Should Alex Smith be Benched?

Not long ago, Alex Smith was drawing all sorts of praise for the Kansas City Chiefs’ 5-0 start. But since then, the Chiefs have lost five of their past six games to drop to 6-5. And many believe that Smith is a big part of the problem and needs to be benched.

Head coach Andy Reid isn’t ready to go this route, though. And he said that he never considered benching Smith in favor of rookie Patrick Mahomes during the team’s 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

“No,” Reid told the press. “That’s not where I’m at right now. There were a couple other things I’ve got to take care of.”

Reid may not be ready to bench the incumbent starter yet. But should he reconsider in the near future? Let’s cover the matter by discussing both Smith’s recent dismal performances along with what Mahomes brings to the table.

Playing the Unknown

Mahomes came to Kansas City with a high pedigree after a strong career at Texas Tech. He played so well that the Chiefs made him the 10th overall pick of the 2017 draft.

This obviously says something about whom Kansas City thinks will be under center in the future. But the problem is that Mahomes is still an unknown right now.

What we do know about Smith is that he’s normally a solid quarterback. Obviously we haven’t seen this in the past two games, as he’s thrown 3 interceptions against just one touchdown.

But looking at the 13-year veteran’s complete season, he has thrown for 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions. It’s easy to see why Reid doesn’t want to rock the boat, especially with the team still in first place in the AFC West.

But the problem is that Smith has played poorly during the recent three-game losing streak. He’s been so bad, in fact, that Kansas City Star columinst Sam Mellinger has labeled him the “worst player” on the team right now. If this type of play continues, the Chiefs might not even make the playoffs.

Smith Has been Benched Before

This situation in Kansas City isn’t entirely new for Smith. In fact, he dealt with a similar scenario in 2012 when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith suffered a concussion in the ninth game of the season. Colin Kaepernick, who was a raw but talented quarterback, took over the position. And Kaepernick played well enough to lead San Francisco to the Super Bowl. If not for a pass completed just the short of the goal line, they could’ve been Super Bowl champions.

Mahomes is slightly different than Kaepernick because the latter was in his second season. Furthermore, some around the league believe that the 22-year-old needs more time to develop. But with the team now spiraling downward after their perfect start, it doesn’t seem ridiculous to give the rookie a chance.

Has Kansas City Peaked with Smith?

The Chiefs currently hold a one game lead over the LA Chargers and Oakland Raiders in the AFC West. It’s not unfathomable to think that if Smith plays better, they can hold onto this lead and make the playoffs.

But even if this happens, how far can they go in the postseason with Smith? It’s highly unlikely that they do anything better than winning a Wild Card game. Their next opponent would probably be either the New England Patriots for Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom would crush them.

The obvious risk is that Kansas City inserts Mahomes and he’s totally unready for the challenge. This would cause the Chiefs to lose their division lead and subsequently be pushed out of the playoff picture.

However, it must be asked if Smith’s efficiency is really worth keeping him on the field. After all, the Bills – a team that had previously given up 135 points in its past three games to the Jets, Saints, and Chargers – held Kansas City to 10 points.

Mahomes is the Future – Why Not Start Him Now?

Given Smith’s age and the high draft pick that Kansas City spent on Mahomes, it’s almost a given that the latter will start in 2018.

Smith would need a monster finish to this season to remain the starter next year. And it doesn’t help Smith’s cause that the Chiefs can save $17 million in cap space by cutting him in the offseason.

This is all very likely to happen before the start of next season. And if this is indeed the case, why not simply start playing Mahomes now?

alex-smith-benched-chiefsThe ultimate fear is that this blows up and becomes another Nathan Peterman situation. However, it’s hard to see Mahomes failing this badly. He is, after all, a 10th overall pick; Peterman was only a fifth-rounder.

Kansas City has been a solid playoff team in recent years. But they want more, and Smith is unlikely to get them to the next level.

It’s also possible that Mahomes doesn’t push them to this point either. However, we’ll never know until he actually takes the field.

