Bears Rumors: Jim Harbaugh, Chicago Had 'Brief' Conversation amid NFL Return Buzz

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 31: Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh during the Capital One Orange Bowl game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines on December 31, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fl.  (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Bears reportedly may have reached out to University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh to gauge his interest in returning to the NFL.

Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly reported the latest buzz about the Bears' head coaching search Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago (13:10 mark):

"One source—it's not Jim, I've already said I've had some contact with Jim, I didn't ask him and he didn't tell me—but one other source, who is usually pretty good, told me that there was just a brief phone conversation ... between Jim and someone in the organization, which I think may have just been saying 'hi,' may have been trying to read the tea leaves without asking the questions. I don't know, I can't confirm that for certain."

Harbaugh's situation has been tough to pin down since the Wolverines suffered a 34-11 loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

The 58-year-old former quarterback has been frequently mentioned as part of the NFL coaching carousel but, at least as of Friday, he'd yet to formally interview with any teams with a vacancy, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Nick Baumgardner and Austin Meek of The Athletic reported Wednesday that Harbaugh had "productive conversations" with Michigan about a contract extension, but high-ranking school officials continue to "wonder if the head coach is torn" between staying at U-M or going back to the NFL.

Harbaugh previously posted a 44-19-1 record across four years with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 through 2014. He led the Niners to an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII, where they came up short against his brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens.

That success would make him a coveted commodity if he confirmed his interest in an NFL comeback, but time is a factor in that regard with most teams already well into their interviews.

The Bears have already conducted six interviews and have at least four more planned, per Alex Shapiro of NBC Chicago. So far, Harbaugh is not on the list.

Chicago is coming off a 6-11 campaign, but it's outlook is more promising than that record would suggest. It finished sixth in total defense despite superstar linebacker Khalil Mack being limited to seven games because of injury, and rookie quarterback Justin Fields showcased ample upside despite lackluster numbers as part of an up-an-down debut year.

Whether that would be enough to attract interest from Harbaugh is unclear since he hasn't provided any public details about his status, which has left the situation open to plenty of speculation in recent weeks.

Unless a Harbaugh interview is confirmed in the coming days, however, it's best to assume the Bears will end up going a different direction to replace Matt Nagy.