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Carolina Panthers have spoken with Jim Harbaugh about head coaching vacancy

Jim Harbaugh

One of the first significant moves Carolina Panthers team owner David Tepper made after purchasing the team in 2018 was hiring Matt Rhule out of Baylor two years later in 2020. It was a splashy hire at the time, and Tepper could be looking at repeating that method this offseason by considering Jim Harbaugh from Michigan.

Two years ago, Tepper handed Rhule an eight-year contract worth $74 million. It was a staggering figure for a coach who only had one previous year as an assistant offensive line coach in the NFL. Yet, Tepper was searching for a coach on the rise who could provide a quick turnaround while providing a long-term solution for his new franchise.

But after 38 games, where Rhule led the Panthers to a record of 11-27, Tepper had enough, cutting the coach he hired loose with five years remaining on his contract. Now, it appears Tepper could be looking to shell out another large contract, only this time to a much more proven coach, in Harbaugh.

This should come as no surprise for Tepper, who has an embarrassment of riches and has shown he won’t hesitate to pay whatever it costs to build the Panthers into a winning franchise. But it still sets up a fascinating scenario in Carolina.

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Carolina Panthers, Jim Harbaugh could be an ideal fit

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Since Rhule was fired, Steve Wilks took over on an interim basis, and he’s certainly had the Panthers playing much better than we ever saw under Rhule’s leadership. Wilks promptly led the Panthers to a 5-6 record. Considering Rhule never had more than five wins in his two seasons at the helm, it’s no wonder the locker room has thrown their support behind Wilks.

It sets Tepper up with a tough decision to make this offseason. Not hiring Wilks could cause some turmoil within the organization, yet if Carolina can land a highly-respected, proven winner such as Jim Harbaugh, players probably would immediately buy in.

With the Panthers set to conduct a full head coaching search this offseason, it only makes sense for Tepper to begin lining up potential candidates ahead of time. So it only makes sense that the Panthers team owner has reportedly already spoken with Harbaugh now that his college football season has ended.

According to Will Kunkel of FOX Charlotte, Tepper has “had a conversation with Harbaugh” about the head coaching vacancy in Carolina. Yet, he notes it was not an official job interview, simply a discussion. He goes on to state that the Panthers will wait until after their regular season ends next Sunday to conduct their actual coaching search.

While Harbaugh was defiant in the past about not wanting to leave Michigan, where he has a $3 million contract buyout, the rumors are beginning to mount of a potential return to the NFL once again.

If so, landing with an NFL franchise would give the former San Francisco 49ers coach a chance to build upon his already strong résumé, where he holds a career record of 44-19-1, good for the sixth-best win percentage in league history. In the end, the chance to pursue a Super Bowl ring, which his brother John won back in 2012 (ironically against Jim), could be too enticing to pass up.

For the Panthers, who are set to hire a new head coach anyway, why not hand Harbaugh a blank check and see what he can do with a roster that could, once again, be on track for a quick turnaround, provided they can find their franchise QB?

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