Harbaugh, a former N.F.L. quarterback, made it clear that even as he was wooed by college programs, he wanted to jump to the N.F.L.Photo
While leading Stanford to a 12-1 record, Jim Harbaugh was linked to jobs at his alma mater, Michigan, and in the N.F.L. with Miami and Denver.
John G. Mabanglo/European Pressphoto Agency
“I view it as the perfect opportunity, the perfect competitive platform, with the level playing field, a chance to be part of a team that goes after the highest award in all of sports, the Lombardi Trophy, ” Harbaugh said.
Later, he added: “I can feel the enthusiasm coursing through my veins right now.”
ESPN reported that Harbaugh signed a five-year contract worth $25 million, considerably less than he might have made from Ross. During the news conference, Harbaugh declined to discuss — or even acknowledge — the Dolphins’ interest.
“Obviously, it was a tough decision for Jim, ” Trent Baalke, the Niners’ new general manager, said. “He had to weigh a lot of options. He had to do some soul searching.”
Harbaugh chose a less fraught path than the Dolphins could offer: winning quickly in the N.F.C. West, which the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks won this season, is much easier than rebuilding a team in the A.F.C. East. Harbaugh will face his collegiate nemesis, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, twice a year. In Carroll’s last game with Southern California against Stanford in 2009, Harbaugh kept his team scoring despite the lopsided outcome. After the Cardinal went for a 2-point conversion late in the 55-21 game, the two head coaches met at the 50-yard line to shake hands. Carroll asked Harbaugh, “What’s your deal?”
On Friday, Harbaugh ducked a question about reprising that rivalry twice a year.
But his brother, Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh, said his brother might have an advantage over other college coaches who have made the often unsuccessful leap to the N.F.L.
“He played in the N.F.L., ” John Harbaugh said. “Jim played for great coaches, he understand pro players, he was one. He’s just got a great sense of what motivates those guys, how to win because he did it as a player and he did it as a coach.”Photo
Jim Harbaugh, who led Stanford to a victory in the Orange Bowl on Monday, will be the next coach of the 49ers.
Baalke said he thought Harbaugh had an “it” factor.
Harbaugh will need all that when he begins rebuilding the Niners without the benefit of a quarterback like Stanford’s Andrew Luck. Alex Smith is a free agent, and Harbaugh will probably have to develop the Niners’ next starter.
Harbaugh, 47, was 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford, quickly turning a 1-11 team into a contender. His best player, Luck, announced Thursday that he would stay at Stanford for another season rather than enter the N.F.L. draft, fueling speculation that Harbaugh might be tempted to stay, too.
“Remarkable things were accomplished, ” Harbaugh said. “It’s with humility and a little bit of a heavy heart that I leave Stanford. The chance to compete at the highest level was overwhelming to me.”
Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, credited Harbaugh with re-energizing the program and said he expected the momentum to continue.
“We made Jim the best offer we could commensurate with our role as a university, ” Hennessy said in a statement.