Sources close to Jim Harbaugh believe it’s a ‘done deal’ if he gets an NFL offer

By Bruce Feldman, Nicole Auerbach and Austin Meek

Last year, Jim Harbaugh, fresh off leading Michigan to its first Big Ten title in 17 years, pursued a return to the NFL.

On Signing Day in 2022, Harbaugh met with the Minnesota Vikings but ultimately did not get offered the job. He told reporters after that, “There was a pull to the NFL because I got that close to the Super Bowl, but this was the time. And this is the last time. Now let’s go chase college football’s greatest prize.”

This year, Harbaugh led his alma mater to an even more impressive season, going undefeated in the regular season and dominating archrival Ohio State, again. This time, it happened in Columbus and the Wolverines won going away, 45-23. Over the past two seasons, Harbaugh has shown that he has continued to evolve as a head coach and his program has made a dramatic turnaround. UM was a big favorite entering its College Football Playoff semifinal game last weekend against TCU, but got upset, and now with NFL teams once again giving the 58-year-old Harbaugh strong consideration, his next move will be fascinating to watch. A return, perhaps to the Denver Broncos or his old team, the Indianapolis Colts, could be very tempting.

Multiple sources close to the coach told The Athletic on Monday they expect Harbaugh will leave Michigan for the NFL if a franchise offers him a coaching job.

The coach’s buyout is only $3 million this year, and it decreases each year of his new deal. The lump-sum payment would be due within 60 days of resignation. Harbaugh can be fired for cause if he participates in a job search without telling the athletic director, according to his contract.

“I think it is a done deal if he gets an offer,” said one source close to Harbaugh.

Harbaugh, 44-19-1 as an NFL coach, took over the 49ers in 2011 after the organization had gone eight years without a winning season and led them to the NFC title game in his debut season. In his second season, he took them to the Super Bowl where they lost to his brother John’s Baltimore Ravens team. In Year 3, Harbaugh’s 49ers made it back to the NFC title game. His team went 8-8 in his fourth and final season before returning to college to take over his alma mater.

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)


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