Maybe the biggest rumor right now in College Football and the NFL is also something of a huge fantasy reach: Michigan aren’t going to hold on to Brady Hoke for much longer, and they want Jim Harbaugh to be their next head coach. The problem? He’s currently the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Trying to think logically, it doesn’t make sense. Harbaugh is one of the hottest names in the NFL coaching scene. Even if he does leave the 49ers at some point, and the rumors of his relationship with the locker room and the front office turn out to be true, there are probably at least 10 NFL teams who’d try to sign him on the spot. Harbaugh’s biggest issue is not getting a contract worked out, which means he’s free to leave at the end of this season.
It’s rare to see head coaches who have made it in the NFL go back to college. Harbaugh has led the 49ers to three consecutive conference championship games, including one Super Bowl. Including this year’s 1-2 start, the 49ers are 37-13-1 in the regular season since he became the head coach in 2011, and are also 5-3 in the postseason. No Super Bowl victory as of yet, but he’s turned the 49ers, maybe coming in at exactly the right time of their upward motion, into one of the best and most consistent teams in the NFL.
Hoke has been going the other way. He had a remarkable 2011 season, his first at Ann Arbor, going 11-2. It ended with a BCS Bowl win over Virginia Tech, Michigan’s first BCS Bowl game win since 2000. After years of mostly playing second fiddle in the Big Ten and especially to big rivals Ohio State, the Wolverines were going in the right direction.
However, the dream didn’t last very long. Michigan went 8-5 in 2012, 7-6 in 2013 and have started at 2-2 this season. These are his recruits, no longer Rich Rodriguez’ guys. Things actually improved each season under Rodriguez, but he wasn’t very popular with those who pull the strings at Ann Arbor. Hoke used to be, but is quickly losing all confidence in him.
It won’t be surprising to see Harbaugh working somewhere else after this season. Sometimes ego and money get in the way of common sense, which says that the 49ers haven’t made the playoffs in almost a decade before Harbaugh arrived, and have been very close to winning multiple Super Bowls since his arrival. But Michigan? The only connection is that he played for them in College. Going back as a head coach? Right now it doesn’t sound as the likeliest of options.