Jim Harbaugh On NFL Coaching Radar?

NOVEMBER 23: In an update on how Harbaugh is viewed in NFL circles, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports notes teams initially had doubts before further details emerged on the sign-stealing scheme. Now, however, the scandal is not likely to stop interested teams from proceeding with inquiries into Harbaugh (video link). With the path to an NFL return clear, it will be worth watching closely how many teams make a push to interview him and how committed he is to remaining at Michigan if firm offers do not emerge.

NOVEMBER 16: For the second time this season, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh finds himself in the midst of a three-game suspension. His latest disciplinary troubles have led many to believe he would not be under consideration for another NFL gig, but that does not appear to be the case.

The Athletic’s Mike Jones reports Harbaugh could be interested in a return to the pro game, adding that such interest is expected to lead to interview consideration this coming offseason (subscription required). Jones names the Bears and Raiders as teams which could be worth watching on that front, noting the connection Harbaugh has to each franchise.

The 59-year-old – who was suspended by Michigan at the beginning of the season due to alleged recruiting violations and was recently sidelined for the remainder of the regular season by the Big Ten due to the school’s sign-stealing scandal – was a first-round pick of the Bears in 1987. He spent seven of his 14 years in the Windy City as a player, and has a relationship with new Bears president Kevin Warren. Prior to his current posting, the latter served as commissioner of the Big Ten. Chicago has Matt Eberflus at the helm right now, and though he has received support from the organization recently, his job security has been called into question in Year 2.

Harbaugh worked as the Raiders’ QB coach from 2002-03 in what was his first coaching position in the NFL. He has since maintained a relationship with owner Mark Davis, who will be on the lookout for a Josh McDaniels replacement this offseason (unless interim HC Antonio Pierce does enough in the coming weeks to earn the job on a full-time basis). A recent report named the Raiders as a logical landing spot for Harbaugh in the event Davis followed through on his interest in interviewing him, with the caveat that any longstanding punishment handed down by the Big Ten or NCAA may still apply in the NFL.

The most recent NFL looks Harbaugh has received have come in 2022 (from the Vikings) and this past offseason (when he was the first candidate to interview with the Broncos). Not long after the latter meeting, he made the commitment to remain at Michigan and publicly expressed an aversion to future NFL interest. Having taken the 49ers to the Super Bowl during his long head coaching stint at the pro level, though, speculation has frequently tied him to leaving the Wolverines in pursuit of unfinished business.

Harbaugh (who signed a five-year deal with Michigan last winter) would no doubt command a large share of personnel decisions in the event he were to take on an NFL gig. As the 2024 coaching carousel takes shape in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how often his name comes up with respect to interview requests and the degree to which he reciprocates.

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