Four years ago, the worst-kept secret in the NFL was that the Raiders will hire Jon Gruden to be the team’s head coach. In the upcoming interview/hiring cycle, the worst-kept secret in the NFL could become that the Raiders will hire Jim Harbaugh as the permanent replacement for Gruden.
For now, buzz is building in league circles that team owner Mark Davis wants, and will get, the former 49ers and current Michigan coach. The man who took a 6-10 team to the NFC Championship in his first year and who nearly won a Super Bowl in his second. The man who went 44-19-1 in four seasons as an NFL head coach.
Plenty of NFL teams can, and have, done a lot worse than Jim Harbaugh. The Raiders, who with a win tonight will have only their second playoff appearance since 2002, are one of those teams.
Of course, if the Raiders win tonight, the case for interim coach Rich Bisaccia could get stronger. If they win a playoff game or two, Davis may feel like he has to keep Bisaccia.
For now, Davis has delayed his search process (as far as anyone knows). He could have been (and perhaps should have been) interviewing candidates by Zoom. That would have allowed him to move more quickly when the time comes to make a hire. (That said, he possibly has interviewed one or more candidates who aren’t currently employed by other NFL teams, including Harbaugh himself. Possibly.)
He’ll undoubtedly comply with the letter of the Rooney Rule. Every team finds a way to do that. Whether the spirit is honored remains a separate question, one that is impossible to guarantee. Especially since many owners decide who they want before they even embark on the search. Rarely does the search change a decision made before the search begins.
For the Raiders, a sense is creeping through the league that Davis wants Jim Harbaugh. It would enhance the team’s chances of becoming a consistent contender, and it would amount to a hearty middle finger to the Raiders’ former Bay Area rivals.
And, yes, the 49ers and Raiders play in the 2022 regular season.