Smith deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done with the Chiefs. He was instrumental in helping Reid turn the franchise around after Romeo Crennel’s disastrous 2-14 season.

But the problem is that this year is quickly spinning out of control. Both the Chargers and Raiders are playing better than Kansas City right now. So it’s entirely possible that they’ll pass the Chiefs at some point, given the current circumstances.

If this is going to be a lost season, why not give it meaning by getting Mahomes some experience?

Will Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett be Fired?

jason-garrett-cowboysThe Dallas Cowboys came into the 2017 NFL season with Super Bowl aspirations. But this team is now wondering if they can even grab an NFC Wild Card slot after stumbling to a 5-6 record.

Dallas is currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, where they’ve been outscored by a combined 92 to 22. The season is definitely on the brink right now. And head coach Jason Garrett could be fighting for his job with how dismal the Cowboys are playing.

Can Dallas turn things around? Will Garrett’s team play well enough to save his job? Let’s discuss these matters along with what Garrett must do to avoid being fired.

Why is Dallas Playing so Badly?

The Cowboys can’t pin all of their struggles on the coach. After all, several factors have caused them to go from a 13-3 finish last season to a below-.500 team this year.

jason-garrett-dallas-job-statusThe suspension of Pro-Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott has definitely put a dent in the run game. They also have significant injuries, including linebacker Sean Lee.

The recent schedule hasn’t been kind to the Cowboys either. They’ve been destroyed by the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, and a resurgent LA Chargers team over the past three contests.

Owner Jerry Jones has been fielding a lot of questions about his team’s struggles and the coaching staff’s future. Jones, who has supported Garrett over the years, says that he “feels good” about the coaches. But how good will he feel if the losing streak continues any longer?

This is especially the case when considering that Dallas has two winnable games coming up. They face the Washington Redskins at home, and the New York Giants on the road.

The Redskins have been inconsistent throughout this year. And the Giants have been a non factor in the NFC East. I’m not saying that these are both must-win games. But Garrett’s job status will be far more comfortable if he can win these contests.

Of course, for Dallas to get back to playing good football, they need to show some fight on both sides of the ball. Neither offensive coordinator Scott Linehan nor defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have their units playing as well as last year. And both coordinators will face job security issues if this team doesn’t grab a playoff spot.

The Roster can’t be Changed Much, but the Coaches can

Dallas isn’t a serious contender for the Super Bowl title right now. This means that they’ll be trying to improve their team for a stronger run in 2018.

Of course, this is going to be hard because there’s little salary cap room if the team gives defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence a big pay raise as expected.

dez-bryantThe team has few options to restructure their main core. But one possibility includes trading some veteran pieces to free up cap room. Another could include cutting wide receiver Dez Bryant, who’s starting to show his age.

Even if Dallas does any of these things, it won’t solve some their main issues.

One problem is that quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t thrown very well this season. He’s missing open receivers and relies on play-action too much.

Another issue is that Bryant hasn’t gotten much separation on routes. He’s also failing to win most contested balls.

The offensive line, often considered a big strength of this team, doesn’t have much depth. And the fact that Elliott drew a 6-game suspension has really slowed the running game.

Moving to the defense, the secondary is full of young players who’ve made plenty of mistakes. And the linebacking core has done a poor job of covering pass-catching running backs without Lee in the lineup.

This is mostly the same team that was last year’s NFC darling en route to compiling a 13-3 record. But all the problems have made a repeat campaign nearly impossible. In fact, this is bordering on being a lost season for the Cowboys.

If the team wants to make a change, the most likely route will be the coaching staff. Maybe Garrett, Linehan, Marinelli, or all three need to go.

Garrett could be Losing the Lockerroom

One of the most disturbing things about the Cowboys’ descent is that the players are getting frustrated. Ian Rappaport reported on NFL GameDay that players are becoming disengaged. Here’s a look at his report:

jason-garrett-dallas-fired-job“Owner Jerry Jones has been outspoken in his support of Jason Garrett and his coaching staff. However, inside the locker room, a little bit of a different story. I’m told there’s growing frustration from the Cowboys players about their coaching staff.

