This is the third consecutive NFL hiring period to feature extensive Jim Harbaugh return rumblings, but this one is providing louder noise on the subject. Harbaugh hiring NFL agent Don Yee has set off alarm bells ahead of Michigan’s national championship game booking against Washington.
The Chargers and Raiders have been in on Harbaugh for a bit now. While Harbaugh interest in coaching Justin Herbert has surfaced, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz notes a return to the Raiders is also believed to hold appeal for the nine-year Michigan HC. Both AFC West teams appear likely to request interviews with Harbaugh, who can meet with teams before coaches on NFL staffs, who must wait until after the divisional round to go through interviews due to an NFL timetable adjustment to its coaching calendar.
Like the Bolts, Harbaugh has a history with the Raiders. Finishing his on-field playing career with the Chargers in 2000, Harbaugh moved directly into coaching in 2002. The Raiders gave Harbaugh his first gig, hiring him as quarterbacks coach on Bill Callahan‘s staff. Harbaugh stayed two years, moving to the college ranks in 2004. The Raiders were connected to Harbaugh during the hiring period that produced the Josh McDaniels choice as well.
Mark Davis has shown support for Pierce, but the second-generation owner has been tied to taking another big swing to fill this position. Considering Pierce’s limited experience, that checks out. Indeed, Schultz adds Pierce has received internal support but offers that Harbaugh is “at or near the top” of the team’s list. Following the Raiders’ Week 18 win over the Broncos, Davis responded in the affirmative when asked (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez) if Pierce met his expectations of leading and delegating effectively, indicating “there is no question about it,” during his interim stretch.
Pierce went 5-4 as Raiders HC, being far more popular among Raider players compared to McDaniels. But his limited experience — and no NFL team opting to keep an interim HC since 2017 (Doug Marrone, Jaguars) — provide an uphill battle.
It will also be interesting to see how much power the Raiders and Chargers would be willing to give Harbaugh, who has multiple Michigan extension offers on the table. With Harbaugh’s interviews with the Vikings (2022) and Broncos (2023) not leading to jobs, Michigan will certainly be prepared to put a full-court press on the popular but polarizing leader should the Raiders and Chargers move aggressively. That would naturally lead to Harbaugh wanting significant say in terms of personnel and front office staffing.
Once the Wolverines’ season wraps tonight, this situation will accelerate. Will Harbaugh, who could be facing additional sanctions in connection with Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal, make the move back to the NFL this year?