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Sorting through Jim Harbaugh NFL rumors and realities

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

American activist and politician Thomas Paine wrote The Age of Reason back in 1793. The crux of the book was making the point he didn’t believe any mystical, human conjured tales unless he was able to see the claims firsthand. From Zeus’ wars at sea to burning bushes that can speak, these aren’t stories Paine was readily willing to call fact — he had to see it with his own eyes.

In 1979, astrophysicist Carl Sagan famously said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

These approaches are necessary when sifting through all the Jim Harbaugh to NFL rumors circulating.

Harbaugh’s coached Michigan since 2015, and every year the same reports come out — that various NFL teams are interested in Harbaugh. He’s been linked to jobs from East to West and North to South. All these rumors, from respected journalists and those that reside on the other spectrum, have all turned out to be false.

It’s 2022, Harbaugh is still Michigan’s coach, and they had their best season yet with him at the helm — a win over Ohio State, a Big Ten Championship, a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Still, the NFL rumors persist.

Part of that can be attributed to the perception that Harbaugh taking a paycut may not have been entirely appreciated. Part of the rumors this time around can be attributed to how rocky things were for Harbaugh and the Wolverines in a pandemic season where they went 2-4 and where the program is at now. There was a lot of negativity directed towards Harbaugh and the program. Now a year later Harbaugh is a winner once again, he showed he can build a culture that creates a quick turnaround. This construct entices the NFL, and that’s why he’s the biggest name being floated around right now. Still, it’s all conjecture — reasonable inferences without hearing from Jim Harbaugh himself.

Many reports from people deemed ‘reputable’ are turning out to be incorrect or iffy at best. Earlier Monday morning on a podcast, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel connected Harbaugh to the Miami Dolphins head coach vacancy, but that was quickly refuted when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who Michigan’s business school is named after, refuted any inkling that he’d go after Harbaugh. “I’m not going to be the person that takes Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan. I hope he stays there. He’s a great coach,” Ross told reporters on Monday.

And now with Harbaugh not in consideration for the Dolphins job, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is claiming that Ross, who is a massive donor at UM, has been talking to Harbaugh about staying at Michigan. Florio also reported yesterday that there’s a sense creeping through the NFL that Las Vegas owner Mark Davis wants Jim Harbaugh. Confused yet?

Contradictions, conflicting reports. Speculation is running rampant.

FOX Sports Jay Glazer reported that Harbaugh has been contacting coaches to gauge whether they’d want to join his staff in the NFL. The same Jay Glazer then said something extremely far-fetched when he suggested the Raiders may try to trade for Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin or New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton — two of the longest tenured coaches in the NFL that aren’t leaving where they’re at. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, remember? And anything short of that dilutes any of the actual factual information someone has.

Then there are the talking heads, the folks trying to throw anything at the wall to see if it sticks. The Herd’s Colin Cowherd suggested the Jacksonville Jaguars should go after Harbaugh — the problem is their general manager is Trent Baalke — Baalke was the former GM of the San Francisco 49ers and a major catalyst as to why things ended sour during Harbaugh’s time as head coach of the 49ers. That isn’t happening, it’s not reality.

Chicago pundit David Kaplan said earlier this week that the Bears are in play for Harbaugh, “If Jim Harbaugh is available, there’s no way he should take the Vegas Raiders job over the team that drafted him in the first round,” Kaplan said. Sure, Harbaugh played for the Bears from 1987-93, and it’s true that the McCaskey family is fond of Harbaugh — but this is prior public knowledge being used to create a convenient narrative for the present day. More evidence is needed.

Sorting through noise and plausible rationalizations can be rough.

It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know.’ Something our good friend John U. Bacon suggests.

Part of the Raiders speculation makes sense. Legendary Raiders owner Al Davis loved Harbaugh, who was their quarterbacks coach in 2002-03, and his son Mark Davis now owns the team. Las Vegas is a great market, Harbaugh has great respect for the rich history of the organization, and the team is obviously pretty good — they’re in the playoffs with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. However, it’s still speculation until the Raiders publicly acknowledge their interest (which continues to be leaked or is simply false) or Harbaugh walks up to a podium in Vegas and is announced as their next head coach. More evidence is necessary.

Multiple reports have stated Michigan has offered Harbaugh new terms, with more money for he and his staff. All the evidence in the past would make someone bet the house that Harbaugh is in Ann Arbor next fall. However, past isn’t always prologue, and connecting the dots in either direction without a firm grasp of the big picture isn’t wise. It can be detrimental.

"In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life to doubt, as far as possible, of all things." - René Descartes