Jim Harbaugh may end up back at Michigan in 2023, but that isn’t stopping him from continuing to explore options in the NFL.
The 59-year-old coach, who just finished his eighth season with the Wolverines, conducted a virtual interview with the Broncos on Monday, a league source told The Post. The NFL Network first reported the interview.
This is the second straight winter that Harbaugh has explored jumping back to the NFL. A year ago, he interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings but ended up returning to Michigan when he wasn’t offered the job. A virtual interview with the Broncos would be his most substantial step so far this season toward a possible return to the NFL.
He is one of six known candidates for the Denver job. The Broncos are also interested in their own defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero, and according to league sources have asked permission to speak with four others: Former New Orleans head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinators Dan Quinn (Dallas), DeMeco Ryans (San Francisco) and Raheem Morris (Los Angeles Rams).
Evero is expected to interview this week, as early as Tuesday.
Harbaugh, though, is one of the biggest names on the board along with Payton.
“I watched him as a player and I admired him greatly as a player because he’s so competitive and the fire he has just comes naturally to him because he’s been involved in football his whole life,” Denver interim head coach Jerry Rosburg said last week. “His father has the same fire in his belly, as does his brother John.
“That’s followed through with his coaching career, seeing the success he’s had at every level (of NFL and college).”
Harbaugh’s had success at both levels. He’s 25-3 over his past two seasons at Michigan. When he arrived in San Francisco, the 49ers had gone eight consecutive seasons without a winning record. Harbaugh guided them to the NFC title game his first year, a Super Bowl loss his second year and another NFC title game appearance in Year 3.
His record in San Francisco before taking the Michigan job ahead of the 2015 season: 44-19-1.
Harbaugh makes around $8 million per year at Michigan, which cut his pay to nearly half of that in early 2021. The Wolverines went 2-4 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and at that point were 49-23 under Harbaugh, but 11-8 over their past two seasons. Since then, he’s gone 25-3 (17-1 in the Big Ten) and beat archrival Ohio State in consecutive seasons.
When his name popped up again in recent weeks regarding NFL jobs, he put out a statement saying he was aware of the “rumors and speculation,” and that, “As I stated in December, while no one knows what the future holds, I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023.”
Harbaugh not only has won wherever he’s coached, but he also spent time at Stanford (2007-10), where the Broncos ownership group has deep connections. CEO Greg Penner and Carrie Walton-Penner each have degrees from Stanford and limited shareholder Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, is the current chair of the Hoover Institution public policy think thank there.
“(We want a coach that will) come in here to work and a coach who’s not going to play around,” receiver KJ Hamler said. “We just want a coach who wants to win. We have all the pieces to win. I know we do. We just have to put that all together and just find that connection to the coaching staff. Once we put everything together, we will win.”
Harbaugh certainly brings a different style than former Denver head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s relentlessly upbeat nature.
“The thing about him is he’s going to impress change on people,” Evero said of Harbaugh, for whom he worked four seasons in San Francisco. “Wherever he goes, he’s going to affect change. I don’t know if everyone will always like it, but that’s his personality.
“I just think he’s a heck of a coach. I really enjoyed my time with him and he does a good job.”
Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.