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Jim Harbaugh giving thought to NFL return?

Jim Harbaugh in sunglasses

Jim Harbaugh is coming off his best season in the seven years he has been at Michigan, but that is not going to stop the speculation that he could leave the school for another job.

Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported on Tuesday that he has been told by sources at the NFL and collegiate level that Harbaugh is considering a return to the NFL. One source said he believes the talk is “real.”

Michigan went 12-2 this season and won the Big Ten for the first time since Harbaugh was hired in 2015. The Wolverines won the conference by finally beating Ohio State in the regular season and dominating Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan then lost to Georgia in the College Football Playoff, but the season is widely considered a success.

There was talk of Harbaugh being on the hot seat after Michigan went 2-4 in a COVID-shortened season last year. The coach then signed a discount contract extension with the school. He could probably secure a raise and extension now after taking the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff. Why, then, would Harbaugh be tempted to leave Ann Arbor?

As Feldman notes, there are two NFL head coaching vacancies that might interest Harbaugh — the Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears. Harbaugh began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach with the Raiders in 2002. He played for the Bears for seven seasons after they drafted him in the first round in 1987.

Still, the jump seems unlikely. Harbaugh loves Michigan so much that he took a pay cut last year rather than looking for another job. He earned a significant amount of bonus money this season due to the team’s performance, but he donated it all back to Michigan’s athletic department.

NFL teams would certainly have interest in Harbaugh, who went 44-19-1 in in four seasons as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014. He took the team to the NFC Championship Game three straight years and Super Bowl in 2012. Harbaugh’s resume is plenty impressive.

That doesn’t mean he wants to leave. Harbaugh was swatting away NFL coaching rumors even when things were going poorly at Michigan. After beating Ohio State and reaching the College Football Playoff, he likely feels he has finally gotten over the hump. The same rumors will pop up every year, but we wouldn’t expect Harbaugh to go anywhere.

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

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