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#pounditMonday, January 17, 2022

Stories by Dan Benton:

Reported reason for Jim Harbaugh’s NFL interest revealed

There has been heavy speculation in recent weeks that despite his success at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is eyeing an NFL return.

Some may have thought that Harbaugh was attempting to leverage Michigan into paying him more. However, the smoke continues to billow, and that means there’s fire somewhere.

Multiple reports now suggest that Harbaugh’s interest is genuine. And as it turns out, his motives are not money-driven.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that Harbaugh desires an NFL return not because of a larger paycheck, but because he has some unfinished business.

From Pro Football Talk’s report:

As a source with knowledge of the situation explains it to PFT, Harbaugh is watching and waiting to see whether a team with a reasonable ownership and General Manager situation is interested in giving him an opportunity to continue an NFL career that resulted, from 2011 through 2014, in a record of 44-19-1 and a Super Bowl berth. At age 58, Harbaugh wants to get back to the Super Bowl and win it.

The issue for Harbaugh will be generating mutual interest. There are several NFL teams currently in search of a head coach but to date, Harbaugh has not even received an interview request.

That could change when teams like the New York Giants hire their new general manager, but it’s far from a guarantee.

Photo: Nov 16, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky basketball legend Joe B. Hall dies at 93

Joe B. Hall, who won a National Championship as both a player and head coach at the University of Kentucky, has died at the age of 93.

The Kentucky’s men’s basketball program made the unfortunate announcement on Saturday.

“It is with great sadness we share the passing of the great Joe B. Hall,” the program tweeted. “Our hearts are with the Hall family. We love you, Joe B.”

Hall was one of just three men in college basketball history to play on and coach for an NCAA championship team (1949, 1978). He’s also the only person to do it for the same school.

After leaning of Hall’s death, current Wildcats coach John Calipari tweeted a rememberance.

Hall spent 13 years as Kentucky head coach, compiling 297 victories after taking over for Adolph Rupp, who led the program for an impressive 41 seasons. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1978 and SEC Coach of the Year four times (1973, 1975, 1978, 1983).

Following his retirement, Hall stayed close to the program. He regularly attended practices and games, and his statue remains in place in front of Wildcat Lodge, where the men’s basketball players reside.

Image: Former UK head coach Joe B. Hall celebrates his 90th birthday and is presented a cake by UK cheerleaders during the University of Kentucky men’s basketball game against UNC Greensboro at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, December 1, 2018.

Kevin Na zings fellow golfer Grayson Murray with great tweet

Kevin Na is defending his title this week at the Sony Open, while Grayson Murray is sitting at home watching.

That has provided Murray a little more time to spend on Twitter, which he used to take aim at Na.

Although he’s a bit busy at the moment, Na caught wind of the tweet and decided to fire back at Murray. And as he’s done on the golf course, Na took home another “W” over his rival.

In the words if Michael Kelso, “burn!” Or if you prefer Sheldon Cooper, “bazinga!”

But it didn’t end there. Murray also reportedly wrote, “hahah love it little guy! would never tell that to my face” before deleting the tweet. He later returned to tweet, “If they penalized you like they should for slow play you’d never make another cut either.”

Murray had missed seven cuts and withdrew twice in his last nine PGA Tour events before announcing in July that he was dealing with alcoholism. Why he chose to take unprovoked aim at Na, who always chases his puts before they drop, is unclear.

It’s also not the first time Murray found himself in hot water for a negative tweet. In 2017, he was forced to apologize after making an extremely inappropriate comment toward an underage high school girl.

Na has yet to reply to any of Murray’s more recent jabs as of Saturday morning.

Image: January 14, 2022; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; Kevin Na prepares for his tee shot on the 11th hole during the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii golf tournament at Waialae Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri coach showed up in dump truck to impress recruits

Recruiting season is officially upon us, so it’s time for college coaches to pull out the big guns. Or in the case of Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz, the big trucks.

On the very first day of recruiting, Drinkwitz and his offensive line coach, Marcus Johnson, showed up at Lee’s Summit North high school in a massive 18-wheeler dump truck. You literally couldn’t miss it.

The grand entrance does not upstage that of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who kicked off recruiting by showing up in a helicopter. But it did garner the sort of attention Drinkwitz intended.

As Fowler notes, Drinkwitz and Johnson were on hand to recruit four-star offensive lineman Cayden Green, who is widely considered a top 70 prospect in the 2022 class. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, but Green will certainly remember it either way.

