Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh Commits To Coaching Michigan In 2023

This past weekend, Jim Harbaugh‘s name came up once again with NFL teams looking into the Michigan head coach. That led to questions about a potential return to the NFL, but such a move will not take place for at least one more year.

“That time of the year type of speculation, but I think no man knows the future,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren“But I think that people that think we’ve done a good job and are pleased with the job that we’ve done here at Michigan, they’re going to be very happy to learn that we will be back enthusiastically coaching the Wolverines in 2023.”

The 58-year-old has been connected to a pro head coaching gig on numerous occasions since his final year with the 49ers in 2014. That held especially true when his Michigan teams previously failed to live up to expectations, but the Wolverines have now qualified for the College Football Playoffs for two consecutive seasons. This year’s success comes after Harbaugh signed a five-year, $36.7MM contract to remain at Michigan, but the possibility of an NFL offer still looms large.

The closest he came to an NFL return was this past winter, when he interviewed with the Vikings. After failing to land the job, Harbaugh informed the school that contemplating NFL gigs would not become a constant occurrence, and that he was happy to remain with the Wolverines. He has, on the other hand, let it be known that his run to the Super Bowl with the 49ers has left a feeling of “unfished business” at the NFL level.

After finishing the season with a perfect record, a second straight win over rivals Ohio State and earning the No. 2 seed for the CFP, Harbaugh and Michigan have a chance to win the national title this year. That could alter his intentions down the road, but for at least the near-term future, his situation will remain the same.

NFL Teams Doing Background Work On Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh

University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh last coached in the NFL in 2014, when he served as the 49ers’ HC. Still, his name pops up in NFL coaching rumors every year, with many such rumors indicating that he remains open to a return to the professional ranks. On Sunday, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that multiple NFL clubs are doing background work on Harbaugh with an eye towards including him in their upcoming head coaching search.

Earlier this year, the Vikings interviewed Harbaugh for their head coaching post, which eventually went to Kevin O’Connell. Despite all of the reported interest in luring Harbaugh back to the NFL, that was the first time since he left San Francisco that he actually took a formal interview with a pro team. And, with the Wolverines having secured a 13-0 record in 2022 to go along with a Big Ten conference championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year, he appears to be on firm footing in Ann Arbor (which was not necessarily the case just two years ago).

In fact, after his Minnesota interview, the 58-year-old reportedly told Michigan president Warde Manuel he wants to stay at his alma mater as long as it wants him. He signed a new five-year, $36.7MM deal with the school shortly thereafter, a deal that features a number of incentives that he has earned due to the Wolverines’ 2022 success. However, as Rapoport himself reported at the time, the modest buyouts included in the contract will do little to deter NFL teams from trying to poach him.

Of course, there are a number of other factors for teams to consider before making such a splashy hire. While Harbaugh compiled a 44-19-1 record and an NFC Championship during his four years in San Francisco — along with two other appearances in the conference title game — he has a reputation of being difficult to work with. A report several years ago suggested that those within the 49ers organization considered him “toxic and unbearable,” and it is possible that he would want control over personnel decisions. That is to say nothing of his salary, and it is fair to expect that he would shoot for a deal at the top of the head coaching market, which is presently topped by Rams HC Sean McVay‘s $15MM-$18MM annual payouts.

The Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Panthers, Texans, and Saints are among the teams that could have head coaching vacancies in a few weeks, and it’s unclear which, if any, of those teams have been looking into Harbaugh. It’s also unclear if Harbaugh would be interested in any of those opportunities.

Latest On Jim Harbaugh

After failing to receive an offer from the Vikings, Jim Harbaugh will remain at the University of Michigan. For now. Harbaugh agreed to a new $36.7MM deal to coach the Wolverines for the next five years, in theory. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, though, this extension does little to ensure a long marriage between the two parties involved. 

