The search for Mike Zimmer’s replacement continues for the Minnesota Vikings. While there have been several names linked to the Vikings‘ head coach opening, none are more intriguing than former San Francisco 49ers and current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Linked to several openings, such as the Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears, neither of those teams ever even got the opportunity to interview Harbaugh. But, the Minnesota Vikings did. The Vikes sought and received permission to conduct a virtual interview with Harbaugh on Saturday.
Even him accepting the interview is a major stepping stone to accepting the gig. In fact, I’d even go as far to say that Jim Harbaugh coaching the Minnesota Vikings in 2022 and beyond is already a done deal.
The legacy of Jim Harbaugh is on the line
Think about it this way. Jim Harbaugh is the leader of a major college football program. He’s coming off a successful season in which he did what most thought he couldn’t — slaying the Ohio State dragon. Now, he’s setting higher goals, getting back to the Super Bowl, and actually winning the thing.
Harbaugh is 58 years old, he knows his time is limited. If he wants to return to the promised land, he might want to get started. Already accomplishing pretty much all he can with his alma mater, Harbaugh seems ready for the next challenge in his coaching career.
His older brother, John, already won his Super Bowl, when he beat Jim’s 49ers in XLVIII by just three points. Remember, the lights went out and the stadium lost all power that day, it wasn’t a typical game. Now, the younger Harbaugh may want to match his brother’s ring total from coaching.
- Jim Harbaugh coaching record (NFL): 44-19-1, 5-3 in playoffs
Harbaugh is actually one of the top-five winningest coaches in NFL history by win percentage. In three of his four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh led his team to double-digit victories.
That’s what got him fired and never hired in the NFL again? An 8-8 record? Vikings fans would leap at the idea of those first three seasons. Sure, Harbaugh is a bit of a hardass, just like Mike Zimmer, but he’s a fricken Harbaugh. Players respect him because he always gets results. If he should return to the NFL, there’s a good chance Harbaugh experiences some success right away, especially if he’s careful with the team he chooses.
Wilf ownership group ready to put their money where their mouth is
There’s are several reasons Harbaugh is interested in the Minnesota Vikings head coach job, but as we all know, money talks. It’s not just because the Vikings were the only one who interviewed Harbaugh, there’s a good chance others could have done the same. They likely just balked at his asking price, whereas the Wilf ownership likely did not.
As mentioned in the media release after Rick Spielman and coach Zim were let go, they’re serious about bringing a Super Bowl to Minnesota, I believe they’re fully prepared to back up the Brinks truck by paying Harbaugh an enormous amount. Harbaugh’s buyout isn’t an issue ($1.5 million per Chris Tomasson), but the coach is expected to command an eight-figure salary due to his résumé.
“We appreciate Rick and Mike’s commitment to the team’s on-field success, their passion for making a positive impact in our community and their dedication to players, coaches and staff,” the Wilfs said in a statement issued on Monday. “While these decisions are not easy, we believe it is time for new leadership to elevate our team so we can consistently contend for championships. We wish both Rick and Mike and their families only the best.Vikings ownership speaking about commitment to winning.
Harbaugh wouldn’t take the deal if he didn’t already like what the Vikings offered, from their star-studded roster, top-notch facilities, ownership willing to spend, and a general manager with whom he’s already familiar with from their time in San Fran. It’s a perfect match.
Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t interview unless a deal was on the table
As mentioned above, Jim Harbaugh is the head coach of a prolific college football team, he wouldn’t risk his name being linked to a different coaching position if there wasn’t true interest on both sides.
Think about the impact it has on recruits. What kind of message does it send to his players? Would Harbaugh be able to walk back into the locker room in the spring, look his players in the eye and say he’s fully committed to this team and their future? No. They all see and hear the reports just like you or I do, they know their coach has his heart set on the NFL.
Harbaugh wouldn’t even sit down with a team unless he already knew they would meet his demands. This is why I think it’s a done deal, essentially.
Reaching for my crystal ball, here’s what I think may have happened behind the scenes.
This is all hypothetical, but I’m thinking there was true interest by both the Bears and the Raiders in hiring Harbaugh. However, they both might have balked at his asking price. Harbaugh isn’t like the other names in this hiring cycle. Look at who’s been hired so far, none of them would appear to be “expensive hires” or household names.
- Chicago Bears – Matt Eberflus, former Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator
- Denver Broncos – Nathaniel Hackett, former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator
- New York Giants – Brian Daboll, former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator
Aside from maybe the Giants hiring Daboll and their general manager Joe Schoen, I don’t think any of those teams had to break the bank to land their guy. None of the coaches are proven. Sure Hackett has worked with Aaron Rodgers, but he’s never called plays or been a head coach before, they probably aren’t paying him as one of the 10 highest-paid NFL coaches.
Whereas, wherever Harbaugh lands, you can bet he’ll immediately be among the highest-paid coaches in football. He comes with the Harbaugh name, he’s had success everywhere he’s been – both in college and the pros, and he’s already been to a Super Bowl.
Sure, the Vikings plan to interview Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans a second time later this week, but I think Jim Harbaugh is their top target. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is simply doing his old co-workers a favor by making it appear as though they’re finalists for an NFL head coaching gig. Just maybe that momentum will help them land another job elsewhere.