The Denver Broncos head coaching search took a slightly unexpected but simultaneously not overly surprising turn on Monday night as both Michigan and Jim Harbaugh himself announced that the former 49ers head coach would be returning to Ann Arbor in 2023. This announcement came absent an extension announcement for Harbaugh, but one can only assume that’s on the way.
Harbaugh was considered a top contender for the Denver Broncos head coaching job and it’s been reported that there was genuine mutual interest between the two parties. In the end, it was likely just too difficult for Harbaugh to leave his dream gig at Michigan and return to the rigors of the NFL. Until next offseason, at least.
The more time goes on, the less it appears Harbaugh was the team’s top target anyway. He may have been in the top two or three, but the breadcrumbs being left right now seem to indicate that Sean Payton, not Harbaugh, is the Broncos’ top target and perhaps has been for quite some time.
Jim Harbaugh removes his name from Denver Broncos HC search
The Denver Broncos were not the only team Jim Harbaugh spoke with (Panthers) but they were the only team he had an interview with. The interview was not in-person, but you figure if Harbaugh were truly interested in leaving Michigan that it would have gotten to that point.
If nothing else, the interview the Broncos were granted with Harbaugh was extremely valuable for the fact that they probably got his perception of the team, quarterback Russell Wilson, the job as a whole, and likely more. All of that information can help them in the offseason even if they’re not going to be able to ultimately hire him.
So now, the attention turns firmly to Sean Payton, the candidate the Broncos will be interviewing in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon. Previously, everyone thought the interview was happening in the morning, but that apparently changed or was never the case. At any rate, the Broncos are the first team to get an in-person interview with Sean Payton.
The Houston Texans snuck in the first official interview with him, but it was a video call and not an in-person meeting. Therefore, how serious really was it?
There are a lot of games being played with the media right now, it seems. So, in order to be truly informed in this particular situation, you must put on a tinfoil hat and come down the rabbit hole of conspiracy with me.
Jim Harbaugh bowing out a sign that the Broncos are about to get Sean Payton?
Let’s say the Denver Broncos didn’t secure an in-person interview with Harbaugh before ultimately coming to their decision to hire someone else, namely Sean Payton. What does that do to Harbaugh’s narrative and reputation?
It does two things.
- It makes it seem like he “lost” the Broncos job
- It makes it seem like the Michigan job was a silver medal
Harbaugh bowing out now, perhaps knowing he wasn’t going to get or take the job (before he was even given an offer by the Broncos) seems to indicate there’s a decent chance that Harbaugh simply wanted to control this narrative and make it seem like Michigan was his first option. And maybe they were, but we might never really know if he wasn’t actually presented with an offer of $20 million per season to coach the Broncos as was rumored to possibly be the case.
You never know. Now, to be fair, the Broncos have not exchanged any formal proposals with Sean Payton at the time this is being written, either. They have to go through the proper channels to make sure they are in agreement on a deal (trade) with the Saints before they can offer Payton a contract.
Perhaps that’s the reason Payton’s interview was in the morning previously and is now an afternoon get-together?
Whatever the case, Harbaugh is now out of the race and he didn’t stick around long enough to get an actual offer from the team’s ownership. What does that mean going forward? Does that put more pressure on the ownership group to hire a big name like Sean Payton? To make a move quickly?
The Denver Broncos have been interviewing candidates for the head coaching position, but is their top option hiding in plain sight?
Time will tell. As of right now, the head coaching search appears to be ongoing but as the Broncos have satisfied the NFL’s requirements for the Rooney Rule, anything is on the table.