Can you wait on Luck?

Published 9:47 am Thursday, January 13, 2011

This article was originally set to post before Jim Harbaugh made his decision on whether or not to leave Stanford’s coaching post for the NFL, but as soon as the post was ready to go, Harbaugh decided to leave the Cardinal for the 49ers. The original idea was that the 49ers could conceivably take a mulligan on the 2011 season with a lame duck coach, and trade most of their veterans for draft picks in order to position themselves for Stanford QB Andrew Luck and Harbaugh in 2012.

I took down the post because I thought the article might not be applicable with half of that idea already happening. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to take a mulligan 2011 with Harbaugh in the fold.

I’d argued that as both Harbaugh and Luck (essentially a franchise turnaround kit) seem destined for the NFL in 2012, would it make sense for a team like the 49ers, with a mediocre roster and a QB position in shambles, to essentially take a mulligan on the 2011 season. They could hire essentially and interim coach, someone low profile and unlikely to blow up after getting fired after only one year, and ditch him when Harbaugh is ready to leave Stanford in 2012. They could trade away veterans in their prime like Vernon Davis and Frank Gore to try and get a higher draft pick in 2012.

Now with Harbaugh already part of the equation, this move could be forgiven by fans more easily. A new, energetic young coach is an excuse for rebuilding and the season or so of losses that come with it. The 49ers could sell their fans on the idea of the dream Coach/Quarterback combo, as that combo is conceivably the most important thing in professional football. The last decade has been dominated by Belichick and Brady, Payton and Brees, and Dungy and Manning. The Harbaugh-Luck combo seems built in and ready to go.

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Furthermore, the 2011 season might

A) not happen.
B) be shorter due to a strike


C) not have a playoffs or Superbowl due to the 2012 apocalypse

With that kind of season up in the air, why not put all of one’s eggs in the ‘building for the future’ basket?

This kind of tanking would be appalling to some fans, but in a way it makes sense if the team thinks that Luck and Harbaugh are really worthwhile. The 49ers would be trading this next season’s relevance for a shot at a decade of dominance. And that’s really more of an issue. Its only a chance at Harbaugh and Luck. Maybe some other team won’t trade the number one pick, or some other team like the Bills or Dolphins has the same plan. Or maybe Luck is Ryan Leaf and Harbaugh is the second coming of Art Shell.

This scenario is unlikely, and would like lose the 49ers some fans. But sometimes Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.