Could Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh have finished his last season with the Wolverines?
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, several sources indicate Harbaugh “might be tempted” to leave Ann Arbor and come back to the NFL following his most successful campaign at Michigan.
Despite the brutal ending to Michigan’s season with a 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl semifinal game, Harbaugh won AP Coach of the Year honors and helped give the Wolverines their first outright Big Ten championship since 2003. He also led Michigan to defeat Ohio State for the first time since 2011 in Ann Arbor.
HARBAUGH RUMORS: Will Michigan coach leave Wolverines for NFL return?
Harbaugh was head coach of the 49ers for four years from 2011-14, leading the team to the Super Bowl in 2012 and losing to the Ravens (who are still coached by his brother, John Harbaugh). While the rumors about the Michigan coach continue to circulate, there are several speculations on where he might end up in the league. Multiple teams are projected to have openings, and there will undoubtedly be more after the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season.
Harbaugh hasn’t confirmed any rumors, and has yet to comment on the speculation.
It’s also worth making note of Harbaugh’s contract with the Wolverines. He took a sizable pay cut in 2021, and his base salary dropped from $8 million in 2020 to $4 million in 2021. However, he was awarded $1 million in bonuses for winning the Big Ten championship and $500,000 bonuses each for winning the Big Ten East division and reaching the playoff.
His contract buyout was also reduced to $2 million in 2021, and will reduce by $500,000 each year until 2025. Is Harbaugh heading back to the NFL? Sporting News has you covered with details on all of the potential landing spots for the Michigan coach:
MORE: Jim Harbaugh contract details: How Michigan deal could impact potential NFL jump
Potential NFL landing spots for Jim Harbaugh
With coach Matt Nagy seemingly on his way out, Harbaugh has the potential to be the best-suited replacement in Chicago.
The Bears initially drafted Harbaugh with the 26th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. Je went on to play in Chicago from 1987-93. If he ends up returning to Chicago, he can help develop quarterback second-year Justin Fields and possibly turn the franchise around.
Since Urban Meyer was fired earlier in the season, the Jaguars are also in desperate need of a coach to right the ship.
After recording 17 interceptions during his rookie season — the highest total picks throughout the 2021 season — quarterback Trevor Lawrence will need more guidance going into his second year in the league. Harbaugh can help develop Lawrence and help give Jacksonville some momentum moving forward.
If the Browns decide to move on from coach Kevin Stefanski, Harbaugh could end up in Cleveland.
While Cleveland’s offense has struggled with injuries, Harbaugh can work with the Browns and remodel the offense. While Baker Mayfield saw some success throughout the season before suffering a shoulder injury, Harbaugh can help reorganize the offense around the young quarterback.
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Las Vegas Raiders
According to Feldman’s report, the Raiders could be a prime spot for Harbaugh, since he got his coaching start there as a quarterbacks coach in 2002-03 under Bill Callahan. Harbaugh is also apparently friends with Raiders owner Mark Davis.
Working with quarterback Derek Carr, Harbaugh can help develop Las Vegas toward becoming more disciplined and, eventually, a winning franchise. However, if interim coach Rich Bisaccia helps the Raiders earn a spot in the wild-card game, he can potentially keep his job.
Seattle struggled with injuries throughout the season and lost several critical weapons on offense. The Seahawks finished the season at 6-10 and failed to make the playoffs with their most recent 25-24 loss to the Bears. Is that enough to force a change in leadership from Pete Carroll to Harbaugh? Both have a proven ability to succeed at both the collegiate and professional levels, and Harbaugh is 12 years Carroll’s junior.
Quarterback Russell Wilson’s uncertain future with the Seahawks could be something Harbaug addresses if brought in to lead the team.
New York Giants
Joe Judge will finish his second losing season in New York this year, and hasn’t garnered much confidence behind an offense struggling under quarterback Daniel Jones. While the quarterback situation may be uncertain with Jones’ neck injury, Harbaugh can lead the rebuild of the Giants’ offense.