The Atlanta Falcons have interviewed University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh for their vacant head coaching position, according to multiple reports. Harbaugh met with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, team president Rich McKay, and general manager Terry Fontenot on Monday.
Background on the Falcons’ Coaching Search
The Falcons fired head coach Arthur Smith after the team went 7-10 this past season. Smith had been the Falcons head coach for the past two seasons, compiling a 14-19 record.
With Smith’s firing, Blank made it clear the team would conduct an extensive search for their next head coach:
“We will take a comprehensive approach to our search for our next head coach,” Blank said. “We understand the stakes at hand and the urgency required to achieve long-term success. The new coach will be provided the resources and support needed to put together an elite staff.”
The Falcons had already interviewed former Saints head coach Sean Payton and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell.
Falcons 2022 Season Results
Harbaugh becomes the third candidate officially known to have interviewed for the position.
Harbaugh has been the head coach at Michigan since 2015. He has a 74-25 record with the Wolverines, winning the Big Ten conference in 2021. Prior to Michigan, Harbaugh was a head coach in the NFL from 2011-2014 with the San Francisco 49ers. He took the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII in 2012.
Harbaugh played quarterback in the NFL for 14 seasons. He led the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC Championship game in 1995 and made the Pro Bowl in that same season.
Jim Harbaugh Coaching Profile
|San Francisco 49ers
The 58-year old has long been rumored to have interest in returning to the NFL. He reportedly had an interview lined up with the Los Angeles Chargers as well before meeting with Atlanta.
Why Harbaugh Fits with the Falcons
Harbaugh brings a proven track record of success at both the pro and college level. His competitiveness and intensity could help change the culture in Atlanta.
The Falcons have a young, talented quarterback in Desmond Ridder that Harbaugh could help develop. With Harbaugh’s history working with quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, and Jake Rudock, he could accelerate Ridder’s growth.
In addition, Harbaugh prioritizes physicality in the running game. The Falcons struggled to run the ball effectively this past season, ranking second-to-last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Harbaugh would emphasize fixing this weakness.
Defensively, Harbaugh’s teams have shown the ability to take the ball away at an above average rate. This would help a Falcons defense that finished with the fifth-fewest takeaways in 2022.
Harbaugh’s Contract Demands
There have been reports detailing Harbaugh’s requests in contract talks with Michigan and NFL teams:
- Five year deal: Harbaugh wants long-term security with whoever he signs with next.
- Full personnel control: He wants control over the 53-man roster and final say in free agency/draft decisions.
- $15 million per year: Harbaugh looks to be paid among the top NFL coaches.
- Private jet use: For recruiting and family travel while at Michigan. Unclear if this would translate to NFL contract.
These demands show that Harbaugh wants full authority over football operations wherever he ends up. It remains to be seen if Blank would be willing to hand over that level of control.
What Happens Next
Based on Harbaugh interviewing with both the Falcons and Chargers within two days, it appears we could get resolution on his future soon. He seems clearly interested in getting back to the NFL.
For Michigan, losing Harbaugh would be a massive blow. He helped turnaround a struggling program and regularly competes for Big Ten titles. Replacing someone with his track record and name recognition would not be an easy task.
If Harbaugh lands with the Falcons, he would immediately shift focus to putting together a coaching staff. Hiring the right offensive and defensive coordinators would be critical. He could look to bring assistants with him from Michigan or target experienced NFL coaches.
We should find out in the coming days if Harbaugh will return to Michigan or make the jump back to the NFL. His candidacy will likely accelerate the Falcons’ coaching search one way or another.
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