For the most part, the contract is fairly standard. Harbaugh is set to make around $7.05MM in his first year, a raise of more than $3MM per year, with his salary gradually increasing until he reaches $7.63MM in 2026.

The deal is laced with incentives. Winning the Big Ten East earns Harbaugh $500,000. Winning the conference altogether nets Harbaugh $1MM. An appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game or the College Football Playoff would gain Harbaugh bonuses of $200,000 and $500,000, respectively. A national title would pay out another $1MM to Harbaugh. He also has award incentives that would pay him $50,000 if he is named Big Ten Coach of the Year and $75,000 if he is named the winner of one of the national coach of the year awards.

Where Harbaugh’s contract differs from what is expected is in the buyout. In the first year, Harbaugh’s contract only lists a $3MM buyout, meaning if a team wanted to hire Harbaugh after next season, Michigan would only be due $3MM despite Harbaugh having four years and $29.65MM remaining on his contract. The buyout gradually decreases each year until, in the fourth and penultimate year of his contract, it totals less than $1MM.

This low buyout will do little to deter any teams eager to hire Harbaugh. It will do even less to keep Harbaugh from looking. It’s an ideal contract for the eighth-year Wolverines head coach. He nets a hefty raise for his accomplishments in the 2021 season, while ensuring an easy exit for the next NFL team that comes calling.

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints created nine full-time vacancies available this year.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-7-22 (1:45pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Jim Harbaugh To Stay At Michigan

Jim Harbaugh interviewed with the Vikings on Wednesday and was seemingly positioned to land the job if he wanted it. Instead, the Michigan head coach intends to remain in Ann Arbor, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The seven-year Wolverines coach was connected to the Raiders and Vikings’ HC jobs. He spoke with the Vikings about the gig on multiple occasions. This Minnesota connection marked the closest Harbaugh has come to jumping back to the NFL since his 49ers stay ended. The Vikings met with Harbaugh for nine hours, but Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets the team did not make an immediate offer.

Rather than more Harbaugh-to-NFL connections arising annually, the veteran coach informed Michigan president Warde Manuel he wants to stay at his alma mater as long as it wants him, Schefter adds (via Twitter). Harbaugh, 58, has been in NFL coaching rumors for years. This not happening in 2023 and beyond would be a change for the former NFC champion coach. Harbaugh is coming off his first win over Ohio State, which led to Michigan’s first appearance in the College Football Playoff. The decorated HC was believed to be miffed at the pay cut he accepted last year. It will be interesting to see if Michigan adjusts his contract.

Harbaugh surfaced late in the Vikings’ HC search, seemingly jumping to the front of the line in the pursuit to succeed Mike Zimmer. However, Minnesota will need to pivot to one of its other finalists. The Vikes held second meetings with Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, Rams OC Kevin O’Connell and Rams DC Raheem Morris. Here is how the team’s HC search now looks:

Jim Harbaugh To Meet With Vikings, Patrick Graham Gets Second Interview

We’re starting to get even more clarity on the Vikings head coaching search. According to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (on Twitter), Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will get a second interview with Minnesota. Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter), Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will visit Minnesota for an in-person interview on Wednesday.

Serving as New York’s defensive play-caller during Joe Judge‘s tenure, Graham improved the unit considerably in 2020. The Giants ranked ninth in scoring defense, after their 2019 unit ranked 30th. But the team regressed this season, falling back to 23rd. DVOA slotted Graham’s second Giants defense 18th, however.

Harbaugh had a chat with the Vikings on Saturday, and there have been reports that the Vikings wanted an in-person interview with the current Michigan coach. They’ll ultimately get their wish, and Harbaugh will take another major step in returning to the NFL. Harbaugh, 58, spent four seasons with the 49ers before leaving for Ann Arbor after the 2014 season. He has been connected to various teams in the past, but this year represents the closest link to the former NFC champion coach returning to the NFL.

