Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's NFL flirtations are a staple of college football's offseason news cycle. Now that the athletic calendar turns to the 2024 season following Michigan's 34-13 win against Washington in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship, those talks are sure to heat up once again. 

In fact, they've already started. Multiple teams have been making calls over the past few weeks to gather information about Harbaugh, according to, who has updated potential staff lists while conducting evaluations of different openings.

It's no surprise that professional teams would covet Harbaugh's services. He has steadily built Michigan back into a powerhouse program with a 40-3 record over the past three years. The Wolverines haven't lost a regular-season game since 2021, powering their way to three straight Big Ten titles while qualifying for each of the past three College Football Playoffs. 

He's already a proven winner at the NFL level, too, setting himself apart from other college football coaches that might want to test the professional waters and even most NFL assistants that could get a look. As coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14, Harbaugh compiled a 44-19 record with two NFC West titles and an appearance in Super Bowl 47. 

But after leading Michigan to the top of the mountain for the first time since the BCS era began, would Harbaugh actually leave now? Here's a breakdown of the key factors at play in a pending decision. 

Contract extension on the table

Michigan is already working hard to retain Harbaugh's services. The university has reportedly presented Harbaugh with a contract extension that would make him the highest-paid coach in the sport, promising a $125 million salary spread over 10 years. That would surpass Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's 10-year, $115 million deal as the largest in college football history. 

"That's a decision for him," Michigan president Santa Ono said ahead of Monday's national title game, per The Detroit News. "As you know, we've made it very clear that we want him to stay and I very much hope so."

It would also bump Harbaugh's salary by almost $5 million per year (he made $7.6 million for his services in 2023). But there's a catch: The new deal would prevent him from pursuing any NFL coaching jobs for the 2024 season. 

The fact that Harbaugh didn't jump all over such a lucrative proposal seems like a clear indication that he is, at the very least, keeping his options open. But there's more to it than that. Despite the program's recent success, this stands as a pivotal offseason for Michigan football. 

The Wolverines could lose a large number of crucial contributors. Among the possibilities are top receivers Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson (out of eligibility), running back Blake Corum, who holds program records for rushing touchdowns in a season and in a career, five offensive linemen with starting experience and several starters on defense. Quarterback JJ McCarthy is seen as a legitimate NFL prospect and could declare early for the NFL Draft

Even with the advent of the transfer portal and Michigan's recent track record of excellent player development, that's a mountain of production to replace. Harbaugh knows that his coaching stock could take a hit if Michigan takes any sort of step back next season. 

On top of all that, Harbaugh and Michigan are in the NCAA's crosshairs due to different off-field scandals that hung over the program throughout 2023. Harbaugh was suspended on two separate occasions during the regular season, causing him to miss a total of six games. In December, Michigan received a notice of allegations related to illegal recruiting practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA is also investigating Michigan for an alleged sign-stealing operation orchestrated by former recruiting staffer Connor Stalions. Any punitive measures handed down by the NCAA wouldn't follow Harbaugh to the NFL, but they could severely hamper his ability to perform at Michigan. 

An interesting agent hire

ESPN reported on Dec. 31 that Harbaugh hired agent Don Yee, who has spent his career representing some notable names in the NFL. His client list includes the likes of Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton and Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

And ... Tom Brady. 

Brady and Yee's partnership began when Brady was a senior at Michigan. Brady retained Yee's services throughout his entire legendary 20-year NFL career. Now, a deal is on the table for Brady to become a minority owner of the Raiders, who fired coach Josh McDaniels in October and are in the process of finding a replacement. There was some traction between Harbaugh -- whose coaching career began as an assistant with the Raiders from 2002-03 -- and Las Vegas in 2022 before the Raiders elected to go with McDaniels. 

Is there a good fit? 

Harbaugh has a leg up on most other candidates. The NFL recently sent out an updated anti-tampering policy for hiring head coaches. Among other changes, it prohibits in-person interviewing of coaches employed by an NFL team unless granted express permission from that team. Harbaugh is free to talk to whoever he wants without restriction now that Michigan's 2023 season is over. 

Las Vegas, given its connections to Harbaugh, could have conversations with the Michigan coach, reports. But that's not all. Harbaugh's name has also been linked with the Los Angeles Chargers since they decided to move on from Brandon Staley in mid-December. 

A move back to the West Coast could make a lot of sense. Harbaugh was a quarterback for the then San Diego-based Chargers from 1999-2000 and returned to the area in 2004 at the University of San Diego. He was hired at Stanford in 2007 and made the jump to the 49ers in 2011. Factoring in his time with the former Oakland Raiders, Harbaugh spent the first 13 years of his coaching career in the state of California. Though he moved around frequently as a child, following father, Jack, throughout his own coaching career, Harbaugh was playing quarterback at Palo Alto High School in California when he committed to Michigan in 1981. 

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