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June 21, 2024

Falcons Take Big Swing, Interview Jim Harbaugh for Head Coaching Vacancy

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Jan 19, 2024

The Atlanta Falcons have set their sights high in their search for a new head coach. After firing previous head coach Arthur Smith following three seasons and a 14-35 record, the Falcons completed an interview with University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday for their vacant position.

Harbaugh, one of the biggest names in college football coaching, brings an impressive resumé from both the college and professional ranks. The news adds intrigue to an already captivating NFL coaching carousel this offseason.

Background on Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh has been the head coach at Michigan since 2015. He has a 74-25 record with the Wolverines, including a 2021 season where he led Michigan to a Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff appearance.

Prior to Michigan, Harbaugh was a successful NFL head coach with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014. He led the 49ers to three NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance in 2012.

The 59-year old got his coaching start in the college ranks in the early 2000s with the University of San Diego and Stanford. Since 2015, Harbaugh has been linked every offseason to NFL head coaching vacancies but ultimately stuck with Michigan.

Jim Harbaugh’s Coaching History

Year(s) Team Role Record
2022-Present Michigan Head Coach 74-25
2011-2014 San Francisco 49ers Head Coach 44-19-1
2007-2010 Stanford Head Coach 29–21
2004-2006 San Diego Head Coach 29–6

Falcons’ interest suggests Harbaugh ready to return to NFL

The fact that Harbaugh decided to interview with the Falcons suggests he might finally be ready to make the jump back to the NFL. The Falcons offer an enticing opportunity with a patient owner in Arthur Blank, a veteran quarterback in Marcus Mariota, and the 8th overall pick in April’s draft.

Harbaugh likely sees Atlanta as a good landing spot to prove himself at the NFL level again before potentially moving on to other openings in coming years. The Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers all have potential long-term vacancies Harbaugh could be eyeing.

There is also speculation Harbaugh could use NFL interest to leverage more money and security from Michigan, where he made $7.79 million last season. Harbaugh notoriously flirts with NFL options every winter to improve his negotiating position.

What move to Falcons would mean for Michigan

If Harbaugh does make the move to Atlanta, it would leave Michigan searching for a new coach with National Signing Day fast approaching on February 1st.

Names floated as potential replacements include Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, and several NFL assistants like Eagles OC Shane Steichen, Dolphins DC Vic Fangio, and Lions DC Aaron Glenn. There would be pressure on Michigan’s administration to make a splashy hire quickly to keep their recruiting class intact.

Falcons players lobbying for Harbaugh?

There is chatter that Falcons players themselves gave a endorsement for Harbaugh. Franchise cornerstone Kyle Pitts was asked by team decision makers for his input, according to a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“It’ll be really interesting if they decide to go with Jim… I’m a big fan of his and I let the guys know that when they asked me what I thought,” Pitts said.

Other young Falcons players like Drake London and A.J. Terrell have also voiced support for Harbaugh’s credentials and penchant for building cultures rooted in physicality.

“He’s a proven winner. I’d love to play for him,” said Terrell.

What Would a Harbaugh Hire Mean for Falcons Future?

If hired, Harbaugh would immediately garner respect in the locker room and likely re-shape the Falcons identity to match his gritty, defensive-minded style.

With the 8th pick, Atlanta could target one of the draft’s top defensive prospects like Clemson’s Myles Murphy or Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. Harbaugh would almost certainly want to address a Falcons defense that ranked 31st in points allowed last season.

On offense, Harbaugh could push for upgrades on the offensive line and additions at the running back and wide receiver positions to support Marcus Mariota. The Falcons do not have a clear answer right now at quarterback, so adding talent around Mariota figures to be a priority.

There would also be speculation on Harbaugh potentially wanting to reunite with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who he coached back in 2014 with the 49ers. The Raiders are expected to move on from Carr this offseason unless he accepts a major pay cut.

Potential Notable Falcons Additions if Harbaugh Hired

  • Derek Carr (Raiders QB)
  • Myles Murphy (2023 NFL Draft Target)
  • Will Anderson Jr. (2023 NFL Draft Target)

In summary, Harbaugh to the Falcons would signal a seismic shift toward prioritizing defense and physicality in Atlanta. With a slew of draft picks and cap space available, Harbaugh would have great flexibility to mold the roster to match his vision.

What is Next in Falcons’ Coaching Search?

While Harbaugh is undoubtedly the biggest name linked to Atlanta so far, he figures to have plenty of competition. The Chargers and Broncos especially loom as top threats to lure Harbaugh away from Michigan given their talented rosters.

If talks with Harbaugh stall, the Falcons have also been linked to Brian Flores, Frank Reich, Dan Quinn, and several prominent college coaches like Deion Sanders and Luke Fickell. The team appears focused on candidates with previous head coaching experience in the NFL or college.

A decision could come together quickly with Harbaugh given the urgency for Michigan to resolve their situation. Stay tuned for the next chapter in one of the NFL offseason’s top storylines.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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