Thursday, January 27, 2022

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh drawing attention from several NFL teams, held in high regard by Raiders, Dolphins

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University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is drawing interest from several NFL teams, and while some close to him maintain he will not leave Ann Arbor, he will not have difficulty getting an audience with owners should the right opportunity arise.

Harbaugh took the 49ers to the Super Bowl prior to returning to the college game, he has deep experience in the NFL as a player and a coach, and he just led the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff. While leaving his alma mater would be difficult, some in coaching circles believe that if he were to leave, now would be the time after finally beating Ohio State and reaching new heights with a program that had not soared previously under him.

Harbaugh is very well liked by Raiders owner Mark Davis, league sources said, beginning his coaching career as a quarterback coach there for the Raiders in 2002. Harbaugh also did great work in the Bay Area while the Raiders were located in Oakland at both Stanford and as coach of the 49ers from 2011-2014, where he went 44-19 and did not have a losing season. Davis has been very impressed by the work of interim head coach Rich Bisaccia since taking over for Jon Gruden following his resignation —  the team could reach the playoffs on “Sunday Night Football” against the Chargers — but the opportunity to land Harbaugh would be attractive as well, according to some who know Davis well.

Harbaugh also has a huge fan in Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who is also a Michigan alumnus and one of the school’s biggest boosters. His belief in Harbaugh is well known, he has wanted to hire him in the past, and if Harbaugh did leave Ann Arbor, league sources indicated he would be tempted to lure the former quarterback as well. Numerous league sources said Harbaugh’s name came up within the Dolphins organization midseason when the team was enduring a seven-game losing streak, and although it rallied to win seven in a row, the team was pummeled by the Titans last week to end any playoff hope.

Ross has long coveted Harbaugh and, at this stage of his life with a succession plan for ownership already in place, passing on Harbaugh might be difficult. Harbaugh also played for the Bears and is well known at Halas Hall, with that franchise pondering sweeping changes and considering a multitude of former players for a multitude of roles.

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