“And it really stems from two things. One, just the lack of adjustments that has gone on over the last couple of weeks. The Chaz Green disaster at tackle when Tyron Smith was out was just one example (where) the team did not help him and really didn’t alter their game plan when it was clear that he needed some help.

“That was one issue that certainly has left the players grumbling. Another one is just how simple they are. I had one person tell me that Philip Rivers, out on the field on Thursday night, was actually calling out the Cowboys blitzes before they happened on the field.

“Not a good sign for the Cowboys. And obviously a huge game this Thursday (vs. Redskins) where they really need to bounce back for.”

Jerry Jones Expresses Support for Garrett

Garrett can feel some relief because Jones still sounds supportive of him.

“Jason Garrett was named Coach of the Year of the whole NFL last year,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “That was yesterday. This is today. The point is, I like this coaching staff.”

Garrett dodged reporters’ questions about his job security last weekend.

jerry-jones-cowboys“The biggest thing we’re focusing on is cleaning up this game and trying to get better as a football team,” Garrett said. “That’s really where all of our attention is.”

This isn’t the first time that Jones has had to answer questions about Garrett’s job status. The latter has remained the Dallas coach for the past seven seasons, with some years being more tumultuous than others.

Another good sign for Garrett’s job security is that he doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight or personnel decisions with Jones. But if things keep up like they are, including the 70-point disparity over the past three games, it’s hard to see Garrett keeping his job.

“We haven’t played as well as we need to in the second half of these ballgames,” said the embattled coach. “We’re looking at that as a coaching staff, how we can do that better and how we can sustain consistent execution for an entire ballgame.”

The best thing that Garrett can do is go out and win a few games to end the season. Maybe Dallas will get hot and win enough to finish with a 9-7 or 10-6 record. This would be enough to keep his job for sure.

But the way the team is playing now, they simply need to focus on winning the very next game against the Redskins.

Tennessee Won’t Hire Greg Schiano – Link to Jerry Sandusky Haunts Him

greg-schiano-not-hired-tennessee-1The University of Tennessee was set to hire Greg Schiano as their next football coach. But they’ve decided to back out of the deal after seeing extreme protests and backlash from their fans.

Much of the backlash is based on a story that links Schiano to former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Nittany Lions assistant Mike McQueary claimed that Schiano, a defensive backs coach at the time, said he’d seen Sandusky “doing something” with a boy in a shower.

The allegation was never proven, and Schiano wasn’t charged in the case. He also testified that he never knew about what Sandusky was doing with little boys. Nevertheless, the mere implication that Schiano might have known something was enough to ignite the Tennessee fan base.

The weekend was rife with Volunteer fans protesting around Neyland Stadium and engaging in anti-Schiano chants. The Knox News reports that people painted a derogatory message on a giant rock on campus.

“I feel if Schiano gets hired it will be the worst thing to happen to this university since I’ve been a fan, and I’ve been in Knoxville since 1997,” said Sean Powell, who was at the rally. Powell also said that the Sandusky ties are the biggest reason why he protested Schiano.

greg-schiano-penn-state-rape“Perception is nine-tenths reality,” said named man in attendance named Lee Chapman. “It doesn’t matter what the truth is, it’s what people think is the truth. And when you have something hanging over someone’s head like this, it’s always going to be brought up.

“He would be the highest-paid official in the state of Tennessee. Is that who we want representing our state, our community and our university? My answer to that would be no.”

Tennessee’s Protests Against Schiano are Unprecedented

greg-schiano-not-hired-tennesseeSchiano isn’t the first coaching candidate to face backlash on university grounds. But the level to which the Volunteer fans opposed his hiring is perhaps unprecedented.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like this,” said an unnamed athletic director. “Within the industry, there was an understanding that he’d been cleared. But now with the way the fan base has responded, who will be willing to take that job?”

Who will Coach Tennessee Now?

