Keeping tabs on Jim Harbaugh’s name making its way to the NFL coaching rumor mill is a tradition unlike any other here at Bleacher Nation Bears headquarters.
In October 2017, there was buzz about Harbaugh being a Mitch Trubisky fan coming out of North Carolina which led to a rumors pegging him as a John Fox replacement. But Harbaugh remained at Michigan. In December 2020, Chicago was mentioned as a “perfect” landing spot for Harbaugh. It made sense with Matt Nagy’s team reeling. But Harbaugh stayed in college and the Bears kept Nagy. There was even a moment in 2022 when the Bears and Harbaugh were linked again. One report had Harbaugh looking for a “Jon Gruden type of deal” from Chicago. It never came to fruition. The Bears hired Matt Eberflus — and Harbaugh, once again, was sticking around at Michigan.
A new batch of Harbaugh-Bears rumors surfaced in October. One month later, a new round is here. And from two different reporters. Hence, I led with the background on how this isn’t our first rodeo with Harbaugh rumors. So let’s get into it.
Two reports suggest Jim Harbaugh’s potential interest in the Bears
Over at The Athletic, Mike Jones asks if Harbaugh would jump back into the NFL’s waters. With all of this suspension chatter and constant annoyance from the NCAA, I can understand why this question is popping up again. To that end, this is what Jones had to say about Harbaugh and a potential return to the pro ranks (bold emphasis mine):
Harbaugh is among those expected to receive consideration in the next hiring cycle, according to a league source who has been briefed on discussions high-ranking NFL officials have had about potential head coach candidates. And two other league sources who regularly talk with teams about hiring and firing decisions said at least two teams — the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders — are believed to be among those that would appeal to Harbaugh. The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity to talk freely about the situation.
There it is! The first report from a national football writer sharing a belief that the Bears are a team Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh would have an interest in coaching next season. That is a spicy nugget. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the other noteworthy detail that there is an expectation that Harbaugh will be receiving consideration for head-coach openings. This is notable because there was an October 29 report from NFL Network insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero saying the league wouldn’t provide a soft landing for Harbaugh if he faced discipline from the NCAA. I love it when we get conflicting reports so close together. It adds another layer of intrigue to the mess.
As does the following nugget from Albert Breer. Earlier today, we were discussing Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus’ place on the hot seat because of an anecdote from Breer. But in addition to hinting that Eberflus would need a strong finish to potentially save his job, Breer made yet another Bears-Harbaugh connection. Here is what The MMQB columnist over at Sports Illustrated had to say (bold emphasis mine) about the possibility of Harbaugh replacing Eberflus:
If he’s gone, the Bears would be out of their minds not to at least explore Harbaugh, who’s built a distinctive style of team everywhere he’s been—his groups at Stanford looked like his groups at San Francisco and Michigan—and was wildly successful in his four years running the Niners. Whether he’d mesh with Warren is the real question. Warren was at odds with the Big Ten coaches en masse three years ago, and as the conference commissioner, he tried to cancel the football season.
But, I do think there’d be a match there.
Well, well, well. Now we have *TWO* recent reports suggesting the Bears and Harbaugh as a potential offseason match. This isn’t to say that it will happen. But if we take those reports and add them to what was shared last month, then we have a total of three accounts from three different reporters at three different outlets sharing similar information. When things come in threes, then I stop believing in coincidences.
In the end…
We have so much time before the seriousness of this matter ramps up. Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus has seven games to put his best foot forward. Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh still has games on his schedule (if the courts allow him to coach). Harbaugh accepted the three-game suspension punishment from the Big Ten today, so he won’t be on the sidelines for the rest of the season. He will, however, be able to be around the team during the week and at practice.
A return to the sidelines for potential college football playoff games still awaits Harbaugh. But so do more trips to the rumor mill. So stay tuned.