On Monday, there were reports that Jim Harbaugh’s time at Michigan football appeared to have come to a close. That thought prevailed through Tuesday, with his Wednesday interview with the Minnesota Vikings appearing to be all but a formality.
However, while that’s what Harbaugh thought, that’s not how the Vikings looked at it.
According to reports, Harbaugh firmly believed that his Michigan tenure was over and that he would be coaching in the NFL in 2022. He traveled to Minneapolis with the firm belief that he would be the Vikings next head coach. But the Vikings weren’t abandoning their process, despite Harbaugh’s success in both the NFL and at the college level.
The Athletic paints the story, noting that on Wednesday, Harbaugh was indeed on track to become the next Minnesota head coach, but somewhere down the line, things took a drastic turn.
At first, the interview seemed like it was going well. Harbaugh saw the Vikings’ gleaming new practice facility and the team started to see some of the coach’s most redeeming qualities.
A buzz reverberated through the building. Is this really happening? Are we really going to hire Jim Harbaugh?
Harbaugh started to feel it, too. He left Ann Arbor believing he was not coming back, and as the process got rolling, it started to look like he would be in Minnesota to stay.
But the Vikings had some hard questions to ask. They wanted to know more about his style and ability to work with others. They wanted to know more about how things ended with the 49ers. They wanted to hear his vision for leading this team back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1977.
Sometime around 3 p.m., for reasons that are not exactly clear, things started to take a left turn. The tenor started to change, and if there was any momentum at Harbaugh’s back as he tried to secure the job, it disappeared.
Shortly before 6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN first reported that Harbaugh called Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel to tell him he was coming back to the Wolverines for the 2022 season and beyond.
The reason had nothing to do with money or a contract because the Vikings did not offer Harbaugh the job, sources said. There do not appear to be any hard feelings on either side — just a realization that this was not the right fit.
The picture doesn’t look good for Harbaugh, and while it doesn’t look good for Michigan either — having its head coach interviewing for a job on national signing day — his return to the program is still the best option for the Wolverines at this juncture. Certainly, fences will have to be mended — with the staff, which was mostly left in the dark, the players, and recruits — but after a few wins to start the 2022 season, it should be left in the rear view.
According to Adam Schefter, Harbaugh told athletic director Warde Manuel that his NFL dalliance has come to a close, and Michigan will likely seek assurances to ensure that’s the case. Because, while this ended up working out in the maize and blue’s favor ultimately, it’s a situation that cannot and should not be repeated in case the head coach gets another NFL itch he would like to scratch.