All of the talk around the NFL and College Football over the past month has surrounded Jim Harbaugh and his possible return to his alma mater – the University of Michigan. With those rumors now confirmed, Harbaugh has become the center of attention in the world of sports.
On the surface, it makes sense. After all, Harbaugh had great success turning around the programs of the University of San Diego, Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers. Not only is Harbaugh a successful coach, but he is one of the best motivators in the game.
All we have heard over the last 48 hours is just how great Harbaugh is – how Michigan landing one of the best coaches in all of football to resurrect their dormant program. The tide is finally turning in Ann Arbor, or so we are told.
Jim Harbaugh has a track record of turning teams around quickly. UM last 3 seasons: 8-5, 7-6, 5-7. pic.twitter.com/2FdU22lx5H
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 30, 2014
Take a look at that ESPN graphic above. There is no denying the success Harbaugh achieved at each stop he has made along his coaching journey. With that being said, there is one glaring fact that should give Michigan fans a pause for concern – Harbaugh is constantly itching for a new challenge.
After three years in San Diego, he ran off to Stanford. Four years after taking over the Stanford Cardinal football program, he bolted for the NFL. And now, four years after landing his “dream job”, Harbaugh is once again moving on.
Returning to his old stomping grounds of Ann Arbor is a great story, and Michigan was in need of a fiery coach with a marquee name. It was an ideal situation for the Wolverines and Harbaugh – and for $48 million, it became even more of a perfect fit for the coach.
However, there is no denying Harbaugh desires more opportunities in the NFL. He now knows he can succeed at the highest level, and after coming up just short three years in a row, there is likely more Harbaugh feels he has left to prove. Going back to Michigan won’t fill these desires, but it will buy Harbaugh the time he needs before returning.
Let’s be honest – Harbaugh could have stayed in San Francisco if he so desired, but he wanted to move on. His need for control and power inserted a wedge between himself and the 49ers’ front office. The challenge was no longer there in San Francisco, and like an adolescent teen, Harbaugh wanted something new and exciting. However, there was no “exciting” opportunity to be had among the current NFL vacancies. None of the teams in the league looking for a head coach seemed like an enticing opportunity for Harbaugh.
- Oakland – sure, he could have all the power he wanted, but this franchise features one of the most futile front offices in professional sports. That would be a disaster waiting to happen.
- New York Jets – not only would he be facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick twice a year, but he would inherit one of the most depleted rosters in all of football, quite the opposite of when he took over San Francisco.
- Chicago – full of disarray and saddled with a moody quarterback and unproven defense, Harbaugh would have a hard time implementing one of his famous “quick turnarounds” with this franchise. Plus, it would take two weeks of training camp before he made Jay Cutler cry.
- Atlanta – he can cure offensive woes, but Harbaugh could be in for quite the awakening if he took over this putrid defensive unit.
So instead of going to another professional team where the pressure to win immediately would be on his shoulders with a struggling roster, Harbaugh could bolt to Michigan and collect his $8 million while nothing is truly expected of his new team until 2016 at the earliest.
But what will happen in three or four years when more enticing NFL opportunities arise and owners come calling for Harbaugh’s leadership? While this year’s crop of openings left much to be desired, the future possible landing spots could leave Harbaugh salivating just considering the possibilities.
Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots.
Just think about it, if a few of these teams could be in the market in the next few years either due to failed rebuilding (Chargers, Giants, Saints), the inability to get over the playoff hump (Bengals, Panthers) or even possible retirements (Patriots).
For now, the addition of Harbaugh to Michigan is worthy of the headlines and jubilee in Ann Arbor – it is an exciting time to be a Wolverines fan. The turnaround in the Big House is about to come, just don’t expect Harbaugh to become another Bo Schembechler. This stop for Harbaugh is not a career-defining move, not is it even a 10-year stop. Make no mistake about it, like his three stops before now, Ann Arbor is Harbaugh’s home until a new challenge presents itself in a few short years.
Maybe by that time, we will all be willing to admit that Jim isn’t even the best coach in the Harbaugh family.
Cover Photo: Getty Images
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