Once again, despite Michigan playing in the College Football Playoff, there are rumblings and rumors about Jim Harbaugh bolting for the NFL. Last year, he flirted and came back. This year, those flirtatious feelings could return but he would do well to return to Ann Arbor.
Why Jim Harbaugh Should Stay at Michigan
“Who’s Got It Better Than Us?”
After an uncharacteristically poor 2-4 COVID season, there was word that Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh was on his way out of Ann Arbor. There was also talk that Harbaugh and athletic director Warde Manuel were no longer on speaking terms.
Then, Harbaugh agreed to stay with Michigan and accept a significant cut in base salary with incentives that could bring his total compensation back to where his salary was before the pay cut. Since the 2021 season, the Wolverines have now won three consecutive Big Ten Championships. While they have lost both of their College Football Playoff appearances, this is Harbaugh’s deepest and most talented team since he started manning the sidelines for the Maize & Blue.
After taking over after less-than-stellar results from former coaches Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, Harbaugh has rebuilt the program to where they are now a national powerhouse reminiscent of glory days past from many decades of Michigan football. It is no secret that Harbaugh has had an ongoing flirtation with a return to the NFL. He should stay right where he is.
In fact, it is Harbaugh who uttered the phrase that begins this segment. The answer is that not many coaches have it better than Harbaugh and not many programs have it better than Michigan right now. Add in the fact that the school is working on a five-year, $55 million extension, there is no good reason for him to explore other opportunities. The grass is plenty green in Ann Arbor.
Power And Control
Technically, Michigan athletic director Warde Manual can fire Harbaugh. However, in reality, that is not the case. That decision would be left up to University President, Santa Ono. Based upon his show of recent support for coach Harbaugh in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, that is unlikely to happen. That makes Harbaugh the second most powerful man on campus in many ways.
It’s no secret that the coach is known for being quirky, demanding, and, at times, difficult to get along with, especially concerning “higher-ups”. His relationship with San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke is a prime example and it’s the only example we have with Harbaugh as a head coach in the NFL. That doesn’t suggest it was all Harbaugh’s fault but it does add to his reputation. An NFL owner can promise Harbaugh all of the control in the world, however, that plug can be pulled much more easily than in the college ranks.
Any NFL that goes after Harbaugh is not currently a winning team. We have heard that Harbaugh has a man crush on Los Angeles Chargers quarterback, Justin Herbert. Do we really believe Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to shell out the big bucks for a coach when he’s never done so before? Remember that Sean Payton wanted to coach the Chargers and it didn’t happen. Spanos will in all likelihood still be paying soon-to-be ex-head coach Brandon Staley after this season, making it even less likely he will want to write a big check for a coach. The Chicago Bears are another possibility but they may move on from quarterback Justin Fields after this season.
Does Harbaugh really want to get himself into a full rebuild? He certainly doesn’t have to. The Michigan program is now on cruise control. If he can win an elusive national championship, especially this year, then he really has nothing left to prove.
Harbaugh Is Beloved
Don’t believe it? After leading the Wolverines to a road win over Penn State, interim head coach Sherrone Moore was moved to tears over his love for his coach. Even AD Manuel said it was glad to have Harbaugh back after his second three-game suspension of this season. The aforementioned university president clearly loves him too. If your school president’s first name is Santa, that’s a good sign.
The fans love Harbaugh, too. Just before the settlement between the school and the Big Ten where the appeal of Harbaugh’s suspension was dropped, there was a long chant of “Free Jim Harbaugh” during a Michigan hockey game at Yost Arena. The players clearly love him too with their t-shirts of the same phrase, “Michigan V Everybody” gear and “Bet” gear as well. Why would you leave a place where you’re so successful and wildly adored?
He’s Slightly Familiar With The Place
For those who have been living under a rock, Harbaugh went to Michigan. He famously guaranteed a road win at Ohio State during his senior season and delivered on the promise. When the whole world knew that he and the San Francisco 49ers were going to mutually part ways after the 2014 season, the whole world also knew where he was going. He was given a hero’s welcome upon landing in Ann Arbor and the love affair has continued for eight seasons except for one hiccup in 2020. There isn’t much about The University of Michigan that Harbaugh isn’t familiar with. He has a chance to build a legacy there that will be hard to match.
Let’s hope he listens to the KC & The Sunshine Band song “Please Don’t Go” before he considers going elsewhere.
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