Jim Harbaugh has won everywhere he has been, but he has never been at any place longer than his alma mater of Michigan in his one-of-a-kind coaching career. He not only helped transform a downtrodden Wolverines program in the wake of the Brady Hoke disaster, but has Michigan as a perennial College Football Playoff team over the last three years. However, he has been scandalous.
While his three-game self-imposed suspension over some burgers was one thing, this latest scandal surrounding illegal advanced scouting and sign-stealing could lead to his departure from his alma mater. News of this latest Michigan scandal first broke on Thursday, ahead of the Wolverines' big in-state rivalry game vs. little brother Michigan State. Of course, the Spartans are not alone in this mess.
Whether it be Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano acting very strange at halftime during the Scarlet Knights' loss to Michigan a month ago, or how Michigan State almost did not want to play this game, something really fishy is going on in Ann Arbor. It is clear that the NCAA and the rest of the Big Ten coaches want Harbaugh gone. So we do have to wonder if he will be returning to the NFL here soon.
ESPN's Paul Finebaum said on Get Up Friday morning that he expects Harbaugh is leaving college.
“Considering that Jim Harbaugh has really proven all the critics and skeptics wrong by the run to the playoffs the last couple of years, and possibly again this year? I think he’s going to leave college football and go back to the NFL. I think he has had enough of what this sport is really all about, the way it’s operated, and the thin line that the NCAA uses to go after people. Clearly, he is in their crosshairs."
With the way that the college game does things, it is clear that Harbaugh's coaching tactics might be better served for the pro game going forward. With the right offer, Finebaum thinks he will bounce.
“I think he is going to look around like he has the last two seasons. If he gets the offer he wants? He is going to depart college football at the end of this season.”
Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings two offseasons ago, on National Signing Day nonetheless, and garnered some interest from the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts openings.
Should Harbaugh leave for the NFL after this year, one team to keep an eye on is the Chicago Bears.
What other head-coaching opportunities could be available to him at the NFL level this offseason?
Paul Finebaum believes Jim Harbaugh will leave Michigan for NFL in 2024
Chicago is an easy team to connect Harbaugh to. This is the franchise that drafted the Heisman Trophy finalist out of Michigan in the 1980s. The Bears are ... horrific. Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles are about as useful as a wet paper bag trying to bring a dozen Campbell's soup cans up three flights of stairs. That operation needs a complete overhaul, but if anyone can save the Bears, it is Harbaugh.
Outside of Chicago, I would also keep an eye on the Los Angeles Chargers, the New Orleans Saints and maybe even the Green Bay Packers. Harbaugh spent two years with the Bolts during his playing career. Brandon Staley is not the answer on the sidelines for this perennially underachieving team. Harbaugh will cost them an arm and a leg, but just imagine what he could do with Justin Herbert...
The Saints have a proven Pro Bowler under center in Derek Carr. Although he reunited with his former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen down in The Big Easy, it is clear that Allen is not a savvy offensive mind and they may not win a very sorry division because of it. Also, if the Saints do not hire Harbaugh it means division rivals like the Atlanta Falcons or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could. You never know...
And as for the Packers, they do not look to be much offensively without Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback. This is the NFL, but Green Bay is in the heart of Big Ten country. Harbaugh emits Big Ten Energy unlike most other coaches in his profession. Not only could get to stay in the national spotlight in a big job like Green Bay, but he can stick it to the Vikings and the Bears for passing on him.
Ultimately, as soon as Harbaugh decides he is done with the college game, you would expect for every NFL franchise with a head-coaching vacancy to bring him in for at least an interview. Last offseason cycle only saw five jobs open up. We could be looking at something closer to eight. Just remember Pete Carroll left USC in scandal for the Seattle Seahawks over some of NCAA crapola, too.
Harbaugh has been back in Ann Arbor for almost a decade now, but you have to wonder if this is it.