Jim Harbaugh and the Rams have already been linked. No matter the opening, the successful Michigan head coach will often be the subject of rumors.
The Los Angeles Rams jumped the competition and didn’t wait for Black Monday, as the franchise parted ways with head coach Jeff Fisher before the end of the season. This despite all indications that Fisher was set to lead the team in 2017 after the news of his contract extension went public last week.
With firing season now underway in the NFL, expect Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh’s name to come up early and often in the coaching carousel rumor mill.
That’s exactly what happens each offseason to successful head coaches that have a history of changing jobs as often as their socks. Just ask Nick Saban.
During a Dec. 9 interview with radio host Colin Cowherd, MMQB’s Albert Breer mentioned that the Harbaugh-to-the-Rams rumor “is a very real thing.” That was before the news of Fisher’s firing, of course. Harbaugh is currently preparing his Wolverines for an Orange Bowl date with FSU to cap off his second season in Ann Arbor. He had his Michigan squad in the College Football Playoff mix all season, and it’s a program that has been completely revitalized since Harbaugh came back to coach his alma mater.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke is one of the NFL’s richest owners, so money will never be an issue in his pursuit of a head coach. With a new stadium set to open in 2019, the next leader of this franchise will get paid handsomely. Of course, it is well known that Harbaugh has never spent more than four seasons with one team, so his name being linked to any opening will never raise eyebrows.
While it would not be a shock for Harbaugh to return to the NFL, leaving Michigan after this season would be incredibly surprising. Harbaugh is the CEO of a major football brand, overseeing a product that had fallen off of the national map during its losing ways. The athletic department just signed a mega deal with Nike, and Harbaugh’s staff continues to crush on the recruiting trail. While bringing in top talent is never easy, Michigan recruits itself when the program is enjoying successful seasons.
Plus, this is Harbaugh’s alma mater. If he was at a school such as Oklahoma State and then flamed out in the NFL, he would still be able to get a top college gig afterward. But if he left Michigan, what college dream job is left? Michigan is the college gig for Harbaugh. It’s a setup with built-in loyalty that is pure and rare—a star player who came back to be the head coach at his alma mater.
There’s no question that NFL owners in need of a new head coach will be very desirous of Harbaugh’s services. During his stint in the league, he turned around the San Francisco 49ers and led them to three straight NFC title games as well as a Super Bowl. He went 44-19-1 and never had a losing record in four seasons. This is the same head coach that won 12 games at Stanford—let that sink in for a minute—and has logged back-to-back 10-win seasons in his first two years at Michigan.
After parting ways with the Niners, the thought was that Harbaugh wanted to remain an NFL head coach. He does desire a Super Bowl ring, which obviously cannot be claimed on a college sideline.
Still, leaving Ann Arbor at this point would not be a wise move to make. It’s a dream setup that does not come around too often. If and when he does claim a national championship or two, seeing Harbaugh leave would make a little more sense. For now, just expect plenty of rumors, starting with the Rams and trickling down to any other NFL gig that opens.