Jim Harbaugh

Coaching Rumors: Crennel, Quinn, Fitzgerald

The Texans fired head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien last month following an 0-4 start, and interim HC Romeo Crennel has righted the ship a bit. Under Crennel’s watch, Houston is 2-2, and while those two wins came against the lowly Jaguars, the Texans came within an eyelash of toppling the Titans in Week 6.

Crennel, 73, has been viewed as a placeholder for 2020, but he could retain the gig through the 2021 season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. COVID-19 restrictions will probably not permit a traditional in-person search this offseason, so teams hiring a new HC could be committing a boatload of money to a person they have never even met. As such, the Texans might stick with Crennel next season and seek their long-term answer the following year. If that happens, VP of football operations Jack Easterby may continue serving as GM.

Of course, the team has been connected to Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, who is a favorite of QB Deshaun Watson. Bieniemy is widely expected to secure a head coaching job this offseason regardless of travel restrictions, so if Houston wants him, it might need to take a leap of faith. And John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says the Texans will indeed hire a new GM and HC at season’s end, while fellow Houston Chronicle scribe Aaron Wilson says the search remains active (Twitter links).

Now for more a few more coaching rumors:

  • The Falcons parted ways with HC Dan Quinn earlier this season, but it doesn’t sound like Quinn will be out of work for long. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, several teams have made it known that they would like to have Quinn on their staff in 2021, and coordinators who might become head coaches next season have tapped Quinn as their first choice for defensive coordinator. La Canfora says Quinn could rejoin the Seahawks given Seattle’s defensive struggles this year, and he could also end up as the 49ers‘ DC if Robert Saleh gets a head coaching job.
  • Given the financial toll that the pandemic has taken on college athletic departments, top college coaches have become increasingly receptive to a jump to the NFL, as La Canfora details in a separate piece. Names like Lincoln Riley, Jim Harbaugh, and Brian Kelly, who frequently come up in offseason coaching rumors, will again be at the forefront of the discussion in 2021.
  • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has drawn interest from NFL teams in the past, and as of January 2019, he indicated he was not interested in NFL opportunities. However, COVID-19 might make him more receptive to an HC job in the pros, and his hometown Bears could come calling. La Canfora says Bears ownership is high on Fitzgerald, and if Chicago moves on from Matt Nagy, Fitzgerald might be on the top of the team’s wish-list.

AFC Notes: Colts, McCown, Harbaugh

The Colts pulled off a rare blockbuster trade this offseason, shipping out their first-round pick in exchange for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Now, we have more details on exactly how that deal came to be. It all happened quickly, as the deal came together in less than a week, sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Buckner’s agent met with 49ers brass back at the combine, where they made it clear the big man was looking for at least $20MM annually on a contract extension. San Francisco apparently decided right then and there that they weren’t going to be able to pay that, and needed to look for a trade.

