49ers targeting Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach?

Jim Harbaugh continues to be one of the hottest names in football and if he wants to leave Stanford for a bigger job next season, he’ll likely have opportunities at both the college and pro level.

According to Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the 49ers are interested in Harbaugh as head-coaching replacement for Mike Singletary (who was fired on Monday). The Niners view Harbaugh’s work with Josh Johnson and NFL prospect Andrew Luck as a sign that he can develop quarterbacks. And seeing as how that was one of Singletary’s downfalls, they would love to secure a head coach who knows how to manage signal callers.

Maiocco also confirms that Trent Baalke will be promoted from V.P. of Player Personnel to General Manager. The team wanted to have a GM in place before they sought a head coach and now that they have one, you can expect them to start interviewing coaches once their season wraps up this Sunday (if not sooner).

One name I keep throwing onto the table is Jon Gruden, and for the same reasons the Niners like Harbaugh: he can work with quarterbacks. Gruden had success in the NFL with Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia, so if San Fran is looking for a coach who knows QBs then “Chucky” may be the perfect fit.

That said, who knows if Gruden wants to come out of the booth right now. He enjoys working with the Monday Night Football crew and he may not be ready to return to the sidelines yet. But if he does, I don’t see why the Niners wouldn’t at least pick up the phone and gauge his interest in returning to the Bay area. Harbaugh would be a fine choice, but if San Fran is looking for more pro experience, then you can’t beat Gruden’s resume, which includes hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.

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