’s a former respected NFL quarterback, the Bears would be foolish to not at least listen to his ideas. Remember: Alex Smith was pretty much a draft bust before Harbaugh came to town, and although Andrew Luck was one of the most gifted quarterbacks NFL draft scouts have ever seen, you’d be a clown if you didn’t give Harbaugh at least some of the credit when Harbaugh coached him at Stanford.
What is the most glaring issue with the Bears? Quarterback. And what was Harbaugh well-known for during his glory years at Stanford and San Francisco? Developing quarterbacks and usually making it work with very athletic ones.
Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, and Colin Kaepernick, three very athletic quarterbacks, all flourished under Harbaugh. In fact, if Kyle Williams didn’t fumble two punts during the 2013 NFC Championship Game, the 49ers could’ve easily played in back-to-back Super Bowls during the Harbaugh era.
Now, it all depends on who the Bears draft or trade for during the offseason. I don’t see a situation where the Bears give Mitch Trubisky another shot at quarterback in 2021, so drafting a QB like Zach Wilson or Mac Jones makes the most sense for Chicago’s future. This is where things get tricky, though. Jones is a pocket passer, whereas Wilson is more of a dual threat QB. So would the Bears pass on Jones because Wilson would fit Harbaugh’s scheme better? That’s a dangerous scenario to play out because Jones might end up having a better NFL career than Wilson.
Keep in mind that Jones is the heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season, so it would be a huge risk to pass on Jones if Harbaugh likes Wilson, Trey Lance, or somebody else instead of the Alabama Crimson Tide signal caller.
Now, let’s talk about the negatives when it comes to hiring Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh likes things done his way, and while this usually works in college because head coaches also recruit the players, it’s not nearly the same in the NFL. Harbaugh reportedly had a major power struggle with former 49ers GM Trent Baalke, and if the Bears end up going with a new GM that has zero previous NFL GM experience, Harbaugh could very well want more power in the front office. What I basically mean is Harbaugh might once again want more of a stake in the franchise because he wouldn’t trust that his rookie GM can get him the correct player personnel.
That’s a frightening reality for the Bears if they want to bring in a new GM. However, Harbaugh might have learned from his days in San Francisco. It would definitely be a gamble for George McCaskey, but is there really another head coaching candidate with as great a head coaching pedigree as Coach Harbaugh?
The other negative point that immediately comes to mind is not winning big games at Michigan. Once again, college football and the NFL are two completely different arenas. The problem with college football is you can always lose out on a recruit because it’s an unfair game. The NFL, in contrast, supposedly has a fair salary cap situation for recruiting and retaining players. So is that why Harbaugh did so much better at San Francisco than the University of Michigan?
Michigan is 1-and-4 in bowl games under Harbaugh, but once again, this can easily be blamed on Michigan not being a Top-5 recruiting destination anymore. I’d love to see who Michigan puts in place of Harbaugh. This is what I mean: If you’re an 18-year-old Generation Zer, would you rather play at Michigan as a true freshman or sit on the bench for a few years and then play at the University of Southern California? Ann Arbor is a nice college town, but nearby metropolitan Detroit is not a decent-enough recruiting pitch to try to entice recruits away from the glamour of Columbus and Ohio State University.
Quite frankly, it’s just hard to persuade the new generation of student-athletes to become interested in becoming a Wolverine football star. The glory years of Lloyd Carr are well behind them, and because the football program has been so mediocre for so long, the likes of the Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes have easily caught up to the once-proud football powerhouse of the Big House, AKA the Michigan Wolverines.
Still, Harbaugh was supposed to be the savior of Michigan football, and he’s been anything but. He’s definitely an upgrade over Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez, but not by much. Ohio State has absolutely dominated Michigan the last couple of years, and when you pay a head coach like Harbaugh an average annual value of 6 million dollars, 1-4 in bowl games is certainly not worth the investment.
So should the Bears give Harbaugh a chance? Well, he’s worth a job interview. After all, he never had a losing season with the 49ers, and the way he helped resurrect Alex Smith’s seemingly done career was very impressive.
But then again, the Bears need to consider A) Why the 49ers couldn’t wait to mutually part ways with Harbaugh after 3+ years of very competitive football and B) Why couldn’t Harbaugh win big games at the University of Michigan. It’s important to bring the right fit into Chicago, not just someone who had previous success (Remember the John Fox debacle?)
And here’s the major issue: Is there a candidate who is more qualified for the soon-to-be head coaching vacancy with the Bears? By qualified, I mean someone who has NFL head coaching experience with a track record of winning. If Harbaugh becomes available, there’s nobody else that the Bears can trust according to the candidate’s resume. As such, even if Pat Fitzgerald, Brian Kelly, Ryan Day, and Joe Brady are the so-called “sexy picks” to be the next Bears head coach, there’s no guarantee that it would work out at Soldier Field. It’s always risky to bring in a college head coach, and the Bears have already tried the offensive coordinator thing with Marc Trestman and Matt Nagy. And look where they are now...just stuck in the mud of mediocre football.
With Harbaugh, he comes with a lot of baggage. However, he went to the NFC Championship Game three straight seasons with the 49ers. The Bears have only played in 3 total NFC Title Games since 1985. That’s really bad. So would it be so terrible to give Harbaugh a chance? I don’t think so.
But what do you think? Can Harbaugh make the Bears a true competitor in the NFC North? Make sure to comment below, like this channel, and follow us on social media.