Jim Harbaugh is in play for NFL coaching jobs again … or is he? Fresh off taking Michigan to its first College Football Playoff appearance, rumors have Harbaugh, who went to a Super Bowl while coaching the 49ers from 2011-2014, itching for a return to the pro game.
Most of them have been attached to one team, the Raiders. But that team, who had Jon Gruden resign during the season, is first concerned about Satuday’s wild-card playoff game in Cincinnati under interim leader Rich Bisaccia.
Now that Harbaugh’s name has resurfaced to re-join the ranks of his brother, the other teams looking for new coaches following “Black Monday” should contemplate whether they can make a real run at him. Here’s a ranking of the openings in terms of what can allow Harbaugh to keep having a high level of success while lured away from his alma mater:
Ranking Jim Harbaugh’s NFL fits in 2022
1. Chicago Bears
Strangely, the 49ers are the team that have employed two former Bears playing stars, Harbaugh and Mike Singletary. The Bears, who fired Matt Nagy, need to do what they can to make Harbaugh return to his first NFL home, the franchise that drafted him as a first-round quarterback in 1987. Bringing Michigan back to the brink of championships is one thing, but rediscovering the Bears’ glory days and pushing them past the Packers is another thing.
Harbaugh could also do wonders for second-year QB Justin Fields, which would come with the bonus of turning a former Ohio State standout into a dynamic NFL dual threat under his watch. Harbaugh finally solved the Buckeyes and may feel he can leave Michigan in a good place The Bears need his acumen and influence badly.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos don’t have a reliable starting franchise quarterback for second-year GM George Paton, but that should part of the appeal for Harbaugh. Denver just fired his former defensive coordinator in San Francisco, Vic Fangio. There are some dynamic offensive skill weapons (Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick) and a strong line in place and the Broncos have fared well in their quick defensive rebuild. The Broncos might be the latest team to be truly “one top QB” away from winning big, much like the 2019-ending Buccaneers pre Tom Brady. John Elway should be ready to make a Mile High offer his fellow 80s and 90s playoff passer cannot refuse.
BENDER: Should Jim Harbaugh stay at Michigan or leave for NFL?
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
What? Harbaugh following the Urban Meyer flop? On on one hand, Harbaugh finally solved Meyer’s former program in college and should be intrigued to show why is superior at coaching on the pro level than his former hated rival. On the other, there’s no way he’s working with general manager Trent Baalke again. Unless the Jags agree to replace Baalke with whoever Harbaugh says he wants, there’s zero chance Shad Khan will even consider going down the college route. It’s too bad, because Harbaugh with Trevor Lawrence would be interesting to watch.
4. Miami Dolphins
So let’s get this straight: owner Stephen Ross, a well-known highly successful Michigan product like Harbaugh, would prefer Harbaugh coaching their shared alma mater so his Wolverine Saturdays can remain enjoyable instead of wanting to win more on Dolphins Sundays with Harbaugh? And he didn’t have someone at the level of Harbaugh in mind when he fired Brian Flores much too soon? Other than the Michigan connection and the appeal of working with Tua Tagovailoa, there’s little reason to be part of this Miami mess.
5. Minnesota Vikings
Will Harbaugh be in the new man on the Minnesota Vikings? No. It won’t look “good as hell” leaving Ann Arbor for the Twin Cities, when he inherits expensive former Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins, who won’t be long for the franchise, and a defense in need of a massive overhaul minus Mike Zimmer. Furthermore, Minnesota ownership also was a bit hasty to part ways with Rick Spielman, one of the league’s better talent-acquiring GMs. Harbaugh won’t get the support he needs. He’s better off beating the other Minnesota for a lot more of the Little Brown Jug.
6. Las Vegas Raiders
Jackpot, baby? Although the team already throws it back to the 80s with “The NFL Today” icon Brent Musburger calling its games in Las Vegas, let’s hope Harbaugh isn’t really “looking live” at taking the Raiders job of replacing another high-profile leader, Jon Gruden. Harbaugh would leave Michigan … to work with Derek Carr? And keep trying to figure out Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and the Broncos new franchise QB to be for several years to come? Heck no. Las Vegas isn’t even the best AFC West destination for Harbaugh (see Denver above). The only reason to do this is if Harbaugh wants to get ahead of retiring to the desert in his 60s.
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