REPORT: Jim Harbaugh Might Be Tempted to Return to the NFL (And, Yes, the Bears Are Mentioned)

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh

Even though the Chicago Bears head coach position isn’t yet open, there have been ample talks and rumors about any number of specific candidates. The possibilities range from sensible coordinator candidates, to off-the-wall coaches (yes, plural) currently employed with other teams, to former Bears players.

With college football season winding down and that hiring cycle in the rearview mirror, rumors regarding the possibility of a coach on campus wanting to take their talents to the next level are popping up. Specifically, about a certain Big Ten coach.

No, not that one (although, we’ve discussed him before).

I’m talking about the *OTHER* one. The one who’s been in the NFL before.

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman hears from NFL and Michigan sources that coach Jim Harbaugh “might be tempted to leave the Wolverines to return to the NFL.”

And the options that could be in front of Harbaugh: the Chicago Bears.

“I think it’s real,” a source told Feldman when asked about Harbaugh’s possible interest in a second tour of duty as an NFL head coach. Feldman’s piece mentions the Raiders as a possibility. And based on the framing of the piece, a more realistic possibility than a return to Chicago where Harbaugh’s playing career began. Feldman writes the Vegas gig “might be tough for him to say no to” because of organizational ties, a friendship with team owner Mark Davis, and an in-house quarterback option in Derek Carr that would put an end to the merry-go-round at the position Harbaugh has been experiencing since returning to Michigan. All things considered, the Raiders seem like an ideal fit should Harbaugh feel it necessary to scratch that NFL itch.

And yet, I can’t shake that Feldman mentions the Bears as an option for Harbaugh. Oh, and he’s not alone:

While nearly as far-fetched as the idea of hiring Pete Carroll, bringing Harbaugh back to Chicago is a far more sensible option. (Although, that probably speaks more to the out-of-left-field nature of the Carroll rumors.) Harbaugh’s strengths include things Chicago should be looking for in its next coach. Someone with a history of success. A coach who can build out a strong staff and delegate responsibilities. Somebody with experience handling veterans, young players, and incoming college players. It can be easy to fall head-over-heels for a coaching prospect who is a hot coordinator candidate. But perhaps a CEO type at head coach makes more sense for these Bears in this moment.

Harbaugh also comes with NFL experience, having led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his second year. Though there was obviously friction with the front office that led to his departure to Michigan, he was clearly successful. That is to say, him leaving the NFL in favor of college football was less about him not being able to hack it, and more about a unique situation and a unique opportunity to head up his alma mater at a time when he was already on his way out from San Francisco.

For his part, maybe after seven years at Michigan Harbaugh sees the writing on the wall. He finally got one on his chief rival, beating Ohio State for the first time since returning to Michigan. But after watching Georgia grind the Wolverines into dust during the college football playoffs, maybe Harbaugh realizes the climb it will take to overcome those SEC behemoths. Or it’s possible Harbaugh misses the biggest of big stages and wants one more crack at it.

In any case, the Bears make sense as a possible landing spot. Whether the interest is genuine or is being thrown out as leverage for the Raiders or Michigan, it makes for an interesting hook. And once the head coach opening becomes officially official, then the rumors really figure to pick up from that point moving forward.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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