There was a brief spark suggesting Jim Harbaugh would leave college in the dust to pursue interests in the NFL. It coincidentally came before the end of the NFL regular season, and right before coaching rumor season took off. But there hasn’t been much public chatter since.
Things changed a touch today, with a little rattle earlier, when Hub Arkush told David Kaplan on NBC Sports Chicago’s The Rush that he had “a little bit of communication” with Harbaugh. Arkush relayed that the communication was “friendship stuff” that touched upon what might make sense for Harbaugh or what’s best. And to me, the big takeaway was Arkush saying that Harbaugh was “continuing to weigh his options” in terms of NFL opportunities and a return to Michigan. Maybe Harbaugh is indeed still open to a return to the NFL?
But maybe that opportunity resides in Las Vegas:
Sources inside Michigan think Jim Harbaugh would take Las Vegas Raiders job if offered: https://t.co/GjEtkuZMzH
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 20, 2022
Multiple sources inside Michigan football told The Athletic this week that they think if Harbaugh is offered the Raiders head coaching job, he’d take it.
They also know that Harbaugh can be hard to read. Their hunches could be wrong — but they also know he’s never coached anywhere longer than four years prior to his seven years and running in Ann Arbor. They’ve each believed that he, at some point, would want to coach in the NFL again.
If you’ll recall, it was Bruce Feldman’s original report relaying that Harbaugh might be tempted into returning to the NFL. And, yes, the Bears were mentioned as a possible fit. But since the early stages of the Harbaugh buzz passed, the chatter has seemingly, increasingly, been exclusively about Las Vegas as the destination. At every turn, the conversation has been about the Raiders — and only the Raiders — as being in the pursuit of, or a fit for, Harbaugh. I keep circling back to it and can’t shake it. Michigan people sharing concerns about Harbaugh leaving for the NFL feels different. It isn’t like anything we’ve seen in previous Harbaugh rumors in the hiring cycle. This might have some legs.
But at some point, Harbaugh has to make a decision. It needs to be a public one, and it needs to be one that is firm. Because the longer this is out there, the more it impacts the hiring cycle, and it would be nice to get some finality. And let’s not forget about the potential impact on college football: as long as Harbaugh’s name lingers on the rumor mill, the more opposing coaches will use this against him. Recruiting is difficult enough. Doing so with opposing coaches telling prospects that Michigan’s coach is leaving them in the dark when it comes to these rumors before leaving altogether won’t make it easier.
It seems likely we’ll hear more on this soon, and maybe something firm and final in one direction or another. Whether the Bears will be involved is still left mostly to speculation.