The Rams had no choice but to fire Jeff Fisher Monday — his list of fireable offenses was growing by the day.
But the Rams’ list for who should replace Fisher should be quite short. In fact, it should be one name:
The University of Michigan coach is hands down the best NFL head coach who is not currently a head coach in the NFL. His successes with the 49ers look even better than they already did when you consider the current state of that franchise, and his work at the college level — at Stanford and Michigan — has been jaw dropping. This is a coach who can go into any situation and redeem it, and that’s exactly what the Rams need right now.
It’s no secret that Harbaugh prefers to coach in the NFL — he took the job at his alma mater because there were no good NFL jobs available when the 49ers fired him after months of passive-aggressive spatting with the team’s CEO, Jed York (the firing was called a mutual separation, but that was just PR) in 2014. If you ask any 49ers fan who they wish had won that fight, you’d receive near-unanimous support for Harbaugh — his departure from San Francisco is already considered a turning point for the franchise.
The situation at Michigan is good for Harbaugh — he has tremendous resources and near-deity status and is the highest-paid coach in college football.
It’s going to take a lot for him to be pulled back to the NFL, but the Rams can offer a lot.
While Rams owner Stan Kroenke might balk at the starting price to land Harbaugh — it’s estimated to be around $10 million annually and could be as high as $15 million — there’s only one question to ask: How much does he think his franchise is worth?
It took the Rams less than a year to squander the honeymoon portion of their move to L.A., and Fisher’s failures on and off the field were massive components in that poor roll-out.
The Rams are the laughingstock of L.A. sports right now, and their problems might only get worse in the coming weeks.
That’s because the Chargers are on their way to Los Angeles — it’ll take an unforeseen and foolish change of heart for them to stay in San Diego. Considering the familiarity the Southern California marketplace has with the Bolts — a quarter of their season-ticket holders currently live in the Los Angeles area — they could siphon off plenty of the Rams’ business in the area.
If the Rams franchise is to ever dig itself out of the hole it dug in just one year in L.A., it’s going to need an anti-Fisher.
The Rams could try to convince Mike Tomlin to head to L.A., but he’s far too loyal to the Rooney family. Pete Carroll isn’t going to be at home in the Coliseum again, either — not when he has such a good thing going in Seattle and the Rams have such a bad thing going in L.A. And if the Rams are past the point where they can roll the dice on an up-and-coming assistant coach.
The Rams need legitimacy, and they need it immediately, lest they never find it.
Hiring Harbaugh would bring instant legitimacy.
The Rams have something to sell him, too: a return to California, something resembling full control of an NFL franchise, and a chance to play his nemeses, Carroll and the 49ers CEO Jed York, twice a year each.
Oh, and a seven-figure salary that would make him the highest-paid coach in all of football.
There’s no guarantee Harbaugh would leave Michigan after two years — he does like it there — but the Rams can’t hold anything back in recruiting him to Southern California.
Kroenke is worth $7.4 billion, and that’s just the money we know about. He’s building a $2.6 billion stadium for his football team that by the time it opens might be better known as the home of the team that pays Kroenke rent to share the facility. The Rams could well become the Clippers of the NFL (think about the three decades that preceded the Chris Paul era).
This is a pivotal moment for the Rams franchise — arguably larger than when it decided to move to Los Angeles. The whole move could wind up in vain if this hire is botched.
So make out a blank check and head to Ann Arbor, Stan — it’s time to save your franchise.