It’s obvious that Schiano won’t be serving as the Tennessee coach. This now leaves the question of who the university will hire in the aftermath of this not working out.

Athletic director John Currie is in a bind as the first-year athletic director. After all, he’s already been bashed by many fans and boosters for failing to fire Butch Jones faster.

If he had gone ahead and hired Schiano amid the backlash, it’s likely that his relationship would’ve become even rockier with fans. But now he faces another challenge in trying to find a qualified candidate to take the job.

tennessee-footballTennessee doesn’t have the same luster as it once did 5-10 years ago. The team hasn’t been on the national radar for years, and the Schiano protests show how merciless the Volunteer fans can be. That said, it’d be interesting to see what kind of hire they can bring in now.

The school is coming off a 4-8 season, where they failed to compete in many games. The next coach will be walking into a rebuilding situation, rather than taking over what’s traditionally been a winning program.

What does Schiano’s Future Hold?

Six years ago, Greg Schiano was one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country. He turned around a Rutgers program that had been traditionally terrible before he came onto the scene in 2001.

This landed him a lucrative job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. But that didn’t go over well as Schiano was just 11-21 in two seasons as the coach.

He eventually rebounded when Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer hired him as the defensive coordinator. It makes sense why the Volunteers would want to hire him based on his previous successes with Rutgers.

But one has to wonder if he can ever rise above a coordinator job in the future. He’s done a very good job with the Buckeyes, helping the team feature the No. 8 total defense in the nation this year, and the No. 3 total defense last season.

It’s not unfathomable to think that somebody else will take a chance on Schiano in the future. But it certainly can’t be a conservative SEC school like Tennessee.

Chip Kelly Hired as UCLA Coach – How Successful will He be?

chip-kelly-uclaThis past week, former Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly was the hottest commodity on the college coaching market. And both Florida and UCLA were trying to snag him. The 54-year-old turned down the Gators in favor of the Bruins.

UCLA fired coach Jim Mora after a 4-8 campaign. Mora had success in his first five seasons, but faltered this year.

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record at Oregon and took the Ducks to a BCS National Championship appearance in 2010. He also coached the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, going 28-35 in four combined NFL seasons.

Kelly Brings His Genius to UCLA

While Jim Mora had solid teams in Westwood, UCLA never won the Pac-12 nor made a serious run at the College Football Playoff. This is where the Bruin faithful hope that Kelly can succeed where Mora failed.

chip-kelly-oregon-spread-offenseKelly took over a team in Oregon nine years ago that was winning 8-9 games per season. He then lifted them to the next level with an up-tempo spread offense that changed college football.

Winning 11-12 games a year with the Ducks was an impressive accomplishment, given that they don’t have the national recruiting clout as traditional college powerhouses.

“I think it was one of the most profound changes in college football that’s happened in a long time,” said Cal offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, who spent four seasons coaching under Kelly.

“Early on, people didn’t know how to handle it. Defenses couldn’t get lined up. Adding the quarterback as part of the true run game without being an option team, being a zone team but having that element of the quarterback run and being able to spread the field and utilize all 53.5 yards of the field was pretty revolutionary. We really caught the defensive world of college football off-guard.”

Kelly’s teams took opponents by surprise and revolutionized how many programs ran their offense. These days, college defensive coordinators are much better at stopping the up-tempo spread. And officials give defenses a better chance to substitute defensive players to combat the up-tempo offense.

UCLA can Do Better in Recruiting

Chip Kelly has never been a huge fan of recruiting. He doesn’t like the time it demands, nor does he enjoy smooth-talking 17-year-olds to his program.

chip-kelly-recruiting“Chip is very good at evaluating,” said Nick Aliotti, a Pac-12 Networks analyst who was Kelly’s defensive coordinator. “We spent a lot of time in evaluation. What Chip is not good at is the tweeting and the schmoozing. He can do a nice job on the home visit. That’s just his social makeup.”

Greatwood added, “He wasn’t the kind of guy who was just a bird dog on a recruit, calling a recruit all season long. I mean, you got him in front of people, he’s impressive, the way he carries himself.

