Baalke's assignment: Get Harbaugh

Stanford's Jim Harbaugh is being pursued on a number of fronts. New 49ers GM Trent Baalke must bring him to Santa Clara, which might mean handing over some power.

Now that they have their general manager, the San Francisco 49ers can get down to serious business. If they want Stanford's Jim Harbaugh to be their next head coach – and they do – they must move quickly.

Fresh off Stanford's 40-12 trouncing of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Harbaugh has the ability to pick and choose from a number of coaching options. He can:

-- Stay at Stanford. Not a bad choice if quarterback Andrew Luck opts to return for his senior season rather than declare for the NFL draft. Athletic director Bob Bowlsby has said there's an offer for a contract extension on the table.

-- Entertain offers from the 49ers, Denver Broncos or Miami Dolphins, all of whom have shown an interest in him. None is keener than the 49ers', who targeted Harbaugh early, perhaps even before team president Jed York decided to fire Mike Singletary with one game left in the regular season. But John Elway, a former Stanford star, is expected to be put in charge of the Broncos' player personnel and also wants Harbaugh. Let the courting begin.

-- Wait to see if Rich Rodriguez is indeed fired as University of Michigan coach. Despite a report Tuesday that Rodriguez had been dismissed, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said no decision had been made. Harbaugh played at Michigan, but there have been reports that he wouldn't leave Stanford for another college coaching job.

If that's so, new GM Trent Baalke could have a clear path to Harbaugh, whose Stanford team plays just a few miles from the 49ers' Santa Clara, Calif., facility. Baalke has denied visiting with Harbaugh when the two of them were in Florida last week, although he has said he spoke with Harbaugh during scouting visits.

Baalke may have to surrender some power to Harbaugh, such as choosing the roster, but he's apparently willing to do that in order to get his man. There's no question York hired Baalke to be GM because he believes Baalke can snag Harbaugh.

Now Baalke must do it.


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