Oakland Raiders: Pros and Cons of Hiring Jim Harbaugh

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Nov 16, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines during the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Ten days after the Oakland Raiders’ first victory in more than a year, they plummeted back down to earth, through the crust, mantle, and core, and exited somewhere around the South Pole.

The same scraggly group of veterans and newbies – a generation separates Charles Woodson, 38, from George Atkinson, 22 – that approximated a real, live NFL team in a 24-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs looked like a team that may not belong among the dregs of the CFL following a horrendous 52-0 loss in St. Louis.  The Rams players lit the controversy fuse, entering the stadium with the “hands up” gesture, but it was the Raiders who surrendered almost immediately.

Get this: in the span of just 30 seconds, the Raiders’ win probability plummeted over 10 percent, from 40 to 29.  That was less than three minutes into the game.  In the subsequent five minutes, the team’s chances of winning dropped below 10 percent, as the Rams poured on two touchdowns en route to a 28-0 first-quarter gap.  The Raiders’ win probability never rose above 12 percent afterwards.

In the wake of such embarrassment, it is both tempting and easy to point the finger at interim head coach, Tony Sparano.  (Given the frustration of the fan base, there are probably equally many index fingers pointed at him as middles to the sky.)  And I’m not sure this inclination is unfair.

Sparano is what amounts to an old-timer in the organization – though he has spent less than two full seasons with the Raiders, two head coaches, Art Shell and Hue Jackson, have been escorted off the premises in less time over the past decade – and his past record as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins does not inspire confidence.

Following a disastrous 1-15 season under Cam Cameron, Sparano worked a miraculous turnaround, achieving an 11-win season in 2008 before the Dolphins collapsed into mediocrity.

Sparano was fired after his second 7-9 season turned into an 0-7 start to 2011. Fins’ owner Stephen Ross hopped on a jet – private, naturally – and began a nationwide coaching search.  The name rumored to be at the top of his list was one Jim Harbaugh.  Fast forward to, well, this very second, and not much has changed. The only difference is the name of the owner and the inanity of his haircut.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of Harbaugh’s potential hire.