Meanwhile, Pelissero notes (on Twitter) that 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has declined a second interview with the Vikings, with Ryans looking to “further his development in San Francisco.” That leaves four candidates for the job: Graham, Harbaugh, and Rams coordinators Kevin O’Connell and Raheem Morris.

Vikings To Conduct Second Interviews With DeMeco Ryans, Kevin O’Connell; Jags Also Interested In O’Connell

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell will be matching wits in today’s NFC Championship Game. And they are also competing against each other for the Vikings’ head coaching job.

Per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, Minnesota plans to conduct second interviews with both Ryans and O’Connell this week. Ryans, whose unit ranked third in yards allowed and tenth in points allowed in his first season as DC, is also said to be a candidate for the Raiders’ head coaching post. However, with Las Vegas seemingly zeroing in on Josh McDaniels, the Vikings’ gig may be Ryans’ only real chance to earn a promotion to HC in this year’s cycle.

O’Connell, who spent the 2019 season as Washington’s OC before joining the Rams in that capacity in 2020, oversaw an offense that finished in the top-10 in terms of both points per game and yards per game in 2021. A member of the popular Sean McVay coaching tree, O’Connell was a finalist for the Broncos’ HC job that ultimately went to Nathaniel Hackett, and he has also taken a head coaching interview with the Texans. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, the Jaguars also want to sit down with O’Connell.

There is some confusion in Duval at the moment, which is not unusual for Jags fans. Earlier this week, we heard that the club was on the cusp of hiring Bucs OC Byron Leftwich as head coach and Cardinals vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson as general manager. According to Rapoport, neither hire “came close to happening,” and while Leftwich remains a candidate for the job — perhaps if the Jags agree to replace embattled GM Trent Baalke with Wilson — O’Connell has emerged as a late entrant to the race. The 36-year-old is reportedly a “big fan” of Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence, and Rapoport says O’Connell could quickly become the team’s top choice.

The problem for the Jags, as Pelissero notes in a follow-up tweet, is that, if the Rams defeat the 49ers today, Jacksonville would be unable to interview O’Connell until after the Super Bowl since it did not conduct an interview during the week of the divisional round. So, if the Rams win and the Vikings decide O’Connell is their guy, the Jaguars wouldn’t even have the chance to make a pitch.

In addition to Ryans and O’Connell — both of whom were employed by the Niners during new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah‘s tenure there — Pelissero confirms that the Vikes still want to have an interview with Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. We heard yesterday that an interview was scheduled to take place, but Pelissero says the only thing that has happened so far is an “exploratory conversation” to gauge Harbaugh’s interest. Still, a formal interview could happen this week, and Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network classifies the relationship between Harbaugh and Adofo-Mensah — who also, of course, share significant 49ers connections — as a strong one.

Vikings To Interview Jim Harbaugh For HC Job

Jim Harbaugh has only been linked to the Raiders in this year’s HC hiring cycle, but a team in Big Ten country is also pursuing the Michigan leader. The Vikings are set to interview Harbaugh, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets.

This certainly injects additional intrigue into this year’s carousel and adds the biggest name to the Vikings’ search. Before Harbaugh surfaced in this search, the Vikes had already interviewed nine coaches. New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, however, was with the 49ers during part of Harbaugh’s tenure.

Adofo-Mensah began his NFL career with the 49ers in 2013, Harbaugh’s third year with the team. While Minnesota’s current GM stayed in San Francisco long after Harbaugh’s exit, this connection is certainly interesting given Harbaugh’s stature. The Michigan HC surfaced on the Raiders’ radar earlier this month, but not much has emerged on that front in recent days. The Raiders may be moving toward giving Josh McDaniels another chance at being a head coach.

Harbaugh, 58, spent four seasons with the 49ers before leaving for Ann Arbor after the 2014 season. He has been connected to various teams in the past, but this year represents the closest link to the former NFC champion coach returning to the NFL. Harbaugh is coming off his best season with the Wolverines, who qualified for the College Football Playoff for the first time. Given his NFL past and persistent connections to the league, it would not shock if the seven-year Big Ten leader would leave his alma mater and try his hand with another NFL team.

