BRONCOS

Jim Harbaugh is headed to the Broncos’ division

Jan 24, 2024, 5:01 PM | Updated: 5:04 pm

Last year, the Broncos interviewed Jim Harbaugh to be their next head coach.

Now, they’ll go against him twice a year.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Michigan coach agreed to become the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The decision brings an end to a pas de deux between NFL teams and Jim Harbaugh that had lingered for years as his tenure in the Big Ten progressed.

Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers to take the Michigan job in 2015 following a four-year stint as San Francisco’s head coach that was a phenomenal success by any viable measurement. The 49ers went to three-consecutive NFC Championship Games and played in Super Bowl XLVII while never having a losing season on Harbaugh’s watch.

When the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh from Stanford, they’d just finished their eighth-straight losing season.

With that track record in mind, the Broncos interviewed Harbaugh for their then-vacant head-coaching position last year. According a report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the interview lasted over two hours.

But Harbaugh ultimately opted to remain at Michigan, in news that was broken by the school’s president. And while a buzz continued to persist around Harbaugh, the Broncos ultimately agreed to terms with Sean Payton, sacrificing a draft-pick package to acquire his rights from the New Orleans Saints.

Harbaugh stayed at Michigan, where he guided the Wolverines to their first undisputed national championship since 1948. The title came with a hint of scandal, as the coach served a three-game Big Ten suspension for violation of the conference’s sportsmanship policy. The punishment stemmed from a sign-stealing operation.

The Wolverines kept on chugging despite the suspension, winning all three games without Harbaugh. He returned for the postseason and guided Michigan to a national-championship game win over Washington. But in the midst of that, the NCAA served Michigan with a notice of allegations revolving around recruiting practices during the COVID-19 dead period.

With all that in play, Harbaugh finally made the leap back to the NFL.

The AFC West now features three coaches who have been in at least one Super Bowl as a head coach: Harbaugh, Payton and Kansas City’s Andy Reid. Among the other divisions in the NFL, only the AFC North can also make that distinction.

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