Before the NFL regular season came to an end, and well before the coaching hot stove began heating up, a report came up discussing Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh and the temptation to return to the NFL. Yes, the Bears were mentioned. However, the takeaway from the original reporting was hinting strongly in the Raiders’ direction. But the Bears stuff wasn’t going away quietly — not by a long shot. Check out all those links for more, if you’re not sure what we’re talking about.
And yet, there hasn’t been much of anything substantive regarding Harbaugh coaching anywhere in the NFL. Ample amounts of rumors, hearsay, and innuendo. But nothing concrete pinning down Harbaugh anywhere. And it has left us (and I imagine others) wondering what’s up with Harbaugh?
Perhaps a conversation between Hub Arkush and David Kaplan on NBC Sports Chicago’s The Rush can clue us in on the latest.
Arkush is the Executive Editor of Pro Football Weekly, a contributor on 670 The Score, a University of Michigan product/superfan, a long-time Bears reporter, and a personal friend of Harbaugh. So there is some depth and perspective to be brought to the table from where Arkush is sitting. Hence, it is worth noting when Arkush says this:
“One other source – who’s usually pretty good – told me that there was just a brief phone conversation between Jim and somebody in the organization which I think may have just been saying “hi.” It may have been trying to read the tea leaves without asking the questions. I don’t know. I can’t confirm that for certain. But it’s a pretty good source. I think there was a phone call. And I think where that phone call ended is Jim’s got decisions to make, and, again, he hasn’t made them.”
Ahhh, yes! Some fresh talking points for us to sink our claws into regarding a potential hunt for Harbaugh.
Arkush makes it clear that, while he has spoken with Harbaugh recently, he did not explicitly ask the Michigan coach about a possible NFL return (or, at least, he’s not telling us that part). Additionally, Arkush clarifies that Harbaugh wasn’t the source for the nugget above. And while Arkush didn’t out his source, he offered up enough to be brought into a discussion. Harbaugh has spoken to someone in the Bears organization, per Arkush. That conversation might have been light on substance, but there was a discussion and it might’ve given Harbaugh clarity into Chicago’s situation. It isn’t much, but it is a little more than nothing.
What might be as important as the conversation Arkush alludes to between Harbaugh and someone at Halas Hall is the contact Arkush had with Harbaugh that he was willing to share. Especially since I would venture to say it captures the moment we’re in at this stage of Harbaugh watch.
“I don’t think Jim knows, Dave, is the honest answer,” Arkush says, regarding Harbaugh’s future. “I’ve had a little bit of communication with him. And we’ve talked about what makes the most sense, what’s best. It’s friendship stuff. I can’t really share any of it. I can just tell ya, I don’t think he really knows. And I think he’s trying to figure that out.
As far as I can tell, Jim is continuing to weigh his options, both in the NFL and at the University of Michigan.”
Hmm. Well, that is a bit more substantive hearing from someone who has had discussions with Harbaugh relaying that the coach is weighing his pro and college options. But perhaps, more important than that, is Arkush sharing that Harbaugh doesn’t know what path he is taking. Harbaugh knows he has options. He can use the leverage of interest from the Raiders and Bears to return to Michigan with a raise and whatever else he wants. Those are the perks of beating Ohio State, taking your team to the College Football Playoff, and being a hot commodity in the eyes of NFL owners. Harbaugh could as easily leverage the Bears against the Raiders. Or even the Raiders against the Bears. It’s a three-way power play that has me tipping my cap to Harbaugh as a potential puppeteer behind all of it.
Is it annoying? Sure. Who wouldn’t want a better feel on this Bears coaching search? Is it enthralling? Absolutely. The only way to follow up the high that came after parting ways with the old regime was to come through with a thorough coach and GM search. It is an added bonus that it comes with a high-profile candidate such as Harbaugh.
At this stage of the game, the Bears have interviewed six head coach candidates and eight general manager options. But Harbaugh isn’t one of them (yet). Although, it doesn’t sound like Harbaugh knows if he wants to be in the mix just yet either. So stay tuned.