Jim Harbaugh appears to have ruled out, for now and possibly for good, a return to the NFL.
Before Michigan’s appearance in the Outback Bowl, the third-year Wolverines coach was asked — yes, again — whether he’d ever go back to the professional ranks.
“That’s like warmed-up oatmeal,” he said in response to that question. “Not a big fan of warmed-up oatmeal.”
Still, that wasn’t enough to stop the speculation — or, maybe it’s the wishful thinking.
ESPN on Wednesday afternoon unveiled results of a poll, in which it asked its 45 “experts” who they’d hire for an NFL head-coaching position. The only stipulation is, they couldn’t vote for anybody who’s currently an NFL head coach.
And, wouldn’t you know it, Harbaugh was the winner of the survey, receiving nine first-place votes, eight seconds, four thirds and three fourths.
The next closest were Stanford head coach David Shaw and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Alabama coach Nick Saban was a distant fourth, followed by ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who’s rumored to possibly be taking over the Raiders.
Of Harbaugh, ESPN writes, “In Harbaugh's one NFL stop in San Francisco, he took over a 6-10 team and went 44-19 over the next four seasons — which included a heartbreaking three-point loss in Super Bowl XLVII. Before that, he inherited a 1-11 Stanford team and went 29-21 over four seasons. Most recently, he inherited a 5-8 Michigan team and has gone 28-11 in the three seasons since.”
Michigan is coming off an 8-5 season, ended with a loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Other names in ESPN’s top 10: Mike Vrabel, who was to interview with the Lions on Wednesday; Pat Shurmur, a Michigan State alum who’s also said to be on the Lions’ interview list; and Matt Patricia, who’s believed to be Bob Quinn’s top choice to replace Jim Caldwell as head coach.
College coaches Urban Meyer, Mike Leach and Dabo Swinney round out the top 15.
Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter received three and two votes, respectively, and former Lions coach Jim Schwartz — a rumored candidate to take over the Giants — also received two votes.
Caldwell received one vote.