La Canfora reports that a handful of teams were in the mix, but Colts GM Chris Ballard was the most aggressive in his pursuit. Ballard was willing to talk contract details immediately, and of course the defensive tackle ended up getting a new pact worth more than $21MM annually. La Canfora also notes that Indiana’s low three percent income tax played a role in Buckner’s eagerness to join Indy. The Colts have had one of the best defenses in the league this season, in large part due to Buckner’s continued elite play.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • It was a very quiet trade deadline this past week, and the Browns were one of the many teams to stand pat. That doesn’t mean front office head Andrew Berry wasn’t working the phones, and he revealed recently during a call with the media that Cleveland came close on a couple of deals. “We did explore a number of different possible transactions. I’d say maybe a couple of things got perhaps within striking distance but either moved away from us or we moved away from it for various reasons,” Berry said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Berry also indicated that the uncertainty around the 2021 salary cap due to COVID-19 played a large part in the lack of trades. At 5-3, the Browns were in position to be buyers at the deadline for the first time in many years, so it would’ve been exciting to see them add a piece.
  • Here’s something we didn’t see coming. The deal Josh McCown recently signed with the Texans is actually for two years, meaning he won’t be a free agent at the end of the year as was initially assumed, La Canfora writes. While it’s a bit surprising considering McCown is 41 and was only on the Eagles’ practice squad until last week, it does make some sense considering the circumstances. Houston is headed into a period of great uncertainty as they look for a new head coach and GM, and McCown will be a steady veteran presence for this rocky transition. La Canfora’s piece makes it clear that the offer was made as a ‘culture’ signing, with McCown essentially serving as another coach for DeShaun Watson moving forward. McCown, who had been participating with the Eagles remotely while living at home in Texas, “agonized” over the decision to leave Philly’s organization, sources told La Canfora. Pretty much everybody seems to believe McCown is going to become a coach whenever he eventually hangs up his cleats, and La Canfora confirms that he is still “very much on the Eagles’ radar as a potential quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator soon after he retires.”
  • Speaking of things seemingly everyone believes, Adam Gase is nearly universally thought be on his way out as the Jets head coach. Whenever he’s officially fired New York’s head coaching search will become very interesting, and one name that is bound to come up again is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has been rumored as a Jets candidate in each of their last three coaching searches, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com isn’t sure it would be a great fit. Although he notes New York interviewed Harbaugh in 2009 and were interested in 2014, he thinks a coach of Harbaugh’s pedigree would likely want to have personnel control over whatever team he heads to. Considering the Jets just recently hired GM Joe Douglas and aren’t planning on firing him any time soon, that arrangement wouldn’t really gel. All that being said, Cimini does point out that Douglas knows John Harbaugh from his time with the Ravens, so perhaps we shouldn’t totally shut the door on this one.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh Denies NFL Interest

This week, a college football blog reported that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was looking to get out of his contract and return to the NFL. On Wednesday, Harbaugh denied those rumors in a letter to the parents of his players. 

I am reaching out to let you know that the recent claims that I am ‘pursuing an exit strategy’ are total crap,” Harbaugh wrote (via Sam Webb of The Michigan Insider). “It’s an annual strategy driven by our enemies to cause disruption to our program an to negatively recruit. By the way, I don’t even have an ‘agent or representative.’”

This isn’t the first time that Harbaugh has been linked to the pro game since taking over the Wolverines in 2015 and it likely won’t be the last. This past offseason, the Jets reportedly went after the ex-49ers HC and the Dolphins were also said to have him high on their list.

Harbaugh led the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games in his first three years as their head coach. At Michigan, Harbaugh is 43-16 overall, including a 3-2 record this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Rumors: Gase, Harbaugh, McCarthy

The Jets’ coaching search technically started with the firing of Todd Bowles on Dec. 30, but they were mulling their options much earlier than that, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY hears. Although Bowles had a contract through the 2020 season, the Jets started doing their homework in mid-November after an embarrassing 41-10 home loss to the Bills.

Despite their denials, the Jets had early interest in Jim Harbaugh, Vacchiano hears. The Jets did background work on the Michigan head coach, but ultimately concluded that he wasn’t the right fit, possibly due to his desire for too much power, too much money, or a lack of desire to leave Ann Arbor.

Here’s more on how the Jets’ coaching search unfolded, plus other news out of New York/New Jersey:

  • The Jets started asking around about Mike McCarthy after he was fired by the Packers in December, but they were concerned about his sensitivity to criticism and how it might be amplified by the New York press, Vacchiano hears. There were also reports that McCarthy would consider sitting out the 2019 season, which may have given the Jets additional pause. McCarthy’s interview was not bad, per se, but Vacchiano hears that he did not hit it out of the park.
  • Adam Gase, on the other hand, leaped over McCarthy with a strong interview in which he displayed the energetic personality that the Jets wanted. Even though Gase went 23-25 in three years with the Dolphins, the Jets did not forget about his reputation as a hot offensive assistant just three years ago, Vacchiano writes.
  • New Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has agreed to a three-year deal with the club, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Before the Jets hired him, the Redskins made a push to land him as their DC.

Latest On Adam Gase, Dolphins

We have heard some conflicting reports about Dolphins head coach Adam Gase‘s future with the club over the course of the last week or so. On December 26, we heard that Gase is expected to remain in Miami in 2019, but just yesterday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that owner Stephen Ross is definitely considering moving on from Gase.

