Jim Harbaugh is on a list of potential replacements for an NFL job. In other news, water is wet.
Michigan fans have been through this before. I’m sure there isn’t a place that tracks this stat but I’d bet Harbaugh has been on more lists for head coaching vacancies than anyone else in the last five years.
Things really got serious last year when he interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings for their head coaching job. Nothing came to fruition but as far as we know that’s the closest the Wolverines have come to losing their coach.
The Denver Broncos job became open this week and guess who’s 12/1 odds on becoming their next head coach? You guessed it, Jim Harbaugh.
Now that’s good for ninth best odds but none of this really means a whole lot at the end of the day. It’s not like Harbaugh is literally the ninth name on the Broncos list of candidates. He could be first or not on it at all for all we know.
What we do know is Harbaugh is at least interested in returning to the NFL. I don’t think he would’ve flown to Minnesota just to add up some frequent flyer miles.
But unlike last year, him leaving for the NFL would be a big ole kick in the nuts to Wolverine nation.
Michigan is Now Among the Best
The Wolverines accomplished three things last year that at the time felt like were impossible. They defeated Ohio State, won the Big Ten, and made it to the College Football Playoffs.
But Harbaugh and Co did it again this season. Proving last year was no fluke. This program has finally taken that step towards elite that fans have been dying to see for nearly two decades.
There is a big difference between winning 10 games and making the playoffs. Michigan was able to achieve the former rather consistently. But now have risen the bar of expectation.
And now that they’ve gotten to that state, Harbaugh could just walk away?
Coaches do this all the time. Harbaugh wouldn’t be the first coach to leave a surging program for another gig. And he certainly won’t be the last.
He can tell us how much he loves being a Michigan man and that Ann Arbor is where he wants to be. But at the end of the day that’s all window dressing. If an NFL job is open that he finds intriguing, he’s going to chase after it. As he proved last year.
But the timing of him leaving now, if he were to do so, would really sting for Michigan fans. He just got this program to where everyone thought he would when he was hired. Eight years ago. He’s lost, won, lost some more, taken a pay cut, and now climbed all the way to the top of the conference.
Harbaugh’s Wolverines are a 7.5-point favorite in their semi-final game this Saturday. They have a real good chance to make the National Championship. And then it’s a one game finale where anything is possible.
Michigan’s Future if He Leaves
If Harbaugh were to leave, we have no idea what direction the program would head into next season. I would imagine it wouldn’t be any better.
Changing coaches and keeping the same continuity from a roster standpoint and building off the success of the previous regime is extremely difficult.
Look at Notre Dame this season. They hired a new coach already on staff after Brian Kelly departed. The Fighting Irish won 11 games last year and were on the playoffs doorstep. They fell off in Marcus Freeman’s first season going 8-4.
It was even worse for Oklahoma. Their head coach Lincoln Riley left after winning at least 11 games in six of the last seven seasons. They hired Brent Venables from Clemson who went 6-6 in his first year at the helm of the Sooners.
That doesn’t mean Michigan’s fate would be the same if Harbaugh left. But it’s a very real possibility that the program would take a few steps back after making tremendous strides forward the last two seasons.
Harbaugh has to do what he thinks is best for him and his family. And if that’s going back to the NFL, then so be it. But now more than ever, Michigan fans should be really upset if he were to leave them after this season.