We all knew it was coming. An avalanche of news, rumors, leaks and questions surrounding Jim Harbaugh and his soon-to-be former team, bosses, players and staff — as well as his next team and the teams that tried and failed to land him — which will run well into the NFL playoffs.
The first glacier-sized chunks came today, in the form of reports that Harbaugh would take the Michigan job.
Source says verbal agreement in place for Jim Harbaugh to become new Michigan coach. No contracts signed, but UM feels real confident.
— Joe Pequeno (@JoePequenoCBS5) December 27, 2014
Alright, we’ve all come to respect that little white checkmark on a badge of blue quite a bit in recent years. However, I’m going to need a little more than the word of some Phoenix sports anchor (no disrespect intended, Mr. Pequeno) to believe this is a done deal. Verified account or not.
Two members of the San Francisco 49ers staff and a third NFL source said Saturday they expect 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to accept a six-year, $48 million contract to become the head coach of the University of Michigan.
“That’s what everybody on staff believes is going to happen this week,” one of the sources said. “Jim has figured out that his style is best-suited for the college game. His shtick works better with young guys who are gone after three or four years.”
Alrighty then. Seems like a foregone conclusion. Then I was listening to Jody Mac on CBS Radio (just a little something to fill the air while making a sandwich), and Cole was on.
“I’ll caution that … I think this is … I’m 98.5% sure that this is what’s going to happen,” Cole said. “There’s still 1.5% of me that’s like, ‘OK, what are the Raiders going to come in with?’ But I just don’t think you’re going to see the Raiders. I don’t think he wants to work for the Raiders organization at this point. As much as he wanted to stay in the NFL, he’s kind of come to the conclusion that Michigan is his best option.”
Cole went on to say that while Harbaugh is a great recruiter, he doesn’t enjoy selling a spot on a college football team to teenagers. But the prospect of working for the Raiders, Bears or Jets is even less enticing. He went into greater detail in his article, saying Harbaugh “doesn’t believe that Chicago will meet his financial demands.”
If it’s true that Harbaugh is headed to Michigan, I’ll admit I was 100% wrong on this one. I assumed that Harbaugh’s competitive nature wouldn’t allow him to retreat to the collegiate ranks … but I probably should’ve known better than to predict the way Harbaugh would think and act (although I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out when he’ll elect to kick a field goal — just about every possible instance, by and large).
If Harbaugh takes the Michigan job, either …
1. The cheap khakis are just a prop and Harbaugh cares as much about money as the rest of ’em. (A slightly unexpected turn of events, if you believe the 49ers’ offer was lower than Michigan’s in 2011. Then again, it was also reported that Harbaugh turned down an extension offer from the 49ers before the 2013 season.)
2. Mark Davis said something crazy to Harbaugh during their much-photographed/discussed pregame conversation a few weeks ago.
3. Harbaugh came to the realization that he’s not cut out for the NFL. At least, not compared with how he’d likely dominate the competition when all of the coaches are dealing with teaching windows of three-to-four years and the players aren’t millionaires.
4. After years of working under York and Trent Baalke, getting the conquering hero treatment from a bunch of Michigan men felt pretty damned good. (The “Even Harbaughs Need Love” theory)
Maybe my time at UC Santa Cruz warped my perspective on this, and his ties to Ann Arbor create some kind of gravitational force, the likes of which I can’t even fathom. (He does like to talk a lot about Bo Schembechler, now that you mention it.)
But I’m more than a little surprised that Harbaugh APPEARS to have already chosen his next destination so quickly, instead of waiting to see if a better NFL job comes available. The money at Michigan is ridiculous (especially for a public university), but if he really thinks his style is better suited for working with college kids, maybe all those reports that Harbaugh lost the 49ers locker room had some merit.