David Guralnick, Detroit News

Harbaugh Remains at Michigan for 2022 Season

After flirting with the NFL for the past month Jim Harbaugh will remain the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines football team for the 2022 season.

Harbaugh arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday, February 2nd for a formal interview to be the Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Many expected this interview to be a formality, and that the Vikings would present Harbaugh with an offer he would accept. The Vikings job did make sense as Harbaugh had worked with the new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during their mutual time with the San Francisco 49ers and the two had formed a good relationship.

This is nothing new for Wolverines fans. Since arriving in Ann Arbor at the end of 2014 the rumors that Harbaugh would leave for the NFL have been constant each offseason. Early in Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan these felt more like rumors, never coming from reporters close to the program and usually from the NFL media. However the past few years these rumors have gained more traction.

Following a 2–4 season in 2020 many expected that Harbaugh would look for a NFL offer. He was on the hot seat in Ann Arbor as the program seemed to be moving backward. Michigan hadn’t beaten Ohio State since Harbaugh arrived and the games against the Wolverines primary rival were increasingly less competitive. Seemingly without getting much interest from the NFL that offseason, Harbaugh signed a contract extension with Michigan that included a significant reduction in his base pay.

While an extension was signed, talks between the University and Harbaugh were kept quiet throughout the process. Many people close to the program weren’t sure why it took so long to get an extension completed and it left open to speculation that Harbaugh was fishing around for any NFL offer.

Entering the 2021 season the pressure was on Harbaugh and a revamped coaching staff to deliver better results then the debacle in the prior year. In the six years that Harbaugh had been the coach, Michigan had not reached the Big Ten Championship game, hadn’t beaten Ohio State, and looked like a rudderless ship trying to find any direction.

Harbaugh would answer the bell with a 12–2 season in 2021 that included a Big Ten Championship, a victory over Ohio State, and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. The fan base and administration were back to being fully onboard with Harbaugh and now had the results to back it up their optimism. The University just had to restructure the contract that had slashed Harbaugh’s base pay in half, offer it to him, and have him sign it.

But Harbaugh didn’t signed it…

The more time past without a signed contract the more Harbaugh rumors surfaced until it was confirmed that he had an interview with the Minnesota Vikings. Various outlets were even reporting that Harbaugh was going to sign with the Vikings which had many fans and media already running through potential new head coaches to target this offseason.

After the interview Harbaugh contacted Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel and told him that he would be staying in Ann Arbor. Fans rejoiced amid a feeling that their coach is back when he had never really left in the first place. Many spun it is a Harbaugh choosing Michigan when really the coach wasn’t offered the job from the Vikings so it is difficult to truly get behind that narrative.

Regardless of what happened on February 2nd and days leading up to it Harbaugh is back at Michigan for the 2022 season and hopefully beyond. He has told Manuel that this will not be a recurring issue and that he is now committed to staying at the program for as long as they will have him.

Fans can only hope that this annual charade will be finished after this year but as long as Harbaugh is the coach, I don’t see these rumors ever stopping. That’s not to say he’ll be making annual flights to NFL cities for second round interviews, but still expect that his name will come up for open head coaching vacancies in the NFL. During Harbaugh’s time at the San Francisco 49ers the team went 44–19–1, the winning percentage of which is good for fifth best in NFL history and is better then any active NFL coach. In addition, Harbaugh also went to three straight NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. This resume is too good for the NFL to ignore, despite any struggles he may be having at Michigan.

For Michigan to be able to build off of their momentum from the prior season they need Harbaugh to be back fully invested in the program. Maybe this was it for him, a chance to scratch that itch one more time to see if he still wants a shot at the NFL. At 58 years old he may not have many more opportunities and maybe he recognized that and took this shot. Fans shouldn’t fault him for doing that. He, like the rest of us, wants to be the best he can be at his given profession and for him, that’s the NFL and winning a Super Bowl.

However fans and the administration should hold him accountable going forward. The University of Michigan has given him a long leach since he came back to his alma mater seven years ago. From the “signing of the stars” national signing day show to the annual trips to countries such as France, Italy, and South Africa, the University is willing to do what it can to put Harbaugh in a position to succeed. If Harbaugh does actually insist he’s a Wolverine for good then this needs to be a one-time occurrence.

The message that Harbaugh truly is all in on this program needs to be sent loud and clear. The fractures among fans, potential recruits, and the national media when Harbaugh puts one foot in the NFL waters can’t continue in order for Michigan to get the best of their head coach. Because as we’ve seen this past season, when Harbaugh is all in, the sky is the limit for this program.

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Tyler Walz

Writing to understand myself and the world | Sports Fan | Bookworm | Business Consultant | Twitter: @tjwalz | Referral Link: https://tylerwalz.medium.com/member