Rumors continue to circle around San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and where he will be coaching next year. Despite a year remaining on his contract with the 49ers, Harbaugh and San Francisco are expected to go separate ways once this season concludes on December 28. San Francisco seems to be hoping they can trade Harbaugh to another NFL team, receiving some compensation in return for the coach that took the team to three straight NFC Championship games, winning one before losing to his brother John's Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh is the only coach to reach three conference championship games in his first three years as an NFL coach.
The rumors around Harbaugh have concentrated on potentially moving across San Francisco Bay to coach the Oakland Raiders next year, or potentially returning to the college level to coach his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Other teams believed to be interested, though they currently have employed coaches, include the Miami Dolphins and the division rivals, the New York Jets.
Two days ago, Michigan, who, according to reports, had been told Harbaugh prefers to stay in the NFL, jumped back into the mix with an offer reported to be six years for around $50 million. According to Bruce Feldman from Fox Sports, those numbers are not accurate, describing them as "not even close."
The Michigan rumors continue, however, with reports ranging from there is no chance Harbaugh will go to Michigan all the way up to it being nearly a done deal and will be announced as soon as the NFL season is complete.
Today, ESPN's Adam Schefter weighed in on the latest, reporting that Harbaugh is "torn" in making this decision, with his friends and family pushing him to take the Michigan job while his "heart is in the NFL." Schefter continues, writing, "Harbaugh first would like to see what head-coaching opportunities come available -- and he is likely to be a top choice for a handful of teams -- before getting back to Michigan with an answer, per sources."
Michigan cannot wait forever for Harbaugh, however, as recruiting season has begun and the school needs a coach to start hitting the road. Schefter adds, "Harbaugh would like to finish coaching this season, go through the players' getaway day on Dec. 29 and then make his decision as quickly as possible. As another source said, Harbaugh's agent Dave Dunn 'has a good sense of realistic NFL options already.'"
Are the Dolphins included in that set of "realistic NFL options?" If they are, they could also be the answer to a question posed to Schefter by a Michigan source. "If he wants to stay in the NFL, who will pay him $8 million per year?" the source asked. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross could, and would, pay that price for the coach he tried to land in 2011, but lost out to the 49ers.
Interestingly, Michigan is also the alma mater of Ross, who could soon be in a bidding war for the former Wolverines quarterback against the school to which he donates hundreds of millions of dollars.
At this point, the rumors about Harbaugh's future continue to contradict themselves by the day. It is also not clear if Ross is willing to move on from Joe Philbin, the head coach he hired in 2012 after Tony Sparano was fired, who was the head coach Ross was trying to replace with Harbaugh. Miami has two games remaining this year, both against sub-.500 teams, and both games are in Miami. If the Dolphins finish the season with two wins and a 9-7 overall record, their first winning record since Sparano's first season in 2008, Philbin could be retained, returning to coach the Dolphins in 2015.