At what point does worrying about reeling in the big fish turn into just focusing in on finding the right guy for the job?
Michigan's third coaching search in nearly a decade is underway and this goes without saying, you have to get this one right. In the coming days names will be floated around and rumors will be posted on various blogs, message boards and around water coolers across the country.
No matter what is discussed, there is one common factor in this search. You have to get this right.
Simple, just find a guy who can win some football games.
Perhaps the search starts with San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, but it doesn't necessarily have to end there if he says no. Look, Harbaugh is the big fish in the pond of candidates, he's earned that right. We've heard ad nauseum about how quickly Harbaugh could turn the program around. The prodigal son of Ann Arbor makes his Lebron James-like "I'm coming home" return to the college football ranks and takes the Big Ten over by storm.
In a perfect world, the hero lands the prize. However, we all know this isn't a perfect world.
Harbaugh is an extremely competitive man and thus is where most of his success comes from. We've seen it at San Diego, Stanford and now at the highest level possible. In fact, he was a few plays away from winning a Super Bowl in his second year as a professional head coach.
As much as he might love Michigan, why would he throw that away right now? At least, not yet.
There are options for Harbaugh, whether it is to stay in the NFL for a franchise that might not have the starting pieces like the 49ers did, or he could return to Ann Arbor where the talent exists and is in need of a little bit of coaching.
Harbaugh would undoubtedly deliver a soul-crushing blow to Michigan fans hearts everywhere if he elects to stay in the NFL. He is the closest to a sure thing you will find who also happens to have Michigan ties. Maybe there isn't even a search at all outside of Harbaugh, but if he tells you no, that's when it all starts.
Like him, Michigan will have options, too.
The truth is, we don't know which direction Michigan and interim athletic director Jim Hackett is headed with this search. He could have a laundry list of candidates that fans and media alike might not consider in passing. At the end of the day, this search will be one of the more important searches in recent Michigan football history. Not just from a wins and loss standpoint, but how far will getting this wrong once again set the program back?
That's the scary part of the unknown. If the program is barely treading water in the middle-of-the-pack of an average conference, how hard does it plummet if things go wrong?
Winning cures all wounds and Michigan was walking the incredibly thin line of a total implosion before it decided to change course. The fortunate part is that the job still has some incredible positives to it from a candidate perspective. There's always going to be interested candidates, from a Les Miles to a Dan Mullen, it will be Hackett's responsibility to land someone that can come in to this situation and be successful.
Whether Harbaugh is part of this equation or not remains to be told, but he's not the only candidate out there for Michigan.
At the end of the day, the "sexy" name or dollar amount that comes with the paycheck doesn't matter. It's useless if you can't win. The most important factor in this search is someone that can adapt to any situation and win. Someone who has a history of turning programs into winners and doing things the right way.
Michigan can't afford another Hoke-like gamble, the results would be dangerous and catastrophic if it falls apart.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks will undoubtedly change the face of Michigan football for the better or worse. Whether Harbaugh is roaming the sidelines or a different face, one factor should be the only outcome.