Why didn’t the Vikings hire Jim Harbaugh, and will they regret it?

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. (Syndication: Detroit Free Press)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. (Syndication: Detroit Free Press) /

The Minnesota Vikings opted not to hire Jim Harbaugh as head coach, instead going with Kevin O’Connell of the Los Angeles Rams. So what happened?

Harbaugh appeared to be a pretty clear fit as the next head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. His interview was more of a formality than anything else, with Harbaugh even going as far as to tell recruits there was a chance he was leaving Michigan for the NFL.

Yet, in just a few hours on Wednesday, Harbaugh went from the obvious favorite for the Vikings job to calling Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel to let him know he was committed to staying in Ann Arbor.

What happened in those few hours?

Vikings, Jim Harbaugh were a bad fit from the start

Harbaugh’s connection with Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made him an instant favorite for the Vikings job when the former was hired as their general manager. Yet, there were some in the Vikings head coaching search firm who weren’t comfortable with Harbaugh’s eccentric personality. Chad Graff and Jon Krawczynski, who cover the Vikings for The Athletic, made this abundantly clear in their reporting.

"“There were some in the organization who wondered if his hard-driving ways, which had been known to grind on those around him in San Francisco and Ann Arbor, would fit in Minnesota after the Vikings had just extricated themselves from the tension-filled end of the Zimmer-Rick Spielman regime.”"

Perhaps the most telling suggestion here is that Vikings ownership wasn’t completely sold on Harbaugh. If anything, they were intimidated by his previous clash with the front office in San Francisco, and despite backing from Adofo-Mensah, didn’t trust their new GM to make such an impactful decision on his own.

The Vikings asked Harbaugh hard questions about his previous tenure, and clearly weren’t satisfied with the answers. Fair or not, by the end of his interview, it was clear he wasn’t the man for the job.

O’Connell, meanwhile, had aced the Vikings interview and was everything they were looking for in a head coach. His history with Kirk Cousins only sweetened the deal. His lack of history elsewhere — unlike Harbaugh, whose past drama in San Francisco followed him off the plane in Minnesota — is what got him the job in the first place.

For now, we don’t know if the Vikings will regret letting Harbaugh walk out the door. It’s very clear they let past wrongdoings, and perhaps a poor work environment during the Mike Zimmer era, dictate their decision-making this time around.

Next. Potential Kirk Cousins replacement impresses at first day of Senior Bowl practice. dark