Harbaugh is hard to read, sources say, and hunches could be wrong, but there's belief Harbaugh would want to return to the NFL.
What will Jim Harbaugh do this winter with an NFL head-coaching market wide open? Almost no one knows for certain at this point. But it's worth keeping an eye on the Las Vegas Raiders. Harbaugh, who has a long friendship with owner Mark Davis, started his coaching career with the team in 2003. He also has family ties to Las Vegas, which is where he met his wife.
Multiple sources inside Michigan football told The Athletic this week that they think if Harbaugh is offered the Raiders head coaching job, he’d take it.
They also know that Harbaugh can be hard to read. Their hunches could be wrong — but they also know he’s never coached anywhere longer than four years prior to his seven years and running in Ann Arbor. They’ve each believed that he, at some point, would want to coach in the NFL again.
Is this the right time and the right situation? The Raiders fired general manager Mike Mayock earlier this week. The 58-year-old Harbaugh, who won AP Coach of the Year, is coming off his best season at his alma mater: the Wolverines finally beat archrival Ohio State, won their first Big Ten title in 17 years, and made the College Football Playoff.
Harbaugh remade his staff at Michigan in the offseason with an infusion of youth and it paid off. The Wolverines blew out OSU, 42-27, ending an eight-game series losing streak, employing the same bruising identity that Harbaugh infused to turn a dismal Stanford program into the bully of the West Coast. The Wolverines followed up that big win by crushing No. 13 Iowa in the Big Ten title game, 42-3. They lost in the CFP semifinal to a loaded Georgia team to finish No. 3. In his seven seasons, Michigan is 61-24.
Unlike almost every other top college coach, Harbaugh doesn’t need to prove to anyone he can make the transition to the NFL. In four years with the San Francisco 49ers, he went 44-19-1 and took San Francisco to a Super Bowl in his second year. It was a dramatic turnaround from a franchise that had not had a winning season in eight years.
A year ago, no team other than Michigan seemed to want Harbaugh as its coach. The Wolverines extended him through the 2025 season but at a reduced rate. Harbaugh's base salary for 2021 dropped to $4 million. He had been paid over $8 million in 2020. He fired his defensive coordinator, Don Brown, and the program seemed to be backsliding by the year.
The new deal afforded him $1 million bonuses for winning the Big Ten championship and the College Football Playoff championship, and $500,000 bonuses for winning the Big Ten East Division and reaching the CFP. Those things, though, seemed so far-fetched a year ago.
After defeating the Buckeyes, Harbaugh announced that all bonus money from contract incentives this year would go toward all of the Michigan athletics employees whose pay had been affected by the pandemic.
Will another new deal with Michigan be enough to deter him from making the jump back if another NFL team comes calling? The people we talked to there have their doubts.Feldman: Sources inside Michigan think Jim Harbaugh would take Las Vegas Raiders job if offered - The Athletic View Story