I had had an exchange with a couple of co-workers in the hall earlier today that went like this:
Michigan State fan to me: I heard Harbaugh's staying in the NFL? (sarcastically)That's how it works, folks. That's how information gets spread around. Now, add Twitter to the mix...times it by a million, and you have a vague idea of what's going on here.
Innocent bystander to both of us: So Harbaugh's out, huh? (honestly)
Me: NO!!! (emphatically)
Coaching searches are fun for some fans, stressful for most and downright depressing for others. For Michigan fans especially, this one's a biggie. From the start, there only been one name that has moved the needle. And that name, of course, is Greg Schiano.
Just kidding! Its Jim Harbaugh.
While I'm sure there are a few/some/many other coaches being considered/contacted at this point, but Harbaugh is still Michigan's primary focus…no question about it. There's a ton of talk out there that he's most certainly going to stay in the NFL next year. Most of that talk is coming from NFL writers/insiders. That notion is certainly coming from somewhere…but that doesn't mean its 100% accurate.
On the flipside, a number of Michigan insiders seem just as confident that Michigan is still definitely in play.
Just today, Harbaugh was asked specifically about the Michigan opening, to which he responded "Leaders eat last. My number one priority is winning football games." Also…"As a principal, I don't talk about any other job other than the one that I have."
I don't know about you, but I didn't hear a "yes" or a "no" in there. The coach-speak is alive and well in SF…as it should be. JH is not about to show his hand publicly.
The simple fact is, no one knows what Jim Harbaugh wants other than Harbaugh himself…and even he still may be figuring that out. But this is a guy who is extremely competitive who's watched his squad go from great to good to awful in the span of about a year. His relationship with the SF brass has been described as "toxic", all the while he's been coaching with the certainty that he's going to get canned at the end of the year.
I don't know what's going to happen, but the NFL-facing sources have been so strident about things that I know are not true multiple times that I take every new report from them with a grain of salt. If they end up being right it's not going to be because they're super plugged in.Brian also goes on to say that don't expect any sudden movements from the Harbaugh camp sans being fired before the season ends…which probably doesn't make much sense for SF to do since there's still 5 million reasons left to keep JH around until someone (i.e. Michigan) comes a-calling with their checkbook.
But should JH be fired…say after they lose to Seattle this week to all but seal their playoff fate, then it's man your battle stations! for Hackett and Co. It definitely benefits Michigan the longer this plays out. I suspect Harbaugh will remain in SF through the end of the season so they can deal him away rather than eating the last year of his contract.
The Plan B's
Don't you just love how we all just classify anyone not named Jim Harbaugh as "plan B"?
Last time we spoke, I dismissed Les Miles as an realistic option, but that could be changing. Just like 4 years ago and the 3 years before that, there's a strong contingent of folks who say Miles wants to come to Michigan and would take the job in a second if offered. And just like the previous two times Michigan was searching for a coach, the rumors on Miles seem to be swirling both positively and negatively.
Also gaining momentum right now is Redskins coach Jay Gruden. Word is, UM has reached out to Gruden's people. This may all be smoke and no fire, but the rumor is out there.
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops remains on the list.
Other names to keep on the back burner…Utah's Kyle Wittingham. UCLA's Jim Mora, Jr. Sean Peyton is still alive, as is Miss St's Dan Mullen (for now). And Missouri's Gary Pinkel got a thanks but no thanks on mgoblog.