Jim Caldwell reportedly expecting to be interviewed for Bears job

Following the termination of head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, the Chicago Bears have been thrust into a search for replacements. To date, nine different head coaching candidates have either interviewed or been requested for an interview. But one name missing from that list is Jim Caldwell.

That is poised to change, however.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that Caldwell fully expects to interview for the Bears’ vacant head coaching job, and several around the league share similar expectations.

Caldwell, who served as head coach of both the Indianapolis Colts (2009-2011) and Detroit Lions (2014-2017), last appeared on an NFL sideline in 2019. At the time, he served as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach of the Miami Dolphins.

However, Caldwell has drawn recent interest. He reportedly interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coaching vacancy after the team fired Urban Meyer.

The 66-year-old Caldwell has compiled a 62-50 record over seven seasons as an NFL head coach. During that time, he’s finished sub-.500 just twice. He’s also gone to the playoffs four times (2-4) and reached the Super Bowl once (2009).

Image: A Healthier Michigan/Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0

Browns coach responds to reports of tension with Baker Mayfield

During the final month of the regular season, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield twice took aim at Kevin Stefanski’s play calling. That, coupled with the team’s 8-9 finish, led to rampant speculation that trouble was brewing between the two.

However, the exit meeting between Stefanski and Mayfield reportedly went swimmingly. So much so that general manager Andrew Berry appeared to commit to Mayfield in 2022 and potentially beyond.

On Thursday morning, Stefanski took things a step further and attempted to shut down any notion that he has issues with Mayfield.

“It’s good. We talked. He’s going to get surgery, which is huge for him, and he can start the rehab process here and get ready to jump back into it,” Stefanski told Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps on 92.3 The Fan. “But Baker and I, I think we work well together.

“I respect him. He respects me. I push him. He understands how we operate. We’ve had two years together, and I think as a team we’ve certainly just had our ups and downs. But I do think that we push each other, and there’s definitely a level of respect there.”

That’s a stronger take than Stefanski had offered on January 7 when he told the team’s beat that his relationship with Mayfield was “no different” than it was in 2020.

Mayfield, meanwhile, has not held a public interview or press conference since January 3. And with surgery currently on tap, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear from him for quite some time.

Image: Aug 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is shown on the sideline during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Ja’Marr Chase eager to tease Justin Jefferson over record

During a 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase tallied an impressive 266 yards receiving. That was good enough to set the NFL’s all-time rookie record for receiving yards in a single game.

Furthermore, those 266 yards gave Chase 1,429 receiving yards on the season. That, too, is an all-time rookie record.

But the record is a little extra sweet for Chase. Not only did it wipe out any memory of his preseason struggles, it also surpassed his former college teammate and close friend, Justin Jefferson, who had previously held the rookie record with 1,400 yards.

“It meant a lot,” Chase said during an appearance on The Herd. “It was a goal of mine. I had written it down and stuck it on my mirror … in college. It’s been with me ever since. Now, I get to go back and call Justin and rub it in his face a little bit.”

It’s all in good fun, though.

“That’s my guy. This is something we always talked about. It’s just a blessing to have the opportunity to be in this position,” Chase added.

Chase may have broken Jefferson’s all-time rookie record but the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver still has one up on his former LSU teammate. With one game remaining, Jefferson has 1,509 yards to Chase’s 1,429 yards.

Browns coach explains why Nick Chubb saw little action in first half

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb saw very little action in a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, and that left many scratching their head.

Chubb amassed just four first half carries and 12 overall. He averaged an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, so why didn’t Cleveland hitch their wagon to Chubb and ride things out? That’s a fair question.

“He got a little banged up with a rib injury,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game, via Cleveland.com. “He was able to play through it, but he needed some rest.”

Curiously, Stefanski had a different take as the team entered the locker-room at halftime. He told ESPN that Chubb was fine physically, which certainly raised some eyebrows. Things became more confusing with Stefanski’s later claim that Chubb had been injured.

So, was it injury or was it performance and play-calling?

“Yeah, it was a factor in some of those things [the play-calling],” Stefanski said. “I don’t want to overstate that either, though. We just couldn’t sustain drives, staying on the field, those type of things.”

Whatever the case, Chubb was underutilized on Monday night and it cost the Browns in a big way. With the loss, they drop to 7-9 on the season and are now guaranteed to finish the season with a sub-.500 record.

Photo: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports