Denver Broncos door for Jim Harbaugh being left open a crack

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with coaches and players after winning the Big Ten championship game over Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with coaches and players after winning the Big Ten championship game over Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. /

For a good while now, it feels like the Jim Harbaugh-to-the-Denver-Broncos dream has been dead. The Broncos spoke with Harbaugh remotely, but never in person. At least, not that we knew of…

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke a pretty massive story along with his silence regarding the Broncos’ head coaching search on Saturday night by revealing that Denver Broncos CEO Greg Penner had an in-person meeting with Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, Michigan this past week.

This report from Schefter was nothing short of a bombshell after a week of near-silence from the Broncos’ perspective regarding the head coaching search. Of course, the biggest development in the last handful of days is the emergence of DeMeco Ryans as “a top candidate” in the search after most people assumed the Broncos would go after only experienced candidates.

Other than the reports of Ryans impressing the Broncos’ hiring committee, we’ve heard nothing and it’s been frustrating bordering on confusing. People have started confusing the Broncos’ process for apathy, to the point that a rumor about owner Rob Walton being on a hunting trip this past week was actually believable. Even though it was refuted, I mean, it would kind of make sense…

At any rate, and all kidding aside, the report from Schefter was later confirmed by 9News insider Mike Klis, who had recently stated that the Denver Broncos were definitely out on Harbaugh. Simultaneously, though, he seems to have been keeping the door open in recent days.

Klis makes a couple of very important notes in this post.

First of all, the timeline of events.

January 9: Harbaugh has a Zoom interview with the Denver Broncos

January 16: Michigan president Santa Ono releases a statement that Jim Harbaugh will remain Michigan HC

January 16: Harbaugh releases a statement that his heart is at Michigan

January 23: Harbaugh takes 2nd interview (in person) with Broncos in Ann Arbor, MI

So, Harbaugh’s heart is at Michigan. Why did he agree to take a second interview with the Denver Broncos a week after making that declaration? Was it out of pity? Was it because Harbaugh can’t say “no” to people of the stature of Greg Penner and Carrie Walton-Penner?

Or is he actually still interested in the job?

Both Schefter and Klis reported that no deal was consummated (obviously) and Klis also reported that the Broncos have yet to make any sort of formal offer to Harbaugh. But this line from his latest post (linked above) is interesting, to say the least.

"“And Harbaugh is apparently staying at Michigan. Although could a third time be the charm for the Broncos? National Signing Day for high school seniors is Wednesday.”Mike Klis"

Without getting too excited here, it does seem like Klis is leaving the door open a crack. Is Harbaugh going to wait it out until National Signing Day to make sure Michigan doesn’t get screwed out of losing a bunch of great recruits before he heads out? Or will he leave early enough in the week to give those kids an opportunity to go to another school?

Or is he just going to stay at Michigan? Quite frankly, that has always felt like the most likely outcome regarding Harbaugh, but these recent rumors are nothing if not fascinating. Remember back to some of the earliest rumors of what the Broncos were willing to offer the top candidates in this cycle (namely Harbaugh and Sean Payton) in the realm of $20-25 million per year.

That would be hard for anyone to pass up, no matter where your “heart” is.