Not to be lost in the shuffle of Tom Brady’s pending retirement news, another prominent University of Michigan product has been snagging headlines of his own. This has the potential to get wild.
Let’s start at the start, which seemingly came out of nowhere:
Per source, the Vikings are interviewing Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. pic.twitter.com/weN74wPLgj
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 29, 2022
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 29, 2022
Oh. So Harbaugh may indeed be willing to leave Michigan? And it won’t be for the Raiders, who are reportedly hiring Josh McDaniels?
In a way, a Jim Harbaugh-Minnesota Vikings entanglement makes sense. If Harbaugh insists on returning to the NFL, why not go to Minnesota? Aaron Rodgers can’t play forever. There is always a feeling that the Lions will go full Lions and enter yet another rebuild. And while we can be high on the Bears’ upside, they still have a climb to make before getting to where they want to be.
Moreover, if you’re going to make the jump back to the NFL and leave the Wolverines program you rebuilt, you might as well join a power structure led by someone with whom you already have familiarity. New Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Harbaugh crossed paths while both were with the 49ers. The idea of teaming Adofo-Mensah’s analytically-inclined plans with Harbaugh’s traditional football acumen feels like a worthwhile path to take for the Vikings.
But don’t go putting a Harbaugh-Vikings partnership in stone just yet. Not only will the Wolverines presumably make a play to retain their head coach, but another NFL team may be in on it, too:
Hearing from a reliable source Jim Harbaugh will tell the team today / tomorrow he is leaving to be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Could have taken the Minnesota job. Preferred Miami. ( outside chance Michigan pays over the top and he stays ) but bet on Miami.
— Mark Carman (@thecarm) January 30, 2022
Mark Carman, a long-time Chicago-based reporter, hears Harbaugh will be telling his team he will be setting course for Miami to become the Dolphins next coach.
Because … sure, why not? You have owner Stephen Ross being a major Michigan booster who fired his coach at the outset of this hiring cycle and has since whiffed on bringing in some high-profile names that have since gone elsewhere. It is conceivable that Ross, who previously said his team wouldn’t be the one to poach Harbaugh from the college ranks, could change his mind. Heck, it doesn’t take much to talk this through. Imagining Ross hearing about Minnesota’s interest, turning around, and being of the mindset of “If Harbaugh is going to leave Michigan for the NFL anyway, at least I should have it be my pro team” is easy. Perhaps too easy.
All in all, this makes for some fascinating scenarios. Either Harbaugh ends up in Minnesota, setting up some extra flair for the Bears-Vikings rivalry (especially after Chicago swiped a QB and GM the Vikes had eyes for) or in Miami (where Ross previously/unsuccessfully tried to bring Harbaugh in 2011). Leave it to the NFL to have drama on-the-field and off of it on the final Sunday in January.