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Jim Harbaugh Leaving Michigan For The NFL Is Reportedly A "Done Deal" If He Receives An Offer

Alika Jenner. Getty Images.

[The Athletic]

"Multiple sources close to the coach told The Athletic on Monday they expect Harbaugh will leave Michigan for the NFL if a franchise offers him a coaching job.

"The coach’s buyout is only $3 million this year, and it decreases each year of his new deal. The lump-sum payment would be due within 60 days of resignation. Harbaugh can be fired for cause if he participates in a job search without telling the athletic director, according to his contract.

"'I think it is a done deal if he gets an offer,' said one source close to Harbaugh."

Everywhere Jim Harbaugh has gone, success on the field has followed. Yeah, maybe he's an All-American khaki-rocking weirdo, but the man can coach football. That much no one can deny. He turned around the shit show that was the San Francisco 49ers and took them to an NFC title game, a Super Bowl appearance and another conference championship matchup in his first three years respectively. Realize that the iconic 49ers franchise had eight straight non-winning seasons before Harbaugh got there. That's how fast he go them back on track.

Had the Minnesota Vikings offered Harbaugh their vacancy last offseason, he'd probably be at the helm of another rapid reclamation project instead of Kevin O'Connell. Harbaugh stuck it out for one more year at his alma mater, led them to the College Football Playoff, and beat Ohio State for a second straight time to cap an undefeated regular season.

Haters are still saying Harbaugh is somehow 100% to blame for Michigan's postseason shortcomings:

Welp. Hate to break it to those folks. Despite Michigan's best efforts and Harbaugh's exceptional tenure, they will never consistently recruit on the level of the elite SEC schools or, hell, even the archenemy Buckeyes. Just not gonna happen. Monday's report seems like an acknowledgement that Harbaugh has hit a ceiling in Ann Arbor. Makes no sense to go coach at some other school. Thus, the NFL buzz builds again.

So yeah…the guy who brought Andrew Luck to Stanford, took the NFL by storm, and restored pride to a floundering college football powerhouse is in the market to make the leap back to the big leagues. Given how monomaniacally competitive and intense Harbaugh is, I'm sure he's been biding his time. After that Vikings flirtation and his impressive 2022 campaign at Michigan, Harbaugh should be second only to Sean Payton in terms of top coaching candidates.

Like Payton, Harbaugh is a big fish who changes an organization's perception of their incumbent coach if there are any lingering doubts whatsoever about him. Two of the actually-open positions at the minute are with the Panthers and Colts. 

Considering Harbaugh used to play quarterback for Indianapolis and their GM Chris Ballard can't get that position right to save his fucking life, maybe someone like Harbaugh can work his magic on whomever otherwise ill-fated signal-caller Ballard brings aboard for 2023. Not like Harbaugh hasn't done that before when he revived Alex Smith's career, only to eventually roll with Colin Kaepernick to that aforementioned Super Bowl berth.

Carolina has a better nucleus of players in place and an aggressive owner in David Tepper. The NFC South is pretty wide-open going forward, especially if Tom Brady isn't in Tampa after this year. Could be an enticing spot for Harbaugh to land.

I'm sure the Denver Broncos will come hard after Harbaugh and could probably make him the most lucrative contract offer thanks to their new ownership's Walmart/Monopoly money. Question is, does Harbaugh believe in Russell Wilson? He'd have to to nab that gig.

Knowing Harbaugh's penchant for competition and challenges, I wouldn't be shocked if the Houston Texans fell in love with him. The AFC South would get a whole hell of a lot more interesting with Harbaugh in Houston. Not even really due to facing the Colts twice a year. More because Trent Baalke is in charge of the Jaguars' front office. He was the exec Harbaugh lost a power struggle with in San Francisco, leading to an unceremonious exit. 

Imagine if Harbaugh took over a largely failing Texans football operation, and started stringing together AFC South titles with whatever quarterback opposite Baalke's formidable coach-QB tandem of Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence. WHAT A STORY. Helps, too, that Houston has the inside track for No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft.

Or, you know, the Texans could stick it out with Lovie Smith and see where that takes them.

The other seemingly likely opening is the Arizona Cardinals. Even though they just extended Kliff Kingsbury last year, Harbaugh is the type of no-nonsense guy who could maybe get through to Kyler Murray and bring out the best in him. I don't see much appeal in the desert for Harbaugh unless he wanted to stick it to the 49ers a couple times a season in the NFC West.

I'm hardwired not to doubt Harbaugh wherever he goes. I would say there aren't many appealing destinations in this upcoming cycle and have stated as much about Sean Payton before, yet Harbaugh has proven time and again he can thrive no matter what the circumstances are. It'd be awesome to see him back in the pro game. All his quirkiness aside, some NFL fan base should be thrilled if they land Harbaugh as their head coach.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok