Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings, but ultimately returned to Ann Arbor.
“In a nutshell, I love Michigan,” Harbaugh told Mitch Albom. “I love every player. I love every family.”
Harbaugh told athletic director Warde Manuel that from here on out, he’s “working at the pleasure of the University of Michigan”, and that in his heart Michigan is where he wants to be.
Harbaugh was a great NFL coach — three NFC Championship Game appearances, one Super Bowl appearance, a 44-19-1 career record (2011-2014). A record that’s good enough for the 5th best winning percentage in NFL history. Yes, getting back to the pros and winning a Super Bowl was something that Harbaugh weighed heavily.
“There was a tugging at me that I was once that close to a Super Bowl and I didn’t get it. Some NFL jobs came open. I was contacted by the Vikings,” Harbaugh said. “For better or for worse, it was something I wanted to explore. I went in thinking, ‘I’m gonna have 100 percent conviction on this, and if they have 100 percent conviction on this, then it’s something I’m gonna do.”
Harbaugh’s had his share of critics on social media, something he joked about with Albom by calling the internet an “enlightening place” where you have “to take things with a grain of salt”. However, the voices that matter most are the ones in the locker room and on the recruiting trail, and Albom says Harbaugh told players, administration, and recruits that he was listening to the NFL.
Harbaugh says players understood his desire to get back to the NFL, that’s where they want to go someday, too. “They said ‘Coach, we all want to go to the NFL, too. And whenever one of us wants to explore going to the NFL, you support us and wish us well. And if we look at it and we come back, you’re thrilled and we get right back to work,” Harbaugh said.
While Harbaugh did explore an NFL opportunity, anyone who knows the man realizes he’s putting the Vikings interview in the rear-view mirror and forging ahead with the job he’s had the past seven years. “I’m an honest person. There was a large pull there, but I didn’t feel it was that way for both parties,” Harbaugh said of the interview. And that’s it. That’s my mindset now”.
That’s it. Back to Michigan. Back to work. Back to building.
“Sure, the Super Bowl is the greatest prize in our sport. But winning a national championship. That’s pretty darn great. Let’s do that,” Harbaugh said. “There was a pull to the NFL because I got that close to the Super Bowl, but this was the time. And this is the last time. Now let’s go chase college football’s greatest prize.”
Michigan is coming off a season where they had their first 12-win year since 1997, where they beat Ohio State for their first time in a decade, where they won the Big Ten Championship, where they made their first College Football Playoff, where Harbaugh won the Associated Press Coach of the Year. While it may have been a peculiar few weeks for the program and for Harbaugh, nothing happened that will change the long-term trajectory of the program. Harbaugh’s back, his players support him, and they’ll all try to build off a great 2021 season.
“We really believe we can win a national championship,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited about today, about tomorrow, about the next day.”