“I think he didn’t like the whole process of taking a kid from early January and recruiting him all through the following February to signing date. I think that kind of took its toll on him.”

Kelly may not be the used car salesman of football recruiting, but he’s still really good at it. Case in point, he was able to sell plenty of solid recruits to Eugene. A great example of Kelly’s recruiting prowess is when he convinced running back De’Anthony Thomas to switch from USC to Oregon on signing day in 2011.

But the good news for Kelly is that he no longer has to sell elite players on coming to the Pacific Northwest. In fact, He’ll be running into four-star recruits on a regular basis in the Los Angeles area. Furthermore, he won’t need somebody like Willie Lyles, whose recruiting efforts put Oregon on probation.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Kelly does very well with California recruiting. 41 of his 93 signees came from the Golden State. It should be even easier for Chip to sell Californians on their home state.

UCLA is Attractive because Kelly can Blend In

ucla-campusChip Kelly definitely isn’t somebody who seeks celebrity status. In fact, he’s an introvert who thinks that watching film footage is the most “fun part of the job.” This is one reason why he turned down the Florida job because he’d be the biggest celebrity in Gainesville.

Westwood, on the other hand, gives Kelly a chance to blend in with the famous crowd. He’s far from the biggest name in Hollywood, which suits him just fine.

This is especially the case when considering that Kelly struggled to deal with the media in Oregon. Now, that media attention will be spread out.

Another aspect to consider is that UCLA is a on a lower rung in the LA sports hierarchy. The LA Lakers command the most attention, followed by the LA Dodgers and LA Clippers. The Bruins aren’t even the most famous college team in their city because this honor belongs to USC.

Kelly will be just fine with this since he can work under the radar. And while he does have a high profile, he won’t be bothered with the same celebrity attention as if he lived in a smaller college town.

UCLA Outlook for 2018

The problem for Kelly is that he’s walking onto a team that just finished four games below .500. This is a different situation than when he took over an already successful Oregon program.

I could easily see Kelly going 5-7 or 6-7 in his first season. After all, there’s a lot to be repaired after a 4-8 campaign.

But on the flip side, Kelly could quickly catch fire on the recruiting scene thanks to his profile. Assuming he can get some five and four-star recruits to Westwood, then things could turn around for this Bruins team in a hurry.

A 10-win season may still be out of the question. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see Kelly and the Bruins finish somewhere around 8-5 if things go well.

Auburn’s Win over Alabama Muddles CFP Picture

auburn-beats-alabamaThe No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 6 Auburn Tigers played the biggest game during rivalry weekend. And the Tigers pulled off the upset in their home stadium, winning 26-14.

This means that only two undefeated teams remain in college football, including Wisconsin and Central Florida. It also throws the College Football Playoff picture into chaos with three SEC teams still in the running.

Auburn will take on the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship game in two weeks. The winner will likely earn a spot in the CFP. The Tigers destroyed Georgia at home two weeks ago, knocking the then-No. 1 Bulldogs from the nation’s top ranking. That said, Georgia will likely have revenge on their minds come December 2.

Alabama had a chance to come back when they were down 20-14. But self-inflicted mistakes prevented them from coming back in the final quarter.

One included a snap that quarterback Jalen Hurts wasn’t expecting. The Crimson Tide had yet another unexpected snap on fourth down, but they were bailed out because the Tigers had 12 men on the field.

Another mistake occurred when Alabama was trying to convert a 4th-and-3. But receiver Robert Foster ran a 2-yard crossing route, then failed to immediately turn upfield when he caught the ball and was tackled short of a first down.

Alabama also had a situation where running back Damien Harris jumped offside when Auburn was punting. This gave the Tigers a first down and allowed them to run two more minutes off the clock late in the fourth quarter.

kerryon-johnson-vs-alabamaOne more gaffe included holder JK Scott fumbling a snap during a field goal attempt. Alabama was forced to scramble and throw a pass, which fell incomplete. This left the Tide down by six points, when they had a chance to cut the lead to 20-17.

