Things happened over the weekend. Good things. Well, okay, if you're a 49ers fan maybe not. But if you're a Michigan fan – and since you're reading a Michigan blog, you are…then it was a good weekend.
First and foremost, the 49ers lost (sad face but not really). Second, the Detroit Lions won (happy face!). It was ugly, but they did it. And in doing so, they eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention, which all but seals Jim Harbaugh's fate in San Francisco. He may coach out the remaining two games, but really, it's over.
Michigan is going after Harbaugh hard, there's absolutely no question about that. But if you're Michigan, you can only go so far right now. This is a situation that could change dramatically very fast. All roads were leading to a December 28th NFL regular season finish date in which Jim would be either traded (not likely), fired (even less likely) or bought out of his contract (much more likely) by either Michigan or another NFL franchise.
One can deduce that if Harbaugh was not interested in a return to Ann Arbor, he'd have communicated that to Hackett someway somehow, and Michigan would've moved on. This is a situation in which Hackett must feel he's in a favorable position, because I can only image the calls/texts/emails he's receiving because it's been 13 days since Hoke was fired…meanwhile numerous schools from coast to coast have fired and hired coaches since then.
Not only does Michigan likely feel like they're in a good spot, but they had to have communicated to Jim and/or his people that they're willing to put their deep pockets to good use to obtain his services.
For all intents and purposes, movements/talks/discussions/head nods by either JH and/or the 49ers are happening now. Although as of this post, Harbaugh claims no such talks b/t him and SF brass have taken place. There's widespread speculation that by being eliminated from the playoffs might've somehow accelerated the process…and that is likely to be true, although things could appear to remain status quo until 12/28.
If it's December 27th and Michigan still hasn't hired a coach, then it's academic at that point…Harbaugh is on a plane to Ann Arbor very soon after.
But for now, it's all a waiting game. Michigan, as long as they feel they're in a good position, will wait Harbaugh out as long as it takes…obviously. San Francisco will wait as long as they can, because they have an investment to maintain and the more suitors (i.e. NFL teams) with coaching vacancies, the higher the prospect for a bidding war. And Harbaugh, who could very likely be the one most willing to cut ties immediately, might be forced to wait until the bitter end 2 weeks from now – no matter where he decides to go.
One thing we definitely know, and Brian hit on it earlier today…
If he doesn't end up coming, at least we'll know that Michigan did everything they could this time.That, is for damn sure.
Impact on recruiting? Negligible at this point. Any damage done by waiting this long is mitigated by waiting a little longer. No need jump the gun and hire "Plan B" just to salvage what is going to be a smaller than normal class anyway. Michigan is fully invested in the Harbaugh Waiting Game™ now…recruiting wise, they're going all in.