Is Jim Harbaugh worth twice as much as Colts' Jim Caldwell?

January 7, 2011
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Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback and current Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is a hot commodity in the National Football League.

Even though he hasn’t coached a single game at the pro level, at least two teams (Miami and San Francisco) are willing to pay Harbaugh $7 million annually. That would put him near the top of the heap in terms of pay among NFL coaches.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is the highest paid coach at $7.5 million annually. Few would doubt his worth. But there are a few less worthy coaches on the top 10 list.

Washington’s Mike Shanahan is second, making $7 million annually. Pete Carroll, who was fired in New England and replaced by Belichick has been reborn in the pro ranks in Seattle and is making $6.7 million annually. Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin rank No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 on the list, with each making $5.75 million.

Philadelphia’s Andy Reid makes $5.5 million, New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin makes $5.25 million, and Jacksonville’s Jack Del Rio makes $5 million. Rounding out the top 10 is Chicago’s Lovie Smith who makes $4.8 million.

Missing from the list is Indianapolis Colts Coach Jim Caldwell, who makes about $3.5 million annually.

So is Jim Harbaugh, with no NFL head coaching experience, worth twice as much as Caldwell? Well, he’s done a great job at Stanford, but that’s still a tough call.

It could be easier to argue that Caldwell deserves at least as much credit as the coaches of two teams (Tennessee and Jacksonville) who have finished behind the Colts each of the last two years.

But maybe as New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan says about the Indianapolis Colts, “it’s all Peyton Manning.”

  • Whisenhunt
    Ken Whisenhunt coaches AZ not St. Louis. Also, I am not hating on Coach Caldwell but I do not recall any teams trying to interview him when there were coaching vacancies during Dungy's tenure. I am not saying he is not a great coach but that is the reason why he has a lower salary.
  • Market dictates, no surprise
    This is how the normal job market works. A lot of newly hired college recruits make more money than current employees. It is how top talent is recruited and retained. It may seem unfair but it is what the market bears. Eventually the lower paid, more deserving coaches will use these offers as leverage for bigger contracts themselves.
  • Caldwell
    Caldwell was interviewed by a couple of different teams and is why the Colts made him head coach in waiting.
  • It makes perfect sense
    The question you have to ask yourself is what would the market have been for Jim Caldwell if the Colts had not hired him to replace Dungy? I don't disagree that there were teams interested in him and maybe he would have landed a job somewhere eventually. However, he was definitely not the hot candidate Harbaugh was so the market would not have offered him anywhere near the money Harbaugh can get now. Caldwell had not track record of being able to build a winning team as a head coach and would have been looked at as a bigger risk than Harbaugh by many. Plus, Harbaugh is certainly a bigger name than Jim Caldwell was or probably even is now. And, like it or not, that is worth some money in the market.

    Now, the million dollar question (no pun intended) is whether it really matters much who the coach is with Peyton Manning running the show? Obviously you need someone decent but I'm not sure that there aren't plenty of other head coaches that would have the same level of success with Manning.

    Caldwell isn't even done with his second year as a head coach yet. It's possible that Irsay might reward Caldwell with a better deal in the offseson if the Colts have a nice playoff run.

    You've got to ask yourself how much of a bidding war there would be right now for Jim Caldwell if he was open to moving. I'm guessing it wouldn't be nearly on the level of what Harbaugh is seeing. For better or worse, Caldwell will never prove himself completely until you see what he can do over the long term without Manning.
    • Puppet
      The smart money says Caldwell is no more than a puppet of Irsey and Manning. A high school coach could be on the side lines and win.I like Jim bt I tellyou this the man shows no personality ad a true winner i.e.-super bowl winner are all pretty much teams who mirror their head coach who shows passion and excitement unlike Caldwell.
    • Yep
      I'm sure Harbaugh wouldn't call a bonehead timeout with the season on the line that would allow the opponent to advance the ball 20 more yards down the field.
    • Caldwell is flat-out stupid
      And what makes it worse is that JIM CALDWELL DOESN'T EVEN LEARN FROM HIS MISTAKES! When asked in the postgame Q&A about the timeout, he said he "wanted to name them snap the ball as many times as possible". He still doesn't realize that the timeout allowed them to talk it over & take a shot downfield. If Caldwell does NOTHING, the Jets hurry to run another play (probably a run or a short throw) & then use their final timeout. But it's a 45-50 yard FG, not an easy 32 yarder!

      You could tell by Peyton's reaction on the sideline that he disagreed with the timeout. I will always trust Manning's football intelligence over Caldwell-- the guy who went 26-63 in his only other head coaching stint.
    • Jim Caldwell
      And what does Jim Caldwell do for 3.5m?" Too bad he can't go on and get Harbaugh at whatever price--so someone--to replace him. He would never have had that job had it not been for Dungy--he wasn't a great coach either. He is a great person not a great coach. PEYTON MANNING IS QUARTERBACK AND COACH--he is too great of a person to ever say that. When Peyton leaves, they will have to hire a coach.
      just ran across this old post , I would say at this point Harbaugh is 4 times the coach Caldwell is

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