Jim Harbaugh coaching destinations: With Michigan tenure in limbo, these NFL teams could take a chance
In the words of Jake from State Farm: Uh, khakis?
Jim Harbaugh’s University of Michigan tenure hasn’t exactly gone as planned: After an unceremonius end to his 49ers career, Harbaugh made a return to the college ranks, and his sixth season is proving to be his worst with Michigan.
There are some conflicting reports regarding Harbaugh’s future in Michigan: At 2-4 and sinking, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio says that Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor could soon come to an end. Others have reported that Harbaugh is rumored, expected to — or has already — signed an extension to remain Wolverines head coach for the foreseeable future.
While the trend in the NFL is to hire a young, hot-shot coordinator, youth is not a guarantee of innovation. Harbaugh, for all the disrespect and criticism — some warranted — in recent years, the fact remains that he’s a proven NFL head coach with a .695 winning percentage and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt. There are much, much worse coaching candidates to consider.
Harbaugh’s fire is a signature of his, for better or worse, which has led to, well, firings in other places. With Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure reportedly nearing its end and a return to the NFL likely in his future, here are four teams with coaching openings that could turn to Harbaugh this offseason to fill a coaching void.
New York Jets
The Jets aren’t just tanking, they’re nosediving into an 0-16 record and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It sounds crazy to say, but the Jets, winless or not, are actually not as bad of a destination for a head coach as Twitter may have you believe: They have 16 picks over the next two drafts, have a franchise left tackle in Mekhi Becton, some promising young players (Denzel Mims, Quinnen Williams), a top pick in the 2021 draft and a boatload of cap space heading into next season.
The question remains: How would Harbaugh and GM Joe Douglas coexist? Harbaugh is known to clash with executives and Douglas is in New York for the long haul, given his contract and vision to see through a rebuild. For the Jets to make this work, they need synergy, something not promised when Harbaugh walks into a building.
A hard-nosed city deserves a hard-nosed coach, and Harbaugh’s motor mouth and the Motor City seem to make a good match.
The Lions need a fresh start and a boost to their “culture” after Matt Patricia’s disastrous tenure as heach coach, and with GM Bob Quinn out as well, a Harbaugh/potential GM pairing could work well in righting the ship. With a team that’s readymade to win — or at least be competitive, if 2020 has shown anything — then Harbaugh could definitely help elevate them in coming years.
Much like the Lions — and the 49ers years earlier — the talent is there for Houston, especially at quarterback. Harbaugh and the Texans wouldn’t have to worry about Deshaun Watson, who’s having himself an MVP-caliber season and has solidifed himself as an MVP-caliber player.
Houston’s GM search offers a good opportunity to pair Harbaugh with someone familiar or who he’s comfortable working with, creating a chemistry between head coach and front office that hasn’t existed in quite some time in H-Town.
The Falcons have played themselves out of contention for a top-five pick, and with Matt Ryan’s contract, they’ll likely keep him in place for at least another season.
Interim head coach Raheem Morris has done a very good job with the team, but Dirk Koetter’s offense has come under fire for poor red-zone play and general decision making. The Falcons are a bit disjointed and have regressed since their Super Bowl appearance, so it’s hard to envision continuity there within the coaching ranks entering the 2021 season.
Harbaugh and Atlanta would be a good fit: There are pieces in place, and Morris has shown that the team can be competitive. With a good draft and a better head coach, the Falcons could be right back in the thick of things heading into 2021.