Auburn, meanwhile, grabbed a 20-14 lead after a 69-yard run that was capped off by a Kerryon Johnson TD run. The Tigers were able to pick up yardage all night thanks to strong inside running and perimeter passing.

Johnson was the team’s MVP, rushing for 104 yards and even throwing a touchdown pass. Johnson had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. But he’d done enough to help Auburn pull off the mini-upset.

Auburn Has a Strong Chance at the CFP

College football analysts have been debating back and forth who will be the four teams selected for the CFP. A lot has still yet to be decided with conference championship games coming up. But it appears that the Tigers now control their destiny, even with two losses.

Again, they play Georgia in the SEC championship game. And given how they beat the bulldogs by 23 points last time out, they have to like their chances.

Alabama will Likely Get into CFP

nick-saban-alabama-1Alabama is in a strange position this year because they won’t be playing for the SEC title. Normally this would drastically hurt a team’s chances of making the playoffs. But Alabama still has a very good shot at getting into the mix.

They’re in a similar situation to Ohio State last year. The Buckeyes were also 11-1, but they didn’t get to play in the Big Ten Championship due to a loss at Penn State. Despite not even winning their division, Ohio State still earned one of the four CFP spots.

The Tide aren’t an automatic shoe-in at 11-1. Plus they won’t get to impress the selection committee in a conference championship game.

But it’s import to remember that the Big Ten is the only Power 5 conference with an undefeated team. The Pac 10 probably won’t get anybody into the CFP. This means that an ACC or Big 12 champion could be kept out of the playoffs if Alabama gets a nod.

Who Else Has Strong CFP Chances?

The Wisconsin Badgers finished out the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. They’ll now face the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game. A win here will put the undefeated Badgers into the CFP.

kelly-bryant-clemson-starterThe Clemson Tigers are likely to get in as well if they can beat the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC title game. Miami, meanwhile, has a tougher road because their rivalry-game loss to Pittsburgh puts them in a difficult position. Even a win over Clemson may not be enough to vault them over Alabama.

The Big 12 has a lot of questions to answer as well. Oklahoma will likely be a playoff team if they beat TCU In the conference championship game. But if the two-loss Horned Frogs win, the Big 12 probably won’t get a CFP bid.

With conference title games coming up in two weeks, the playoff picture will finally become clear. But we certainly can’t count the Tide out of the mix, even though they won’t be able to defend their SEC championship.

Will Jim Harbaugh Bolt Michigan for Bears or Colts?

jim-harbaugh-michigan-bears-coltsThe Michigan Wolverines’ season began promisingly, with a 4-0 start and wins over Florida and Air Force. It was beginning to look like coach Jim Harbaugh was turning Michigan back into a storied program.

The Wolverines have since stumbled, though, with losses to Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Following a 24-10 loss to the Badgers, they sit at 8-3 going into a rivalry game with Ohio State.

The truth is that Michigan is a good team. Good enough to dominate the likes of Cincinnati, Maryland, Purdue, and Rutgers. But they’re just not on the same par as elite Big Ten teams.

This much was evident from last Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. The Wolverines played well for about 30 minutes, keeping the game locked at 7-7.

But then the Badgers finally started putting points on the board. The Wolverines fell behind 21-10 at one point and never had a chance to catch up from there.

This is just the latest big game that Michigan has failed to win. And it has many wondering if Harbaugh has his eyes on other jobs since things aren’t coming together at Michigan.

Harbaugh’s 4-Year Rule

jim-harbaugh-stanfordLooking back at Harbaugh’s other stints, he stays at a gig for four years before moving on. I doubt this is by design – it’s just his coaching history.

The San Francisco 49ers, Stanford Cardinals, and University of San Diego are all jobs where Harbaugh stayed for four years. He’s now in his third year with the Wolverines, meaning it won’t be a surprise if he leaves soon.

