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Jim Harbaugh rumors: will Michigan coach leave Wolverines for NFL return?

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The 2021 college football coaching carousel is not yet done.

According to a Tuesday report from Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh – fresh off the Wolverines lead for their first college football playoff spot and first ‘The Game’ win since 2011 – ” might be tempted to leave the Wolverines to return. at the NFL. “

Feldman, citing NFL and Michigan sources, speculated that perhaps the time was right for Harbaugh to return to the NFL, where he coached the 49ers for four years as a head coach between collegiate stops in Stanford and Michigan.

MORE: Michigan, Jim Harbaugh’s Next Big Challenge? Catching up with the SEC after Georgia blowout loss

“I think it’s real,” a source told Feldman of Harbaugh’s interest in the NFL.

Feldman in his report speculated that Harbaugh probably wouldn’t quit his alma mater, where he played from 1982 to 1986, without first beating Ohio State. The Wolverines finally broke through for Harbaugh’s first win in this series – and Michigan’s first win since 2011 – with a 42-27 destruction of the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. A week later, Michigan defeated Iowa 42-3 for the team’s first Big Ten Championship since 2003.

Michigan capitalized on those wins to move up to second in the playoffs, but couldn’t beat third Georgia, losing 38-11 to 12-2 this season. It was Harbaugh’s fourth season with at least 10 wins. He averages 9.8 wins per season outside of the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign, when Michigan got 2-4.

MORE: Jim Harbaugh’s Salary and Net Worth: Here’s How Much Money the Michigan Coach Made in 2021

All of this to say that Harbaugh’s stock has never been higher since his return to Michigan. That, coupled with his proven success at the NFL level (he went 44-19-1 in four seasons and led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in his second season) could make him an intriguing target for several teams in need. of a trainer. Indeed, Feldman reported that several people over the years have indicated that he will eventually make a comeback in the NFL.

And there is no shortage of teams out there who could use his services.

Feldman viewed the Raiders as a prime destination for Harbaugh, given he made his coaching debut there as quarterbacks coach in 2002-03 under Bill Callahan. Another potential landing point is Chicago, who drafted Harbaugh with the 26th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft and for whom he played from 1987 to 1993.

These two organizations also make sense as their future quarterback (Derek Carr with the Raiders, Justin Fields with the Bears) is already in tow.

Another team in search of a coach is the Jaguars, who fired Urban Meyer in a disastrous experience that did not last a year in Jacksonville. Other teams that might decide to quit their coaches include the Browns (Kevin Stefanski), Giants (Joe Judge) and, potentially, the Seahawks (Pete Carroll).

MORE: Michigan & Jim Harbaugh Finally Give Ohio State Rivalry A Much-Needed ‘Fresh Start’

It’s also worth considering Harbaugh’s Michigan contract amid rumors of an NFL return. Harbaugh suffered a significant pay cut in 2021 following a disastrous 2-4 campaign. His base salary increased from $ 8 million in 2020 to $ 4 million in 2021, and awarded him a $ 1 million bonus for winning the Big Ten Championship and a $ 500,000 bonus for winning the Big Division. Ten East and reached the playoffs. Harbaugh ultimately used these bonuses to pay Michigan Sports Department staff.

Another notable aspect of his contract negotiation: his buyout was reduced to $ 2 million in 2021, and will be reduced by $ 500,000 each year until 2025. That would be a good deal for any NFL team that wanted bring in Harbaugh. To that end, reporter Scott Bell reported that Michigan is willing to pay Harbaugh to keep him in Ann Arbor:

It is not certain that the rumors of a return to the NFL carry weight. But it’s also worth remembering that Harbaugh, following his team’s loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl semi-finals, said it looked like a “start” to the program. It remains to be seen whether Harbaugh will be there to see this through to the end.

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