Thankfully, the Jim Harbaugh contract saga is expected to come to an end this week. Although the Wolverines haven’t played a game since December 3rd due to COVID issues, Michigan’s 2020 season officially came to an end two weeks ago. As questions surrounding Harbaugh's future with the program became more frequent, Warde Manuel indicated that he would meet with Harbaugh once the season was officially over to discuss Harbaugh’s future with the football program. According to reports, that meeting did in fact take place and ended with Michigan extending an offer to Harbaugh that would include, among other things, a lower base salary, lower buyout, and would extend him through the 2026 season. Although Michigan extended the offer, Harbaugh has yet to accept.
The reason for the delay on Harbaugh’s side likely has plenty to do with his interest in what the NFL has to offer. With the NFL regular season officially coming to a close last night, any discussions that have been taking place between Harbaugh and potential NFL suitors will likely soon become public knowledge. Harbaugh has reportedly drawn interest from at least five NFL teams, including the Detroit Lions, the Los Angeles Chargers and the New York Jets. With an offer already on the table from Michigan, Harbaugh appears determined to take one last serious look at the NFL before officially accepting a return to Ann Arbor.
With all of the uncertainty surrounding Harbaugh’s future at Michigan, you really have to wonder what type of impact this delay might be having on the football program - particularly the locker room. After all, it’s not as if the Michigan football players live in a bubble where they are largely unaware of what’s happening around them. It’s certainly possible that Harbaugh has communicated with his players far more than he has communicated with the media throughout this process, although that's not what I'm hearing. If the players have largely been kept in the dark for weeks as their head coach mulls over potential NFL opportunities, there’s a very real possibility that Harbaugh might return to a locker room that views itself as Harbaugh’s fallback option. Not exactly an ideal situation for Harbaugh, the players, or the Michigan Football program in general.
Lastly, there’s the Michigan fan base - a fan base that is one of the largest in the nation. These folks have also watched this contract saga play out over the last few weeks and have strong opinions one way or the other. While a small portion of the fan base still thinks Harbaugh is the best man for the job, a significantly larger portion wants Warde Manuel and Michigan to show him the exit. The apparent reluctance on Harbaugh’s part to sign an offer from Michigan has only solidified what many within that majority already believe to be true - that Jim Harbaugh isn’t the right man for the job.
To put it simply, this is a very big week for the future of the Michigan Football program one way or another. All of the uncertainty surrounding Harbaugh’s future at Michigan is likely just days, if not hours, away from being resolved. Either way, an eager locker room and an impatient fan base is awaits his decision.