The San Francisco 49ers officially announced the hiring of highly sought after candidate Jim Harbaugh, formerly of Stanford University, as their new head coach on Friday afternoon.
Still reeling from yet another disappointing season and the firing of their head coach, third-year man Mike Singletary, the 49ers looked to provide some offseason buzz around the team by hiring a big name to take over their once-proud franchise. The team has a record of 46-82 since their last playoff appearance in 2002, including a 6-10 mark this past season.
They got their guy in Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, who was easily the most talked about pro football head coach prospect since former University of Southern California coach Pete Carroll left the Trojans last season after 10 years to reenter the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks. Now in the same division as Carroll, the NFC West, the two former-Pac-10 Conference foes will square off against each other once again.
“It’s the perfect, competitive opportunity for me and the rest of the San Francisco organization to be a part of a team,” said Harbaugh at the midday press conference. “I’m excited to meet the players. I can feel the enthusiasm coursing through my veins right now.”
Fresh off of a decisive Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, Harbaugh was being courted by the Miami Dolphins for reportedly between $7 and $8 million per year, which would have likely made him the highest paid coach in the entire league. Talks broke down on Thursday though, opening the door back up for the 49ers to move in; they jumped at signing Harbaugh to a reported five-year, $25 million deal to become the 17th coach in 49ers’ franchise history.
Harbaugh was selected as the Woody Hayes Trophy winner as the nation’s top collegiate football coach in 2010. Including two bowl games, he compiled a record of 29-21 during his four-year tenure at the helm of Stanford.
Harbaugh’s older brother, John, is in his third year as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Though next year’s NFL schedule will not officially be released until April, in an odd twist of fate, because of the way the non-divisional games rotate each year, the two brothers will play each other during the 2011 regular season.
Aside from ties to the Bay Area as the coach at Stanford and former player at Palo Alto High School (class of 1982), Harbaugh was an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders for two years — from 2002-03 — before accepting the head coaching position at the University of San Diego for three seasons.
Harbaugh said that leaving Stanford was a difficult decision for him to make, but that the opportunity to move up to the pro ranks was too hard an offer to turn down. “It’s with humility and a little bit of a heavy heart that I leave Stanford and our football team,” said Harbaugh. “But the chance to compete at the highest level, to compete at this level, was overwhelming to me.”