On Wednesday night, after three seasons of flirting with the NFL and finally reaching the mountaintop in college football, Jim Harbaugh finally made the jump back to the professional ranks. The Los Angeles Chargers hired Jim Harbaugh, who played his final two seasons of professional football with the team when it was in San Diego, to a five-year contract.
Harbaugh last coached in the NFL in 2014, the final year of his four-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers. He amassed a record of 44-19 with eight playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl, but he wore out his welcome with the organization. Now, he’s back and Michigan is searching for his replacement.
Many believe and have believed all year, that Sherrone Moore, who coached the final four games of the season during Harbaugh’s suspension related to the sign-stealing scandal, is the heir-apparent, but let’s look at a few other candidates and the biggest mistakes that Michigan can make in this hiring process.
5. Brian Kelly
In 2019, Jim Harbaugh had reached a breaking point. He decided to hire Josh Gattis as his offensive coordinator, bring in Shea Patterson as his quarterback, and succumb to the spread offense movement that has been taking over college football since the early 2000s. It didn’t work, and Harbaugh realized that Michigan had to be Michigan.
The Wolverines went back to the running game, back to physical football, back to two tight ends, and because of that back to beating Ohio State. Michigan wasn’t the most talented team in college football this season, but they were the toughest and that was good enough to go 15-0 and win the national championship.
Brian Kelly meanwhile had the Heisman Trophy winner down in LSU with two future first-round wide receivers, but the Tigers couldn’t stop a nosebleed. LSU finished 108th in total defense and because of that finished 10-3.
Kelly can recruit with the best of them, and he may be enticed to leave the South where he’s clearly not a culture fit, but Michigan needs to be true to its identity like Jim Harbaugh was and like they probably will in this hiring cycle.