Vikings' talks throw big twist in Jim Harbaugh's offseason routine at Michigan

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

It’s been business as usual for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh despite rumors swirling about potential NFL suitors.

Harbaugh, along with his staff, was in the office working through the weekend on recruiting with visits from already committed players and sophomores and juniors. Really, it has been business as usual for Harbaugh the past month. He has been on the road recruiting and made a staff hire, adding Mike Elston as defensive line coach in mid-January.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings about their head-coaching vacancy.

But on Saturday, there was a twist.

That’s when Harbaugh, 58, interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings, news that was confirmed by The Detroit News. Harbaugh, who met with the Vikings via Zoom, had informed Michigan, fulfilling a contractual obligation, a source told The News.

A report Sunday on described the interview as “exploratory” to determine Harbaugh’s interest in leaving Michigan to return to the NFL. The report indicated Harbaugh is a candidate for the job and if the Vikings interest grows, they would bring Harbaugh to the facility this week.

Harbaugh is in his eighth season coaching at his alma mater and coming off his best season, 12-2 with a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines fell to eventual national champion Georgia in the Orange Bowl semifinal.

During his time at Michigan, it has not been unusual for Harbaugh’s name to pop up for NFL head coaching vacancies. After all, he spent four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, taking them to the Super Bowl his third year. But he has always quashed those rumors.

This offseason has been different, though. Earlier this month, according to a report by 247Sports/MichiganInsider, Harbaugh told a 2022 class signee that he would “entertain” NFL interest. He also has not yet signed a renegotiated contract with Michigan. A year ago, following a 2-4 season in 2020, he signed a contract extension that slashed his salary in half to $4 million but was heavily incentivized and featuring a lower buyout.

Should Harbaugh leave Michigan for the Vikings (or any NFL team this year), he would owe Michigan a $1.5 million buyout. If Harbaugh were to leave, it would mark his return to the NFL. He left the San Francisco 49ers after four seasons to take over at Michigan in December 2014.

The link for Harbaugh with Minnesota is recently hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He worked for the 49ers during Harbaugh’s last two years.

Twitter: @chengelis