The head coaching edition of musical chairs is beginning to heat up. The New York Giants unexpectedly joined the fray when they fired Joe Judge on Tuesday afternoon. The Giants now join other franchises such as the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Dolphins as teams that are searching for a new head honcho. The interview process has already begun in rather intense fashion, with several high-level candidates being sought out ranging from Dan Quinn to Nathaniel Hackett.
One of the hottest names on the campaign trail is former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who has been away from the professional game since he departed the 49ers at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Harbaugh went through a messy breakup with former 49ers (and current Jaguars) general manager Trent Baalke and hasn't been spotted on an NFL sideline since. Reports indicate that Harbaugh may be considering a return to the NFL. If proven true, his services will undeniably be in high demand as his reputation remains in good standing following all he achieved throughout his largely successful tenure with the 49ers.
Bovada recently updated their odds for where Harbaugh will coach in 2022. They are as follows:
- Michigan Wolverines (-370)
- Chicago Bears (+600)
- Denver Broncos (+1200)
- Miami Dolphins (+1200)
- Minnesota Vikings (+1000)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (+1400)
- New York Giants (+500)
Dolphins owner (and former Michigan graduate) Stephen Ross has already confirmed he won’t be pursuing Harbaugh, as he prefers to witness him continue his coaching career at Michigan. With that in mind, these two alternative destinations especially caught our eye.
THE FAVORITE AND MY PICK: MICHIGAN
As much as we'd love to see Harbaugh make a triumphant return to the NFL, it's difficult to envision him actually leaving the comforts of Michigan. Reports of Harbaugh plotting a return to the NFL scream ‘smoke screen’ and ‘negotiation tactic’ above anything else. Harbaugh is reportedly searching for a hefty and lucrative contract extension that would include a significant pay raise.
Harbaugh took a pay cut to remain at Michigan for the 2021 season, but the Palo Alto, California native holds all the leverage after catapulting Michigan through a dream-like campaign that resulted in their first postseason berth under the current College Football Playoff format. The Wolverines experienced their most successful season in nearly two decades under Harbaugh while embarking on a successful campaign that saw them capture their first Big Ten Championship since 2004. Harbaugh also finally overcame his biggest obstacle, defeating their oldest rival Ohio State in Ann Arbor for the first time since 2011.
Things could have hardly gone any better for Harbaugh and the Wolverines in 2021. He knows it, and his agents do too.
THE NO. 1 CONTENDER: CHICAGO BEARS
The likeliest job to lure Harbaugh away from the collegiate game and back to the professional ranks is undeniably located in Chicago—and the oddsmakers agree. The Bears own one of the more intriguing openings thanks to the presence of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who flashed all of the tools necessary in his debut season.
Furthermore, Harbaugh began his playing career as a quarterback in Chicago after the Bears made him a first-round selection in the 1987 NFL Draft. Harbaugh spent seven successful seasons in Chicago and was lucky enough to be coached by the excellent Mike Ditka. Harbaugh undoubtedly holds the city of Chicago and the Bears franchise dearly in his heart for allowing him to embark on what's been an unbelievably successful life centered around his involvement in professional football.
Harbaugh understands the value of great quarterback play and the potential to work alongside a promising young signal-caller such as Fields must be tempting. To do so in the city where it all began is the metaphorical cherry on top of this potential pairing.
A WORTHY UNDERDOG: THE DENVER BRONCOS
General manager George Paton has done an excellent job building this Broncos roster to near-contender status. The Broncos possess a plethora of talent at the offensive skill positions, with young talents such as Courtland Sutton, Javonte Williams, and Jerry Jeudy continuing to evolve into dangerous playmakers. Their presence (alongside others) makes this job opening extremely intriguing and advantageous.
When further analyzing and forecasting Harbaugh's potential interest, the presence of John Elway as Denver's President of Football Operations factors into play. As a pair of former quarterbacks that played the game at a high level throughout the '90s, it's extremely easy to envision Elway and Harbaugh sharing mutual respect and interest in working with one another. Elway and Harbaugh are a pair of highly decorated men that likely view the game through a similar lens. This destination isn't currently gaining much traction through the rumor mill as of now, but we wouldn't be surprised if that changed in the coming days.