Broncos desperately flew to Michigan for one more run at Jim Harbaugh
As Condoleezza Rice’s former employer President George W. Bush once said, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”
Rice, now an owner of the Denver Broncos, was supposed to be in on all second interviews the franchise conducted as they search for their 20th head coach. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the former Secretary of State was not part of the Broncos ownership contingent that flew to Ann Arbor this past week and was once again fooled by Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.
There were rumblings that Denver circled back to Harbaugh after he initially re-committed to Michigan and pulled his name from the Broncos search. Schefter says that team owner and CEO Greg Penner left The Great Lakes State without any deal materializing. The trip there was reportedly about due diligence and supposedly in line with the plan Penner has had with Denver’s seven other coaching candidates.
The follow-up conversations were part of the process for both Denver — led by Penner with general manager George Paton — and Harbaugh. The face-to-face meeting came after Harbaugh’s initial video interview with Denver, after which he pulled his name out of contention and reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan.
Harbaugh was once thought to be the top candidate for the gig but now that he’s said no, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has emerged as Denver’s No. 1 target.
Harbaugh flirted heavily with the Vikings in a very similar fashion last year and did it once again to the Broncos in 2023. Harbaugh has found himself coveted after turning the Wolverines around and back into a national powerhouse.
The longtime NFL quarterback also had a successful stint as the 49ers head coach, right after leading Stanford to the top of the Pac-12. One would imagine Penner’s Broncos were pretty committed to getting Harbaugh if they still fired up the private jet even after he very publicly said no.
At best the Broncos were not skipping steps, at worst they wasted more time this week allowing Ryans to get closer to the Texans and resulting in Denver possibly not getting any of their top candidates.
A clearer picture with Ryans will emerge after Sunday’s NFC Title Game but what is known is the Broncos were now twice fooled by the tempting Harbaugh.