Silver and Black goes well enough with khakis.
But will Mark Davis finally hire Michigan coach John Harbaugh to coach the Raiders?
Michigan’s embattled coach might represent the most obvious — and proven — candidate to coach the Raiders should Davis decide to pivot away from interim coach Antonio Pierce. He was reportedly interested in hiring Harbaugh amid a vacancy in 2015 and again for one in 2022, when he hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
With a strong showing, Pierce could vie for the full-time job. But so, too, could Harbaugh, who was 44-19-1 from 2011 to 2014 as the coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
He’s 79-25 in nine years at Michigan, where he’s mired in a sign-stealing scandal he first must navigate amid a national championship chase.
The situation at Michigan
The NCAA is investigating the Wolverines for illegally stealing the signs by sending a staffer to scout — and record — their opponents in person. They’ve suspended a low-level employee named Connor Stalions, though Harbaugh has maintained publicly he wasn’t knowledgeable of the scheme.
Prospective penalties won’t be levied by the NCAA until it concludes its investigation.
The scandal coincides with negotiations between Harbaugh and the university for a new contract that would pay him more than his Big Ten coaching counterparts.
But it hasn’t been finalized, and the punishment — if there is any — could forge a natural runway back to the NFL for Harbaugh.
Silly as the sign-stealing scandal may be — Michigan dominated the Big Ten for a century without it — it shoudn’t have any bearing on Harbaugh’s NFL coaching candidacy. Coaches in the NFL can communicate directly with their quarterback and one designated defensive player through wireless technology still barred in college.
If Harbaugh is suspended, it’s worth noting that a suspension levied by the NCAA against former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was honored by the Indianapolis Colts when they hired him in 2011 to serve as a consultant.
A fine fit in Las Vegas?
Fifteen years an NFL quarterback and fourth in the 1995 MVP voting, Harbaugh broke into NFL coaching with the Raiders — working in 2002 and 2003 as their quarterbacks coach under former coach Bill Callahan.
His appeal is obvious: He’s won everywhere he’s been, leading turnarounds at the University of San Diego and Stanford, restoring Michigan’s national prestige and transforming the 49ers into a Super Bowl participant.
His teams are traditionally methodical and physical, mirroring the day-to-day intensity for which he’s famously known.
Offensively, he’s succeeded at various levels with Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick and J.J. McCarthy as his quarterbacks, ensuring the schemes his teams employ are tailored to the unique skill sets of his QBs and their surrounding personnel.
His defenses are physical and fast, and he entrusts his coaches to exact their expertise, serving as the general of the overall program.
But he also clashed in San Francisco with ownership and management, his intensity in that case a deterrent to those with whom he was tasked to work closely.
At Michigan, he has absolute control. In the NFL, collaboration is a necessity.
At 59, it’s also worth wondering if he’s a long-term solution or if the Raiders are good enough to succeed in the short term with his strengths.
That … yet again is for Davis to decide.