The Vikings finished their Patrick Graham HC interview Saturday. Beyond Harbaugh, no more known interviews are scheduled. The team has satisfied its Rooney Rule requirements, meaning a hire could come at any time. Here is how Minnesota’s search looks:

Jags’ GM Backs Eberflus for HC

The Jaguars have had a bit of turbulence as they try to replace Urban Meyer, but a favorite has emerged as Colts’ defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was the first candidate to be invited back for a second interview. An important aspect of Jacksonville’s search, Eberflus has received a strong backing from Jaguars’ general manager Trent Baalke, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. 

Baalke has a reputation for being a difficult general manager for head coaches to work with. Back when Baalke was the 49ers’ general manager in 2014, many reports of clashes with Jim Harbaugh littered the season, which ended with San Francisco and Harbaugh parting ways. This has made the search for a new head coach difficult as La Canfora reports that top candidates for the job are “only seriously considering it if assured Baalke would be out following the draft.” Baalke has been accused by sources of trying to prize his job security while securing a head coach.

Baalke first endorsed University of Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, but, after O’Brien interviewed for the position, Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan‘s son, Tony Khan, and a high-ranking official with the team shared their issues with O’Brien’s history of toxicity.

With O’Brien out of the running, Baalke set his sights on Eberflus. The four-year defensive coordinator in Indianapolis has overseen a top-10 scoring defense in three of his four seasons calling the defense. Eberflus’s defense was exposed by the very team he’s interviewing for when the Colts’ allowed 26 points in a must-win Week 18 loss to the Jaguars that eliminated Indianapolis from postseason contention.

Jacksonville’s willingness to seriously consider the candidate Baalke prefers points to them potentially wanting to keep Baalke as general manager. If this is the route they follow, it will likely tie Baalke’s future to Eberflus’s. There are still several candidates alive in this search, though. Keep track of the situation by following our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

Matt Rhule Eyeing Michigan Job

With next season looking more and more like a make-or-break year for Matt Rhule, the Panthers’ head coach may be making anticipatory moves to stay employed. Jason La Canfora, of CBS Sports, reported that Rhule, and potentially other head coaches in the NFL, may set their sights on the University of Michigan opening, should current head coach Jim Harbaugh be drawn to Las Vegas. 

Harbaugh is currently negotiating with Michigan after he led the Wolverines to their first College Football Playoff appearance and their first outright Big Ten Championship since 2003. He had signed an extension at the start of the season to secure him in Ann Arbor through 2025, but, with mounting interest from the Raiders, the negotiations are giving Michigan a chance to convince him to stay. The Raiders are searching for a new general manager as well as head coach, following the departures of Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden. Harbaugh isn’t the only target in Vegas, though. He’ll have to compete with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who, despite a season of turmoil, led the Raiders to a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Jerod Mayo and DeMeco Ryans have also been mentioned as candidates.

Rhule’s interest in heading back down to the college ranks of coaching have not quite been a secret. Sources have informed La Canfora that Rhule was watching the situations at Penn State and LSU closely, in case a beneficial opportunity presented itself.

Rhule got his first head coaching opportunity at Temple in Philadelphia, where he had spent years as an assistant under Al Golden. He took his first Power 5 opportunity as the head coach at Baylor, following the scandal that led to Art Briles‘s dismissal. He took the Bears from 1-11 in his first season to 11-3 in his third season and rode that success straight to the NFL.

There are still many situations that need to play out. Harbaugh would have to leave Michigan. Rhule would have to decide to put his name in the ring for the vacancy at Michigan. Michigan would have to determine that Rhule is the best candidate for the position. None of this is guaranteed, but, if it all plays out, look for Carolina to be added to our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.