And so it begins again. Another year of 49ers football under Jim Harbaugh means more rumors and speculation. Over the course of his time in San Francisco, Jim Harbaugh has been connected to jobs at the University of Texas, USC, and the Cleveland Browns. And of course, people still enjoy chatting about how he's clearly going to end up with the Miami Dolphins or Dallas Cowboys as soon as next year. It has been a bit of a tumultuous time during the Jim Harbaugh era, but one filled with great success.
Now, Michigan enters the picture. When Jim Harbaugh first interviewed with the 49ers, Stanford pushed to keep him, and the Miami Dolphins jumped in the mix. Michigan also got involved, but they seemed to slip away fairly quickly.
Now, four years later, the man who eventually ended up with the job might not be long for it. Michigan hired Brady Hoke back in 2011, and things have gotten progressively worse. In his first year, Hoke helped guide the Wolverines to an 11-2 season, capped off with a Sugar Bowl victory. In year 2, Michigan went 8-5, losing in the Outback Bowl. In year 3, Michigan went 7-6, losing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. In year 4, Michigan is off to a 2-2 start, with an ugly loss at Notre Dame, and an uglier upset loss at home to Utah.
There has been some chatter floating around about Harbaugh and Michigan, and naturally Pro Football Talk was in the middle of it. Earlier this week PFT suggested Michigan "could be moving closer to make a run at [Jim] Harbaugh". Of course, that was based entirely on the ideas that Michigan might decide they need a new coach, and the 49ers are in the middle of a slow start to the season. It is possible this article was based entirely on his own boredom, but it is also possible JIm Harbaugh's agent, David Dunn, has begun, or will soon begin planting the seeds for Jim Harbaugh's eventual departure. This was followed on Friday with a discussion about Jim Harbaugh and Michigan over at Grantland.
I honestly have no idea what the end of the season will bring in terms of Jim Harbaugh's future. If he wins the Super Bowl, Harbaugh could conceivably name his price, and I would hope the 49ers would pay up. There is no guarantee that happens, but I would hope the two sides would work something out. However, if the 49ers do not win the Super Bowl, the whole situation becomes messier. Jim Harbaugh would be entering the walk year of his contract.
Some don't see Jim Harbaugh lasting into that walk year, with Tim Kawakami leading the way on this discussion. he recently put together a piece looking at the various situations that could play out with Coach Harbaugh. I actually agree with him on the notion that Michigan is an unlikely destination. If the 49ers come up short of the Super Bowl, whatever Harbaugh's job in 2015 and beyond, I do not seem leaving the NFL having come up short of a Lombardi Trophy. Particularly given the success Pete Carroll has had up in Seattle.
I would prefer not to talk about this at all, and could probably just ignore it, but with the chatter slowly increasing, we might as well try and get the cards on the table. Jim Harbaugh and Jed York said they will table discussions on a contract extension until the offseason. NFL teams cannot get in the mix during the season, but college can, and if they continue to struggle this season, this will only heat up. Harbaugh is under contract right now, but if Michigan dumps Brady Hoke, maybe they suddenly start calling the 49ers.
I'd like to think the 49ers will ignore all of this until the offseason gets here, but who really knows what will happen. I don't see Jim Harbaugh ending up back at Michigan. Of course, three years ago, after the 49ers came up just short of Lombardi No. 6, how many of us figured we'd even approach a point like this with Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers?