The end of the Matt Nagy era is nigh, and that means the Bears will soon be seeking their next head coach. One such man, Jim Harbaugh — a name connected to Chicago for as long as “da passion” and “da fire” became a trusty stereotype for what people seek in a Bears head coach — appears ready to stand in line for the pending opening.
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reports that the current Michigan head coach is eyeing a potential return to the NFL. And there are two teams in the mix: the Las Vegas Raiders and the Bears, who are described as “another option.” Coming off easily his best season in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines not only blew out Ohio State but qualified for the College Football Playoff, might mean Harbaugh is again seeking greener, higher-level pastures.
As has undoubtedly been reported ad nauseam any time the Bears have a head coach opening (which is often), Harbaugh is no stranger to Halas Hall. Harbaugh was the Bears’ primary starting quarterback from 1987 to 1993, where Chicago qualified for the postseason twice (1990, 1991) while he was under center. The Bears were the NFL franchise to draft him and give him his first shot in the big leagues: A sentimental mark that typically does not fade with time.
Harbaugh does have his connections to the Raiders as well. They were the organization that gave him his first coaching job (quarterbacks coach from 2002-2003). He also has a reported great relationship with the Davis ownership family. If the Bears were to reciprocate any genuine interest in Harbaugh as their next head coach, it would likely mean a scenario where the Raiders first passed on Harbaugh because they like their interim head coach Rick Bisaccia. Bisaccia may well lead Vegas to a playoff berth after the tumultuous exit of former head coach Jon Gruden.
Of course, the reason that the Raiders and Bears would even be interested in Harbaugh’s services is his body of work in San Francisco almost a decade ago. In four seasons from 2011-2014, the 49ers won 44 regular-season games under Harbaugh, seven playoff games, appeared in three straight NFC Championship Games, and even qualified for Super Bowl XLVII. Harbaugh was renowned not only for assembling a terrific coaching staff led by then-offensive and defensive-coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, respectively but for being the ideal manager slash “CEO” of a talented, eclectic roster of personalities. These successes were despite rampant (and still active) criticisms that he might be a little too stubborn to thrive in the long term. Nevertheless, the former management ability is always a transferrable skill-set, regardless of extended absences from the league.
There is also the possibility that Harbaugh may simply be using the Bears for contractual leverage. The 58-year-old Michigan Man took a pay cut before Wolverine football's best season in years. If there were ever a time to push for a raise and use his NFL benchmarks as ploys for more compensation, it would be now.
The coming days and weeks will present a fascinating intrigue at Halas Hall. While Harbaugh does have his relevant detractors, it would be difficult to argue that he and the Bears would not be a solid football match.