There haven’t been any indications that Jim Harbaugh will leave his post as the University of Michigan’s head coach. But that’s not going to stop Bears fans from dreaming about Harbaugh leading their team’s squad.
The latest to paint the picture of a potential Harbaugh departure is Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times, whose column (aptly titled “Hoping, praying for Jim Harbaugh as Bears’ next coach”) is accompanied by this on the cover of the sports page:
— Jeff Agrest (@jeffreya22) November 6, 2017
The Chicago Bears are favored against the Green Bay Packers for the first time since 2008 and are primed to be one of the league’s biggest second-half surprises. Still, a 3-5 start to 2017 after losing double digit games in 2015 and 2016, coupled with an uninspiring offense have some clamoring for a change at the top. Harbaugh, whose San Francisco 49ers teams went to an NFC Championship Game with Alex Smith and a Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick playing quarterback, might be the perfect coach to lift Mitch Trubisky to new heights and make the Bears contenders again.
And in any case, John Fox seems to be strapped into the hot seat as he enters the second half of his third season in Chicago, which has helped set the rumor mill in motion.
Harbaugh left the 49ers in 2014 to embark on a homecoming – of sorts – to coach Michigan, but leaving his alma mater for Chicago would be a different kind of homecoming. The Bears drafted Harbaugh in the first round (26th overall) in the 1987 NFL Draft. He would go on to play seven seasons in Chicago, compiling a 35-30 record as a starter, and making the playoffs in 1991.
If Harbaugh was to make the return to the NFL with the Bears, he could be re-united with Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell, both of whom he coached with in San Francisco.
Taking over the Bears, a franchise without a winning season since 2012 and no playoff berths since 2010, would be quite the task for Harbaugh. Of course, getting Harbaugh out of Ann Arbor is a long-shot in its own right.
Harbaugh is 27-8 since returning to campus in 2015 and has the Wolverines at 7-2 this season. He has a great situation at a premier college job where he has total control of what happens within his program.
Sure, it might seem like Harbaugh is often quick to leave, but every time he has left a job it has been for a better situation. He left the University of San Diego for Stanford after three seasons. He departed for the San Francisco 49ers job after four years leading the Cardinal. He went back to college after four years with the 49ers. Each situation has been a unique opportunity and improved job security.
Do the Bears provide that kind of upgrade from Michigan? I sure hope so. If not, it’s worth wondering if the Bears could create an environment enticing enough to lure someone who would be one of the most sought-ought coaches if made available. Again, there hasn’t been as much of a whisper of Harbaugh wanting to leave. But until the 2018 season starts, there remains a non-zero chance of Harbaugh surprising everyone and returning to the NFL.