Today, Rapoport reiterated that Gase could indeed be coaching his last game with the Dolphins this afternoon (video link). But Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that both Gase and GM Chris Grier are likely to be retained. And, while it has been expected that the club would at least move on from vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, JLC suggests that Tannenbaum could simply be given another role within the organization.

Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000, and while he holds the GM title, he does not have final authority over football decisions. La Canfora indicates that Grier’s voice could be afforded greater weight in 2019, as owner Stephen Ross has long been fond of him, and if Tannenbaum is fired or moved, Grier may not have a personnel executive above him. After all, since Gase is the one who has final say over the 53-man roster, it seems unlikely that the Dolphins could keep Gase and attract a high-level executive from another club (like Vikings assistant GM George Paton), so Gase and Grier could be calling the shots next season. The two men reportedly work well together.

The lack of top-tier coaching talent in this year’s cycle is one reason why Gase could stay, along with the fact that Gase has done a reasonably good job considering what he’s had to work with. La Canfora writes that Ross remains high on University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh — despite Ross’ public remarks that he would not pursue Harbaugh — and while Harbaugh is expected to stay in Ann Arbor next year, sources close to him believe he will return to the NFL at some point. If that happens, Ross will be interested.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Harbaugh, Drake, Dolphins, Patriots, Hogan

There’s been a lot of talk about Jim Harbaugh returning to the NFL lately, with his name recently being linked to the Jets’ job. While Harbaugh has said he wants to stay at Michigan and Jets CEO Christopher Johnson denied the reports today, it still seems like a definite possibility. It’s the type of high profile job that could lure Harbaugh away, and it’s a relatively attractive landing spot with Sam Darnold entrenched as the quarterback of the future. While Harbaugh is generally very highly regarded as a coach, the Jets should be very wary of bringing him in, opines Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Vacchiano writes that Harbaugh is the “biggest risk” of any of this year’s head coaching candidates, and that his tenure in San Francisco was “tumultuous.” He notes that those around the 49ers organization considered Harbaugh “toxic and unbearable”, and Vacchiano is skeptical Harbaugh could get along with the Jets’ front office. With Todd Bowles a near lock to be fired next Monday, we should know a lot more about New York’s intentions soon.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Kenyan Drake has grown a bit disgruntled with his role for the Dolphins, and wouldn’t say whether he wants to be back in Miami next year, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. Drake is a very talented running back and leads the Dolphins in yards from scrimmage this year, but the coaching staff has never used him consistently. Even with the injury to Frank Gore, his role has still decreased recently, and he got only six carries in the team’s loss to the Jaguars this past Sunday. With Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase’s futures both increasingly uncertain, it’s looking like an offseason of change is coming for the Dolphins. The team is likely to look completely different in 2019, and Drake might not be a part of things even though he has one year left on his rookie contract.
  • Speaking of players frustrated with their playing time, Patriots receiver Chris Hogan downplayed any internal strife and said he isn’t upset about his lack of involvement in the offense, according to Doug Kyed of NESN.com. Hogan played the vast majority of snaps in the team’s win over the Bills in Week 16, but he wasn’t targeted in the game and was reportedly seen slamming his helmet in frustration during the game. He also sat away from his fellow receivers and over on the defensive side of the bench, but insisted that everybody is on the same page. Hogan’s production has varied as he’s been featured heavily one week and absent the next, but he was expected to take on a more prominent role with Josh Gordon‘s departure, although that didn’t materialize against Buffalo.
  • While Bowles is almost certain to be fired on Black Monday following the Week 17 games, the embattled head coach is insisting he isn’t worried about his job security, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Bowles said he had no reaction to the rumors about Harbaugh, and wouldn’t address questions about his job. After four years of leading the Jets, a new era is right around the corner in New York.

Dolphins Will Not Pursue Jim Harbaugh

A report linking another AFC East team to a Jim Harbaugh pursuit emerged, and a second NFL owner is denying that is the case.

Like Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross publicly shot down Harbaugh rumors. Ross told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson he will not make a push for Harbaugh to replace Adam Gase, who is not a certainty to be fired after this season. Ross is a Michigan alum and would prefer Harbaugh stay in Ann Arbor, per Jackson (Twitter link).