The 53-year-old coach never ended any of his previous jobs with a bad record. Even when he was forced out of the Niners job, his team finished a respectable 8-8. His tenure there only ended because of a contentious relationship with the front office.

But so far, his time at Michigan has been a disappointment due to a lack of defining victories. Wolverine faithful were hoping for the second coming of Bo Schembechler 2.0. But they haven’t gotten Lloyd Carr up to this point.

“This is Michigan football right now,” writes the Detroit Free Press’ Nick Baumgardner. “A team that’s not ready to sit at the big table. A coaching staff that has a lot of questions to answer. A program that’s got a long way to go.”

Will Harbaugh be Fired at Michigan?

Michigan is as passionate about football as any major program. And they expect to be in the conversation for the national championship every year.

Unfortunately, they haven’t been on the national radar since the 2006 season, when Carr guided the program to an 11-2 finish. The aftermath has seen Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke fail to keep the school’s winning tradition.

Harbaugh has been better than his two predecessors, finishing with a 10-3 record in each of his first two seasons. But at 8-3 with Ohio State coming up, the needle isn’t moving in the right direction. If Harbaugh loses to the Buckeyes this Saturday, he’ll be 1-5 against the school’s rivals.

Would Michigan would ever fire their coach if he can’t beat rivals? The answer is likely no, as long as he keeps winning 9-10 games a year.

However, the reality is that Harbaugh is still in demand in NFL circles. It seems more likely that he’ll simply walk to a new job while he’s still a hot commodity than get fired.

Chicago Bears are a Possible Destination

jim-harbaugh-bearsThe Chicago Bears were never expected to do well this season. But they started off as a feel-good story, going 3-4 with a largely untalented roster.

Chicago has since fallen to 3-7 amid a three-game losing streak. And it’s very possible that the team will fire head coach John Fox, who’s 12-30 with the team so far.

If the Bears job opens up, it would definitely tempt Harbaugh, who quarterbacked Chicago throughout the late 1980s and early 90s.

He’d start a rebuilding process with a highly touted young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. And the Chicago fan base would likely be patient after several years of losing.

Chicago Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome wrote about how having Harbaugh as the coach carries more appeal than just potential wins:

“While there is no indication Harbaugh would leave his alma mater for the Bears or any other pro job, his name always appears on any wish list, whether it is a columnist’s or an owner’s.

“That is the benefit, or the curse, of being interesting, something John Fox certainly is not. Nor are most coaches in the NFL. The Bears have not had a conversation piece as coach since Mike Ditka.

“Harbaugh turns the volume up wherever he goes, and the noise around the Bears has been something between a whisper and lullaby.

“Not that it matters, but there is also the real benefit that Harbaugh actually can coach, that he has a way with quarterbacks, having been a half-decent one himself.”

The Colts are Another Possibility

Harbaugh could also find himself going to another former NFL team that he played for in the Indianapolis Colts. This has just as much to do with reuniting Harbaugh and Andrew Luck as it does previous coaching accomplishments.

The two formed a very successful pairing at the University of Standard. And as long as Harbaugh can put up with bungling Colts owner Jim Irsay, everything would be golden if Luck returns from a lingering shoulder injury.

Staying in Michigan?

harbaugh-michiganThe one thing that might prevent Harbaugh from leaving Michigan early is that it’s his alma mater. This, and the fact that he has unfinished business at Ann Arbor are good reasons to stay.

One more important point here is that Jim Harbaugh is football’s highest-paid coach at $9 million. No college or NFL coach is within $1 million of this amount.

However, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he’s still a candidate for multiple NFL jobs. And he may start his 4-year leaving tradition one year early if/when the Bears and Colts come calling. Fox will likely be fired in Chicago, while Indianapolis will probably do the same with coach Chuck Pagano.

These talks will only intensify if Harbaugh loses to the Buckeyes a third straight time. According to our GTBets line, Michigan is an 11.5-point underdog at home. And Ohio State has plenty to play for because they still have an outside shot at the College Football Playoff.

We’ll probably learn far more on this situation within the coming weeks.