Table of Contents
Jim Harbaugh isn’t going anywhere in 2023 unless it’s by his own choosing.
As soon as the final whistle sounded vs. TCU on New Year’s Eve, the chatter began: Should Harbaugh be fired? How does that make sense after a 13-0 regular season and back-to-back Big 10 titles over OSU?
Here’s a better question: How does getting rid of Harbaugh because he’s a perennial bowl game loser make the Michigan Wolverines football program any stronger? It doesn’t, and good luck finding a better HC.
Why Would he stay?
The fear (belief?) is that Harbaugh won’t ever deliver a national championship, which is probably true, though that’s not his fault. The SEC is historically loaded, the transfer portal is not Michigan’s friend, OSU will reload, as will Wisconsin and Penn State, so the road to the CFB isn’t going to get any easier.
It’s true that Harbaugh is largely a king in Michigan, given near autonomous control of one of the nation’s leading football programs. It’s a big, hairy job with lots of responsibilities but Harbaugh is used to the limelight. Some might even say he craves it.
But there are bigger markets than Michigan — bigger paychecks too; don’t think for a moment that Harbaugh could not attract interest or top dollars in one of a handful of NFL markets in 2023. From Jim Harbaugh’s point of view, the options must seem tantalizing.
Where in the NFL Harbaugh could go
Ever since Jim Harbaugh came to Michigan, there has been a whiff in the air of his return to the NFL one day, i.e. it has always been part of the storyline. Really, we are just at the point of watching how it plays out.
This is not to suggest that Harbaugh wants to make the move, right now, merely that he has legitimate choices to consider if he does want to get back into the NFL: Consider:
- The Broncos, with a deep-pocketed new ownership group in place, a former Pro Bowl QB, a late 1st round pick, and two 3rd rounders to work with are seeking a head coach, offensive guru, and marketable brand to lead them back to prosperity;
- The Colts and Jim Irsay will need to get serious about finding a head coach at some point (I love Jeff Saturday but he ain’t it). QB1, Edge, and TE will all be on the Colts’ draft board in 2023; these are all positions Harbaugh understands how to use and covets, system-wise;
- The Texans need an overhaul and someone to steward the franchise over the long haul out of the basement and into the light; I seriously doubt Harbaugh is up for the commitment — too much risk, not enough upside;
- The Raiders, if they make a move at HC, make a lot of sense for Harbaugh. The team has talent under contract and can compete with a couple of tweaks, including a new QB, which is a loaded class in 2023. The Raiders are known for taking chances on both players and coaches and offering large, long-term contracts. Sounds like a nice way to retire if I’m Harbaugh.
So, should the Wolverines fire Harbaugh? I say, No, but they should start thinking about how to replace him. Because in 2023 or eventually, he’s going to leave for the NFL.