Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers Interested in Hiring Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh

Posted on: January 4, 2023, 09:14h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2023, 11:44h.

Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been shy about his intentions to return to the NFL, and the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are interested in hiring the current head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

Jim Harbaugh Michigan head coach Carolina Panthers Denver Broncos
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh could leave the Wolverines and return to the NFL next season. (Image: Getty)

Harbaugh and #2-ranked Michigan qualified for the College Football Playoff, but were eliminated in the semifinals. TCU held off Michigan, 51-45, during an entertaining shootout in which both teams combined for 96 points.

Harbaugh posted a 74-25 record since joining Michigan as their head coach in 2015. As a highly-touted high school quarterback in the early 1980s, Harbaugh was recruited by legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler. He played quarterback at Michigan between 1982-86. The Chicago Bears selected Harbaugh with a late first-round pick in the 1987 NFL Draft.

Harbaugh spent 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback with four teams, including the Bears, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, and Baltimore Ravens. He had a 66-74 record as a starting quarterback. He earned one trip to the Pro Bowl in 1995 with the Colts, and he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year that season. After his playing days as a quarterback ended, Harbaugh pivoted to coaching.

Harbaugh Found Success in College and the NFL

Harbaugh started his head coaching career in the collegiate ranks with San Diego in 2004. He led the Toreros to a 29-6 record in three seasons. He took over as the head coach at Stanford in 2007 and coached in Palo Alto for four years before joining the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.

During the 2012 season, Harbaugh led the 49ers to a trip to Super Bowl XLVII, where he squared off against his brother, John Harbaugh. John Harbaugh has been the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens since 2008. John defeated his brother Jim to win Super Bowl XLVII, which was cheekily dubbed the Harbaugh Bowl.

As the head coach of the 49ers, Harbaugh posted a 44-19-1 record and led them to three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship game.

Harbaugh returned to his alma mater, Michigan, in 2015. He won the AP College Football Coach of the Year in 2021 by leading Michigan to the first of their back-to-back Big Ten Championships. In 2022, Harbaugh earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.

In the last two seasons under Harbaugh, Michigan qualified for the College Football Playoff, but was knocked out in the semifinals both times.

Carolina Panthers Already Talked to Harbaugh

The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start. Rhule was a stellar coach in college with Baylor and Temple, but never found his footing in the NFL. Rhule posted an 11-27 record with the Panthers and got fired five games into his third season.

The Panthers installed Steve Wilks as interim head coach for the rest of this season, and he’s gone 5-6 since taking over. Wilks is on the shortlist of potential head coaching candidates for next season.

The Panthers entered the season with +13000 odds to win Super Bowl LVII and were long shots for the majority of the season.

David Tepper, the billionaire owner of the Panthers, engaged in a discussion with Harbaugh to gauge his interest in becoming their next head coach. It wasn’t a formal interview, which the Panthers can’t begin until the season officially ends next week.

Queen City News in Charlotte reported that Harbaugh had a sincere interest in joining the Panthers next season.

Harbaugh recently signed a five-year contract extension with Michigan that’s worth $36.7 million. He’s under contract through 2026, with a buyout cost of $3 million.

Last off-season, Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings and had expressed interest in the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders hired Josh McDaniels (offensive coordinator from the New England Patriots) instead, and the Vikings hired Kevin O’Connell (offensive coordinator from the Los Angeles Rams.)

Mile High Harbaugh?

The Denver Broncos also need a new head coach after they fired Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett was a rookie head coach who failed to last an entire season before the Broncos axed him after a disastrous blowout loss against the Green Bay Packers on Christmas. He posted a 4-11 record this season and quickly demonstrated his inexperience with multiple mistakes in the first game of the season.

The Broncos only hired Hackett, formerly the offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers, to lure quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Denver. The Broncos miscalculated and thought hiring Rodgers’ beloved OC would tip the scales in their favor. In the end, Rodgers duped the Broncos, and only used their interest in his services to secure a $200 million contract extension with the Packers.

The Broncos went with Plan B and acquired Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks benefited from the lopsided trade after Wilson struggled this season. Hackett and Wilson never got on the same page and the results were atrocious. The Broncos are the lowest-scoring team in the NFL this season, averaging 16 points per game.

The Broncos’ front office hinted they want to be aggressive with their head coach search. Harbaugh is at the top of their list of potential candidates to replace Hackett. Sean Payton and Dan Quinn are also on the shortlist to take over the Broncos next season.

The Broncos were a popular pick to win the Super Bowl in the off-season, especially after they acquired Wilson from the Seahawks. In the preseason, the Broncos were as low as +1800 odds to win Super Bowl LVII. As their season slowly went off the rails, their Super Bowl futures worsened.