This does not, however, mean Gase is safe. The Dolphins are exploring big-picture changes, with those in power attempting to solidify their positions in the event Ross restructures the franchise’s decision-making hierarchy. Another season featuring Gase and executive VP Mike Tannenbaum working together would surprise SI.com’s Albert Breer, who adds Miami is likely to make a change “at some level.”

While it’s not certain which way Ross is leaning here, Breer adds that GM Chris Grier would have a better chance of staying if Gase is retained. Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000.

As for Gase, the third-year HC said he will not lobby to keep his job. Gase and Ross have not discussed his future, per Jackson. Las Vegas had the Dolphins pegged as a frontrunner for the 2019 No. 1 pick at this season’s outset, but Gase has the team at 7-8. He ended the Dolphins’ lengthy playoff drought in 2016 but has a sub-.500 record since, though many of those games did not feature Ryan Tannehill.

Latest On Jets, Jim Harbaugh

The Jets are expected to fire Todd Bowles in less than a week, and they may well be going after an impact replacement in Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

Responding to the Pro Football Talk report, Jets chairman Christopher Johnson denied the organization has any interest in Harbaugh (Twitter link). Johnson said Bowles is the team’s head coach. Although, this does not indicate Bowles will be the team’s head coach in 2019. PFT stands by its report connecting the Jets and Harbaugh (via Twitter).

If the Jets are able to pull off this coup, Mike Maccagnan would be on board, Florio notes. Of course, with the fourth-year GM’s job not exactly stable, he may not be in a position to provide strong resistance here. Frequent tension surfaced between Harbaugh and former 49ers GM Trent Baalke, and that divorce pushed that franchise into a rebuild.

While the Jets are denying this, doing so after Harbaugh said earlier this month he was staying at Michigan, there figures to be more news coming on this front. It’s possible the Jets looked into Harbaugh and learned he was not going to be available, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini tweets. Harbaugh has not addressed the Jets rumors.

Harbaugh led the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games in his first three years as their head coach. The Jets are reportedly willing to give him a raise from his $7MM Michigan salary, as he will almost certainly be the highest-profile name involved in this coaching search.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Eyeing Jim Harbaugh For Head Coach

We heard last week that one unknown team was planning to make a run at Jim Harbaugh at the end of the season. Well, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reports that the mystery team is the New York Jets.

The organization is planning to offer the Michigan head coach a lucrative contract. As Florio points out, that offer would be in excess of the $7MM salary that Harbaugh is currently earning at Michigan. The organization started planning their pursuit a month ago, and the front office is hoping they’ll be able to land an interview. For what it’s worth, Harbaugh previously said that he doesn’t have any plans to leave his current gig at Michigan.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan,” Harbaugh said earlier this month. “We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

Harbaugh had a memorable four-year run with the 49ers, where he compiled a 44-19-1 record. San Francisco made the playoffs three times during his tenure, and they won the NFC in 2012. The 55-year-old was hired by Michigan in 2015, and he’s proceeded to lead his team to a 38-13 record over the past four years. The head coach has continued to reiterate that he has no intention to leave Ann Arbor.

While the Jets are expected to move on from head coach Todd Bowles, it’s uncertain if they’re going to retain general manager Mike Maccagnan. While Maccagnan may be the one campaigning for a Harbaugh hire, Florio points out that the coach may want full roster control if he were to take the Jets gig.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Team Interested In Jim Harbaugh

Could we see Jim Harbaugh back on the NFL sidelines in 2019? At least one team hopes that will be the case, according to a league source who spoke with Mike Florio of PFT.

[RELATED: Harbaugh Denies NFL Interest]

One unknown club is planning to make a run at the Michigan head coach after the season is through, Florio hears. It’s unclear whether he’ll bite, and for what it’s worth, he has denied any interest in leaving Ann Arbor for the professional ranks.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan,” Harbaugh said in early December, adding that he believes the rumors are part of an outside effort to undermine Michigan’s recruiting. “We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

Harbaugh parted ways with the 49ers after the 2014 season, marking the end of a four-year run. He’s also at the four-year mark at Michigan, which is a recurring number in his career. Harbaugh spent just four years each with the Raiders, the University of San Diego, Stanford, and the Niners, so it’s fair to wonder if he’s getting the itch to move yet again.

The No. 7 ranked Wolverines will face Florida in the Peach Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 29.