Rewind the clock to the winter of 2022, and you might remember when Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh nearly a shoo-in to become the boss of the Minnesota Vikings.
This isn’t revisionist sensationalism; Harbaugh to Minnesota was happening per credible sources.
Harbaugh met with the Vikings for hours about 11 months ago and was the odds-on favorite to grab the Vikings top post after Mike Zimmer was fired on January 10th. Ultimately, the Vikings brass, including then-new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Minnesota’s ownership, didn’t seal the deal, and Harbaugh hopped on a plane back to Ann Arbor.
Coach Once Coveted by Vikings Fans Could Join NFL in 2023
Some Vikings fans were through the roof with enthusiasm about Harbaugh as the next head coach, changing their profile pictures on Twitter left and right to iterations of Harbaugh’s face. The franchise eventually hired Kevin O’Connell from the Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams, and the Vikings have a 12-4 record through 17 weeks in 2022 to show for it.
And now it seems Harbaugh will jump to the NFL when the coaching carousel heats up in one week. The Athletic reported Monday, “Multiple sources close to Jim Harbaugh told The Athletic on Monday they expect he will leave Michigan for the NFL if a franchise offers him a coaching job.”
So, what was an initial flirtation with the Vikings may be parlayed into an NFL gig elsewhere for the 59-year-old Harbaugh. The Michigan Wolverines lost last weekend to TCU in the college football playoff, giving Harbaugh a bittersweet headstart to his 2023 plans.
Pro Football Talk noted on New Year’s Day that Harbaugh may have the Denver Broncos on his mind, “Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Denver Broncos have reached out to Harbaugh to inform him that they have interest in talking to him about the vacancy that emerged six days ago, with the firing of first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett.”
The Broncos are a week from capping an utterly hellacious season involving a bad head coach hire with the aforementioned Hackett, a for-now terrible Russell Wilson trade, and a stinky 4-12 record to boot. It makes sense that the new Walmart-branded Broncos would be attracted to Harbaugh as the former San Francisco 49ers coach is a beacon of winning football. Harbaugh was a head coach in the NFL before Michigan, leading the 49ers to three consecutive NFC Championships with a cumulative 44-19 (.695) record. He owns the fifth-best winning percentage in NFL history among all head coaches. Harbaugh’s 49ers reached the Super Bowl in 2012, narrowly losing to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.
The Athletic also hinted at Harbaugh as a candidate for the Carolina Panthers upcoming coach search, assuming the franchise doesn’t deem interim boss Steve Wilks a full-timer in 2023.
Overall, just as HarbaughMania engulfed Minneapolis for about three days last year, some team — perhaps the Broncos or Panthers — could experience the same phenomenon.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).