BRONCOS

Report: If Jim Harbaugh gets NFL offer, it’s a ‘done deal’

Jan 2, 2023, 12:31 PM | Updated: 12:41 pm

Last January, Jim Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings. It didn’t result in him taking over, and he signed an extension with the University of Michigan.

But this time around, it could be different.

The Athletic reported Monday that sources “close” to Harbaugh expect that he will bolt from Michigan if offered an NFL head-coaching job.

“I think it is a done deal if he gets an offer,” one source told The Athletic.

That report comes on the heels of a Pro Football Talk report Sunday that the Broncos have reached out to Harbaugh about their vacant head-coaching position.

Harbaugh owes $3 million on his contract buyout if he leaves Michigan. If he became the Broncos’ head coach, the magnitude of the contract would certainly ensure that such a clause wouldn’t be a problem.

The Broncos and Harbaugh would appear to be an intriguing fit — with many parallels to the San Francisco 49ers job he accepted in 2011: a proud franchise enduring its roughest times in generations, a talented quarterback in need of better guidance and committed ownership.

Last week, Broncos co-owner and CEO Greg Penner outlined the most important qualities he seeks in his first head-coaching search as an NFL executive.

As Penner noted, it starts with “really strong leadership.”

“That’s going to be the most critical factor here in a head coach,” Penner said Dec. 27. “Obviously, the Xs and Os are important, but we need a strong leader for this organization that’s focused on winning.

“That starts with culture. It’s instilling a sense of accountability and discipline. We need an identity on offense. At the starting point, it has to be about culture and leadership. Those characteristics are what we’ll be focused on the most.”

Harbaugh checks those boxes.

He won at every head-coaching stop — the University of San Diego, Stanford University, the 49ers and most recently, Michigan. In each case, he left the program in a far better state than it was when he arrived.

And in San Francisco, he inherited a team that had eight-straight losing seasons and took it to three-consecutive conference-championship games and a Super Bowl.

The Broncos are likely to have competition. The Indianapolis Colts are expected to make a run at Harbaugh, as well.

And like Michigan, Indianapolis is dear to Harbaugh’s heart, as he played three seasons there (1995-97), leading to them to a pair of playoff appearances while earning the nickname “Captain Comeback” for the late-game heroics that gave the Colts their first back-to-back years with playoff wins since the salad days of Johnny Unitas.

But with the wealthiest ownership group in the NFL, the Broncos can offer financial resources that are virtually limitless.

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