Jim Harbaugh has not been officially listed as one of the head coaching candidates for the Chicago Bears — but that doesn’t mean he’s off the table. The current Michigan Wolverines head coach isn’t an NFL employee, so no meetings or contact he might have with the team need to be reported. Rumors have been swirling connecting Harbaugh to both the Bears, who drafted him in 1987, and to the Las Vegas Raiders, who gave him his first coaching job.
It’s a slim one, but until Harbaugh makes his decision to stay or go official, there’s still a chance he could land in Chicago, according to top Bears insider Adam Hoge of NBC Sports.
“Until Jim Harbaugh either announces he’s staying at Michigan or takes another job, his name can’t be ignored in the Bears’ search for a head coach,” Hoge wrote in his Jan. 18 column.
The Bears are currently in the process of searching for a new head coach and general manager, and chairman George McCaskey admitted his team may hire a coach first if the right candidate were to come along. Teams generally hire a GM first, before having him or her assist in choosing a coach, but Hoge thinks Harbaugh is one of few coaches “worth hiring” before a general manager is brought on board.
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Hoge: Harbaugh’s Decision Should Alter Bears’ Process
Harbaugh coached the 49ers from 2011–2014, taking them to the Super Bowl while going 5-3 in the postseason. His tenure in San Francisco ended with rumors he was vying for more control. This desire to have a firm grip on the team he coaches might make Harbaugh the prime candidate for Chicago to hire, with the idea he could then help select a GM he’s compatible with.
“He would fall under the category of coaches worth hiring before a general manager and it would be important that the GM is someone he trusts,” Hoge wrote, adding: “Harbaugh’s success with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14 can’t be debated (49-22-1, including the playoffs) but he was involved in a power struggle with then-GM Trent Baalke that led to an unraveling of the 49ers’ success. At this point, the Bears seem content moving methodically through their lengthy list of GM and head coaching candidates, but if at any point Harbaugh indicates that he wants the job, it could — and probably should — alter the process.”
Thus, it sounds as though it all depends on Harbaugh.
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Have the Bears Been in Touch With Harbaugh?
In a Jan. 19 appearance on NBC Sports’ “The Rush,” Bears insider Hub Arkush noted Harbaugh may be weighing his options carefully.
“I don’t think Jim knows,” Arkush said, in reference to whether Harbaugh wants to return to the NFL. “I’ve had a little bit of communication with him, and we’ve talked about what makes the most sense, what’s best,” Harkush added, noting that he couldn’t reveal further details of their conversation because it was a conversation between friends.
Arkush also said there had been rumors from a source about a “brief” conversation between Harbaugh and someone in the Bears organization.
“One other source … told me that there was a brief phone conversation between Jim and somebody in the organization,” he said, also careful to note he had zero idea what was said if the phone call did, in fact, happen.
“It may have just been saying ‘hi,’ it may have been trying to read the tea leaves without asking the questions. I don’t know. I can’t confirm that for certain, but it’s a pretty good source. I think that there was a phone call, and I think where that phone call ended is: Jim’s got decisions to make,” Arkush noted.
Yes, he does — and many Bears fans await with bated breath.