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NFL REPORT

Jim Harbaugh leaves Stanford to coach 49ers

John Elway and the Denver Broncos had hoped to land Harbaugh. Now they are lining up other candidates.

January 07, 2011

Declaring it a "perfect competitive opportunity," Jim Harbaugh accepted the job as coach of the 49ers and said his goal is to win a Lombardi Trophy for "one of the legendary franchises in all of football."

The Stanford coach gets to remain in the Bay Area, moving to the NFL after four years with the Cardinal. A longtime NFL quarterback, he replaces fired coach Mike Singletary. ESPN reported Harbaugh's deal is for $25 million over five years.

Harbaugh decided to make the jump to the pros even though San Francisco has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and Orange Bowl MVP quarterback Andrew Luck decided to remain at Stanford for another season.

The Cardinal (12-1) finished with a school-record 12 wins following a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Harbaugh, though, has long admired the late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, one of his mentors, and how Walsh made the successful leap from Stanford to the 49ers.

Elway, Broncos pursuing other options

John Elway hasn't even interviewed his first head coaching candidate and already the Denver Broncos' new football boss is 0 for 2.

One day after Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey canceled his interview with the Broncos, Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to join the San Francisco 49ers without ever hearing Elway's offer.

The major rebuilding project needed in Denver might be scaring away some coaching candidates.

The new coach must be willing and able to mold Tim Tebow into a pro-style passer, according to Elway, who this week became the Broncos' chief football executive and is leading the coaching search.

First up for interviews with Elway on Sunday are New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who was an interim coach in Buffalo in 2009, and Eric Studesville, who went 1-3 as interim Broncos coach after his promotion from running backs coach following Josh McDaniels' firing last month.

Elway tweeted Friday afternoon that he "just received permission to speak with Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter."

Elway also said he's seeking permission from the Houston Texans to interview offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, and is considering calling former Giants coach Jim Fassel, who tutored Elway in college and in the pros.

Fisher to stay with Titans

Bud Adams thought it over, and the Tennessee Titans' owner decided he isn't ready just yet to part with Jeff Fisher.

His decision to retain Fisher came two days after Adams agreed the Titans needed to part with Vince Young five seasons after he ordered the quarterback drafted. Young was 30-17, not counting his lone playoff loss, but he told off Fisher in front of the team after suffering a season-ending injury Nov. 21.

Sparano's status with Dolphins unclear

The Miami Dolphins' strange week took another bizarre turn Friday, leaving Coach Tony Sparano's status still in doubt.

The Dolphins scheduled a late-afternoon news conference to announce the retention of Sparano, but the session was postponed 20 minutes before the scheduled start. Nearly two hours later, the Dolphins rescheduled the session for Saturday.

The Dolphins' cross-country courtship of Jim Harbaugh ended late Thursday, and he was hired Friday to coach the San Francisco 49ers. With Harbaugh no longer an option, the Dolphins were expected to retain Sparano, who has one year left on his contract.

Sparano met Friday at the team complex with owner Stephen Ross and General Manager Jeff Ireland, but there was no announcement regarding who will coach the Dolphins in 2011.

Shurmur interviews for Cleveland job

Pat Shurmur, who just finished his second season as St. Louis' offensive coordinator, interviewed for Cleveland's top job on Friday, the first candidate known to have formally visited with Browns President Mike Holmgren.

On Monday, Holmgren is scheduled to meet with Cleveland's assistants, many of whom are unlikely to return next season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is a candidate for the Carolina opening.

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