Disclaimer: This is all subject to change at a moment's notice. After I heard that the Dolphins were reportedly out of the running for Jim Harbaugh and Stanford was back in it, the wheels were officially in motion in my head as to what made the most sense. I've read a lot of great comments at NN (at the site and from users on twitter) about why Harbaugh might stay. Ninjames mentioned the idea that if he didn't find the 49ers job more attractive he would have already gone back to Stanford by now. Tre9er tweeted the idea that if the 49ers are a special NFL job (vs. just any NFL job), it's now or five years from now if he really wants to be HC of the 49ers.
I don't want to instill any sense of panic (as if that's possible amidst this rollercoaster ride!), but I wanted to lay out the reasons I would not be surprised if he decided to return to Stanford for at least another year. Nothing really is logical at this point but I figured out what I think are some logical points in this whole bit of insanity. And this goes beyond Chris Mortensen saying on Sportscenter last night that it was likely Harbaugh returned to Stanford and never once mentioned the 49ers.
Harbaugh would appear to be at the height of his leverage power. However, the news that Andrew Luck decided to return to Stanford for his senior year threw a curve ball. Even with some turnover on the offensive line and throughout the team, Luck's decision to return makes them one of the favorites in the Pac-10. If Harbaugh were to return, the odds go up even further that they could win the 2012 national championship.
If I'm Jim Harbaugh, here's the reason to return that touches on the title, but goes beyond it. If he returns he's going to get a large contract extension that probably pays him in the neighborhood of $5M or $6M with bonuses. Add in outside local and national endorsement deals that will only go up this offseason and he'll bank some serious cash. Now, the idea behind going back is he wins a national title, or at least gets to a second straight BCS bowl game. If he does that, while he may not have the insanity of this year's Harbaugh chase, I'd have to think he'd still have to be considered a golden boy as the next big thing coach. Maybe teams would be a bit more hesitant, but at the end of the day the money would be there.
Now, if Stanford struggles in 2011, his window might temporarily close. However, he'll have banked some serious money. Assuming the reports about the Dolphins offer were correct this isn't entirely about the money, which should give folks a little bit of hope. However, the chance to win a national title and then go to the NFL have to be an intriguing allure. Of course, I return to Tre's question of how much he wants the 49ers job in particular. If that's the case, then my case for returning to Stanford falls apart like a house of cards.
Either way, I do think it's about the point where we definitely need to pray (thanks to @janettwokay for video after the jump, because it always comes back to Hammer)...