For those who believe 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t use his alma mater as leverage for his next job, here’s perhaps conclusive evidence that he would.
He already has.
In 2011, Harbaugh rejected an Ann Arbor offer that would have paid him $5.2 million annually. Instead, he took $5 million per year from the 49ers, who originally hoped to get Harbaugh for $4 million to $4.5 million per year. Without the Michigan offer, it would have been difficult for Harbaugh to shake $5 million per year from the Niners.
This time around, Harbaugh has $8 million per year in hand from the Wolverines. That may not get him more than $8 million from the Raiders or whoever, but it will prompt the Raiders or whoever to cough up more than they had hoped to pay.
Is he worth it? Ultimately, we’re all worth whatever someone will pay. But in an industry with a finite number of positions and no coaches union, it’s easy for ownership to set a market that keeps coaches from getting fair value in relation to their direct impact on winning and losing. Rarely if ever does a head coach have the opportunity to blow the curve; Harbaugh has a chance to do it, thanks to Michigan’s ongoing willingness to extend offers that ultimately will be rejected.
In this case, it would be a major surprise if Harbaugh doesn’t ultimately reject the Michigan offer. It’s widely believed that Harbaugh, who has never coached outside of California, wants to stay there. Unless the Stanford, Cal, USC, or UCLA jobs open up soon, the Golden State options are coach the Raiders or the 49ers or no one.