NFL Rumors: Jim Harbaugh Could Leave Michigan; Raiders Linked as Landing Spot

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 31: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Fresh off winning his first Big Ten title, finally knocking off Ohio State and reaching the College Football Playoff, could Michigan Wolverines Jim Harbaugh be heading back to the NFL?

According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, that's a possibility:

"The Athletic is hearing rumblings, both from the NFL side and at Michigan, that Harbaugh might be tempted to leave the Wolverines to return to the NFL. 'I think it's real,' said one source this week when asked about the possibility of Harbaugh being interested in heading back to the NFL."

Feldman listed the Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears as potential matches.

A return to the NFL wouldn't be shocking, even after Michigan's excellent 2021 season. Harbaugh, 58, has deep ties to the league. He was a one-time Pro Bowler who played quarterback from 1987 to 2000 for the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers. 

He also was a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders (2002-03) and the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers (2011-14), leading the Niners to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, where they lost to his brother John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens. 

Kevin Clark @bykevinclark

If Harbaugh wants back in, this would be the best choice for all the presumed openings, and would be an upgrade for a bunch of teams if they wanted to fire their coach to get him. Only a handful of teams should seriously consider doing that, I'm just saying. <a href="https://t.co/3RrpV5NosF">https://t.co/3RrpV5NosF</a>

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

In all seriousness, on <a href="https://twitter.com/BruceFeldmanCFB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BruceFeldmanCFB</a>'s report, when his future at Michigan was uncertain last year, Jim Harbaugh's name was floated to multiple NFL teams with openings. There wasn't interest in him then.<br><br>He's obviously restored his stock since. Would he go now? I don't know.

Feldman noted that along with Harbaugh's previous ties to the Raiders and the team having an experienced quarterback in place in Derek Carr, the Michigan head coach is also "friends with Raiders owner Mark Davis."

And the Raiders might be in the market for a head coach after parting ways with Jon Gruden midseason following the release of past misogynistic and anti-gay emails from the former coach. 

Granted, interim head coach Rich Bisaccia has gone 6-5 since replacing Gruden and has the Raiders on a three-game winning streak. The 9-7 Raiders will qualify for the playoffs with a win this weekend over the Los Angeles Chargers. But the Raiders have shown an inclination toward splashy moves in the past, and Harbaugh would certainly fit that bill.

The Bears, meanwhile, are a mess under head coach Matt Nagy, who appears to be firmly on the hot seat. After going 28-20 in his first three seasons, Nagy has led the team to a disappointing 6-10 record this season. And the Bears have steadily declined since going 12-4 in his first year. 

So if Harbaugh's on the market—and it's obviously possible he'll remain with the Wolverines and continue to build on 2021's success—it wouldn't be surprising if Chicago came knocking.