NFL rumors: Jim Harbaugh return, Chiefs make deadline decision, NFC East trade talk, more

  • The NFC East could be one of the busiest divisions of NFL trade season
  • The Chiefs have made one big decision in regards to deadline trades
  • A Jim Harbaugh return presents challenges
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh looks on from the sidelines during the Wolverines' game against Indiana
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh looks on from the sidelines during the Wolverines' game against Indiana / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Jim Harbaugh NFL return to skirt college suspension is unlikely

It's the same thing every year. No matter the circumstances, Jim Harbaugh always seems to come to mind as a coach to go from college to the NFL. Harbaugh coached the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014 and took over as University of Michigan head coach in 2015, where he has been since.

Harbaugh, who was already suspended for three games to start the 2023 season for recruiting violations, faces more possible punishment with the Michigan football program under investigation for sign-stealing, a controversial development that has divided the CFB world entirely.

The easiest route for Harbaugh, at this point, would be to just jump back into the NFL, right? Not so easy. Here is what Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on Sunday morning in regards to a possible Harbaugh return to avoid NCAA suspension:

"The NFL is unlikely to make itself a safe harbor for Harbaugh to escape what could be substantial NCAA discipline, league sources say, raising the strong possibility Harbaugh would need to serve some or all of any possible suspension he could face in college if he returns to the pros."

The reasoning is less reporting from Rapoport and Pelissero, though, and more of an informed conclusion based on past precedent. A situation involving Jim Tressel -- who was suspended as Buckeyes head coach and later resigned -- and his eligibility at the pro level on a coaching staff since he resigned before officially serving the suspension.

The Colts hired Tressel but kept him away from the team for the duration of what would have been his suspension at the college level.

From Rap and Pelissero:

"It wasn't officially announced as a suspension, but in consultation with the NFL, the effect was the same. And the point was made: No one should escape discipline by leaving college for the pros."

So, if Harbaugh is to look to the NFL to return back to coaching in the midst of a suspension for what may have gone down at Michigan, any team that looks to hire him may need to be prepared for him to be unavailable for a number of weeks before officially taking over as head coach.

It's hard to see any teams taking a gamble on a new head coach to start a new season knowing he may need to be unofficially suspended and thus unavailable to set the tone to start a new year.

A possible workaround? Harbaugh could, much like Tressel did with the Colts, join a team as a consultant and serve his suspension in that capacity, throwing his hat in the ring for head coaching jobs the next cycle.

At this point, though, it's all speculative.

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