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#pounditThursday, February 9, 2023

NFL teams believe Jim Harbaugh would still consider return?

Jim Harbaugh wearing sunglasses

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

Jim Harbaugh flirted with the Minnesota Vikings last year before publicly declaring that he is done exploring NFL head coaching opportunities, but not all teams are buying that.

Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported on Sunday that multiple teams have begun doing background work on Harbaugh as part of their head coaching searches. One source who is “plugged into the situation” believes Harbaugh would still consider leaving Michigan for the NFL. A source with another team that is expected to be searching for a new head coach agreed.

Harbaugh has not coached in the NFL since his last season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014. His name still comes up every year when the hiring cycle begins. He seemed destined to return to the NFL last offseason and basically admitted that he would have taken the Vikings job had they offered it to him. Minnesota eventually hired Kevin O’Connell following a report that they did not view Harbaugh as a slam-dunk candidate.

Once it became clear that he was not getting the Vikings job, Harbaugh committed to Michigan and assured athletic director Warde Manuel that he will remain with the school for as long as they will have him. That is why it would be a surprise if Harbaugh met with NFL teams again this offseason, especially after another outstanding season and College Football Playoff appearance with the Wolverines.

It is worth noting that one of Harbaugh’s former teams, the Indianapolis Colts, will be searching for a new head coach this winter. Harbaugh played for Indy from 1994-1997. He made the Pro Bowl in 1995 and led the Colts to the AFC Championship that year.

The way the Harbaugh situation unfolded last offseason never really made sense. It was hard to understand how he would go from admitting he would have taken the Vikings job to closing the door on an NFL return so quickly. Some speculated that Harbaugh may have simply been unhappy with his Michigan contract, and he did get a new one. However, that new deal basically does nothing to discourage him from leaving for an NFL job.

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 as the head coach of the Niners from 2011-14. He led the team to three NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl before leaving amid issues with the front office.

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