Skip to main content

Jim Harbaugh says he's done chasing NFL jobs

If Harbaugh's tenure was a sports movie, it'd have ended with him vanquishing Ohio State and riding off to the NFL. In reality, the 58-year-old settles in for the long haul and a fascinating fourth act.

Jim Harbaugh is a Wolverine for life. For real, and for good. 

The former Wolverine quarterback and current Wolverine head coach pursued the Minnesota Vikings head coach with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, scratching the itch that persisted ever since his San Francisco 49ers came five yards shy of winning Super Bowl XLVII. 

“There was a tugging at me that I was once that close to a Super Bowl and I didn’t get it. Some NFL jobs came open. I was contacted by the (Minnesota) Vikings.

“For better or for worse, it was something I wanted to explore. I went in thinking, ‘I’m gonna have 100 percent conviction on this, and if they (Minnesota) have 100 percent conviction on this, then it’s something I’m gonna do," he told Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press.

While many assumed the job was Harbaugh's to lose -- one Michigan outlet reported Harbaugh started saying his goodbyes before his interview/coronation on Wednesday in Minneapolis -- that assumption was not shared within the Vikings facility.

As The Athletic reported, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell aced his interview.

Also working against Harbaugh: the club had just come off eight friction-filled years under Mike Zimmer. Did they really want to dive right back in for more with Harbaugh? 

New GM hire Kwesi Adofo-Mensah worked with Harbaugh in San Francisco, a sign the club wouldn't be scared off by Harbaugh's reputation, given Adofo-Mensah had a front row seat for his final years by the Bay. And Harbaugh's success in San Francisco is undeniable. His .690 winning percentage is the highest in NFL history. 

But, on a personal level, the idea of going to work for Harbaugh day-in, day-out immediately coming off the Zimmer years, just seemed like a big hill to climb. There's a reason why the Rule of the Opposite exists in coaching hires. It's gravity.

From The Athletic:

Sometime around 3 p.m., for reasons that are not exactly clear, things started to take a left turn. The tenor started to change, and if there was any momentum at Harbaugh’s back as he tried to secure the job, it disappeared.

By dinnertime on Wednesday, Harbaugh was on the phone with AD Warde Manuel, making sure he was still welcome back in Ann Arbor.

“I called Warde and I asked him if he wanted me to be the head coach. And he said, ‘Yes, 100 percent.’ And I said, OK then. That’s what I want to do.'

“And I told him, ‘Warde, this will not be a reoccurring theme every year. This was a one time thing," Harbaugh told the Free Press.

And now the 58-year-old Harbaugh settles in for a fascinating fourth act in Ann Arbor.

First, there was the climb. Harbaugh rode in looking to break any norm and hurt any feeling he could find. Michigan exceeded expectations in his 2015 debut, then came within one win in Columbus of upending the Big Ten power structure, reaching the Big Ten Championship and likely heading to the College Football Playoff.

Michigan's 62-39 blowout loss in 2018 led to the second act, when it was fair, appropriate and obvious to act if Harbaugh really could get Michigan to the top of the mountain. That culminated with 2020's 2-4 bottom-out, when it seemed Harbaugh might very well lose his job. In the end, he returned with a cut-in-half salary, a revamped staff, and a humbled persona.

That led to the third act, the 2021 season, when the protagonist overcame the odds and vanquished certain defeat to slay the scarlet dragon. If Harbaugh's tenure was a sports movie, the climax would've been the picturesque 42-27 mauling of Ohio State in the snow at the Big House. The Big Ten Championship blowout of Iowa would've come just before the credits, with the final shot of Harbaugh hoisting the conference championship trophy as maize and blue confetti fell all around him, and the Georgia loss relegated to postscript text on a black screen. 

But real life is not a movie, and so now Harbaugh will settle in for an eighth season at Michigan. He'll have to overcome losing star defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to the Baltimore Ravens as well as the burden of expectations. Ohio State will be back, stronger and angrier than ever. Michigan State isn't going anywhere, either. Was 2021 the exception or the new rule? 

We're about to find out.