By Jason Keidel
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Since we all seem simpatico on the Jets and Giants — that both will have new head coaches next year — the rabid speculation begins.
The New York Post puts Tom Coughlin’s chances at 50-50. And even with the surreal loyalty of owner Woody Johnson, it’s clear that Rex Ryan is perilously close to a pink slip.
So as we parse the conga line of potential coaches, it’s fair to wonder when one of our NFL clubs will consider Jim Harbaugh, who will have unlimited suitors for his services after this season. But only we can offer him suitable lights, media, money and Madison Avenue.
Harbaugh has endless football bona fides. He played 15 years in the NFL. He turned Stanford into a behemoth. He took a floundering 49ers franchise and instantly made the team a juggernaut. He took Alex Smith to an NFC Championship Game, then took Colin Kaepernick to two more and a Super Bowl. And you can add Andrew Luck to the list of quarterbacks he’s molded into playoff mainstays.
But the former NFL QB who has worked great wizardry on Stanford and San Francisco comes with considerable demands, an epic price tag and more baggage than Newark Airport. In fact, if the Giants hire Harbaugh they may as well fire Jerry Reese, as Harbaugh will surely want the dual job of HC and GM, or at least the latitude to pick the latter.
No doubt the Giants are allergic to drama. And theatrics are Harbaugh’s professional avatar. So if the 49ers’ coach can’t get along with a general manager, you don’t anticipate the Mara family canning Coughlin and Reese to make way for Harbaugh, who will probably want way more power than he has in San Francisco.
Harbaugh’s contract ends after the 2015 season. And the fact that he hasn’t signed an extension despite his stratospheric success can only mean his thorny persona trumps three straight trips to the NFC Title Game.
That’s a toxic sign, of course, considering the NFL’s monolithic obsession with winning. Almost any flaw short of a felony is overlooked when you win.
So that makes Harbaugh a perfect for … the Jets.
The Jets are desperate to win, they love a little dram and would find Harbaugh’s Q Score large enough to makes us forget about Ryan, whose outsized personality matched his imposing physical contours.
Sure, Harbaugh’s impeccable history with quarterbacks makes him custom-made for Eli Manning, who looks as lost as he ever has in his career. But with the Giants’ historical allergy to control freaks, the other side of MetLife is tailored to Harbaugh’s pyrotechnic personality.
It would mean jamming the eject button on John Idzik, which would be quite easy to do and sell to the five boroughs and beyond. If fans are flying planes imploring the Jets to dump their GM, then consensus won’t be an issue.
Surely he will want his own quarterback, which would mean another draft pick dedicated to a project. But that would be essential no matter who runs the club next year. In the meantime, if anyone can inject some mojo in Geno Smith, it’s Harbaugh, who stretched his marginal talent into a robust NFL career and is clearly the closest thing to a QB whisperer in the league.
Hiring Harbaugh would meet Woody’s lust for a luminary to lead the team. Lord knows the born billionaire can afford him. What he can’t afford is seeing these swaths of empty seats every Sunday. And Harbaugh can coach as well, if not better, than anyone.
If a little theater comes with Jim Harbaugh, then what better place for him to act out than on Broadway?
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