There have been a few coaches linked to the Las Vegas Raiders over the last few decades who could’ve completely changed how the franchise has played. In the past, the team has interviewed Super Bowl-winning coaches like Bill Belichick and Sean Payton when they were still coordinators. One coach the team likely would’ve hired years ago was Jim Harbaugh.
The former NFL quarterback got his first full-time coaching gig with the Raiders back in 2002 as their quarterbacks coach. After a couple of years with the team, he became a head coach in college with San Diego Toreros and then eventually landed with the Stanford Cardinal. In 2010, the Raiders reached out to Harbaugh about their head coach opening. He rejected them and then became the head coach of the San Fransico 49ers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Raiders then showed interest in Harbaugh again in 2014 when he was nearing his exit from San Francisco, per Schefter. He decided to leave the NFL and take the head job at Michigan – his alma matter.
Though it appears he’s finally got Michigan over the hump as they prepare for the college football playoff, that might not stop the Raiders from trying to get him back in the NFL. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Las Vegas is a team to watch if Harbaugh considers an NFL return this offseason:
If Harbaugh does decide to give the NFL a try again, keep an eye on the Raiders, whose permanent job is open, and Mark Davis is highly annoyed about the circumstances under which he was forced to let go of Gruden. If anyone’s going to make an outside-the-box hire that isn’t on the NFL’s list of recommended candidates, it’s this guy. The Davis and Harbaugh families have a friendship that dates back a ways.
Graziano added a line later in his piece that simply said: “Just saying, watch Vegas for Harbaugh.”
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Any Chance Raiders Actually Land Harbaugh?
Right now would be an odd time for Harbaugh to ditch Michigan. He’s finally got the program in a great place and could be winning his first national championship. If Michigan gets a whiff that he’s considering leaving, they’d likely hand him a blank check for his new contract.
That said, Raiders owner Mark Davis has shown a willingness to spend big on a coach when he really wants him. He gave Jon Gruden 10 years and $100 million to get him back. Harbaugh would likely be looking at a similar offer if he considers the Raiders job. A move like this wouldn’t necessarily be about money. It would be about Harbaugh looking for the next challenge. That’s what the Raiders would have to sell him on to convince him to leave Michigan.
Would Harbaugh Be a Fit in Las Vegas?
Considering Harbaugh’s tenure with the 49ers had an ugly end, it’s easy to forget that he was an elite coach in the NFL. It’s hard not to see the parallels between the Raiders now and the 49ers in the years before Harbaugh arrived. In the three years before he was hired, San Francisco had won 21 games in three seasons. There are still five more games for the Raiders to play this season, but they’ve also won 21 games in the last three seasons.
Similar to the 49ers pre-Harbaugh, they aren’t terrible but they certainly aren’t good enough to win playoff games. In Harbaugh’s first year with the team, he went 13-3 and took them to the NFC Championship game before losing to the New York Giants in overtime. The next season, San Fransisco went to the Super Bowl and then back to the NFC Championship game. Despite all the drama surrounding his fourth and last season with the team, they went 8-8, which isn’t bad all things considered. Harbaugh had one of the best first three years by an NFL head coach ever.
That’s essentially a long way of saying that Harbaugh would be a very good fit with the Raiders. They have talent on the roster and a good quarterback in Derek Carr. This is a squad that Harbaugh can get to the playoffs in his first year with a couple of adjustments. If Davis is serious about building a winner in Las Vegas, he should be ready to aggressively pursue Harbaugh.