The Minnesota Vikings continue their search for a new head coach after parting ways with now-former head coach Mike Zimmer after eight seasons leading the purple and gold. After the appointment of new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah last week, Minnesota will speed up the process of hiring a new head coach with Adofo-Mensah leading that search.
Although some candidates have taken head coaching jobs elsewhere this off-season, there are still some intriguing candidates out there worth looking at. With a few potential candidates having taken part in this weekend’s Championship Round of the playoffs and now the Super Bowl, a final decision on a head coach could come after The Big Game on Feb. 13.
That is unless the Vikings decide to look elsewhere, notably the college game, and if there is a candidate there who would intrigue them enough to take a chance on bringing into the NFL in 2022. This week, a new name arose in Minnesota’s head coaching search, that being former NFL coach and current University of Michigan leader John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh’s name has been thrown around for a few other NFL head coaching vacancies this off-season, but hasn’t been connected to the Vikings before Adofo-Mensah’s hiring. Over the weekend, however, Minnesota met with the Michigan man to gauge his interest in potentially becoming the head coach of the Vikings.
Harbaugh would be an interesting hire for the Vikings, but he has a history of winning and the appointment of the unique personality would be a win-now move for Minnesota.
Jim Harbaugh as Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Would Be a Win-Now Hire
Proven Success in NFL
Although he is a unique personality and has an interesting way of conducting business, Harbaugh has a proven track record of success in the NFL. Most notably, his stint as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14, where he spent a short time with Adofo-Mensah in San Fransisco.
During his time leading the 49ers, Harbaugh went 44-19-1 over four seasons, the fifth-best winning percentage in NFL history. The highlight of that stint was when Harbaugh led San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII, where the 49ers fell to Jim’s brother John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.
In 2014 after an 8-8 season, Harbaugh was fired by San Francisco and ended up leaving the professional game altogether, later joining his alma mater in Michigan where he has been the head coach since 2015.
Harbaugh has a history of success at every stop he has been in, including the NFL, and has shown the ability to lead a team deep in the playoffs and get the most out of his roster. Plus, Adofo-Mensah is familiar with and knows Harbaugh, which could make for an interesting pairing in Minnesota moving forward.
Buyout Would Have to Happen First
Harbaugh wrapped up his seventh season at Michigan in 2021, leading the Wolverines to their best finish with him as head coach with a 12-2 record and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Although Harbaugh appears to be testing the waters at a potential return to the NFL, he is still under contract with Michigan through the 2025 season.
Part of Harbaugh’s interest in an NFL head coaching job could be his attempt at creating leverage to get more money from Michigan via a reworked contract or an extension. But if his desire to return to the NFL is real, that means whatever team he agrees to join would be on the hook to pay the buyout for his contract. Buyouts aren’t uncommon and haven’t deterred teams from still pursuing candidates in the past, so it likely wouldn’t impact Minnesota’s decision to hire Harbaugh if he becomes the man to take over as head coach.
According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Harbaugh’s buyout at Michigan would be about $1.5 million to pull him away from the college game. That’s not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, especially if the Vikings view him as an essential piece to putting a championship team together, but it’s still something to consider as the two sides continue to discuss the head coaching opening.
Who Could Join Harbaugh in Minnesota
Although talks appear to be in the initial stages as of now between Harbaugh and Minnesota, with both sides meeting for the first time last weekend, there are already some rumors surrounding who might join Harbaugh on his coaching staff if he makes the leap to the NFL.
One name that has surfaced recently is a well-respected and veteran coordinator who would take on the defensive coordinator position on Harbaugh’s staff. According to Arif Hasan of The Athletic, former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio would likely be paired with Harbaugh in Minnesota. Fangio was most recently the head coach of the Broncos from 2019-21 before being fired by the Broncos this off-season. Prior to that, the 63-year-old was one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL, having served in that role with the Carolina Panthers (1995-98), Indianapolis Colts (1999-2001), Houston Texans (2002-05), 49ers (2011-14) and Chicago Bears (2015-18).
Not only is bringing in Harbaugh an intriguing thought, but also hiring Fangio to take over the defensive play-calling is an even more appealing possibility. Fangio is someone Vikings fans are likely familiar with, especially for his stint as the defensive coordinator with the Bears from 2015-18 leading up to him taking the head coaching job in Denver. Fangio is one of the top candidates available for a defensive coordinator opening, so that would be a welcomed addition to the Vikings staff.
As the NFL Playoffs continue to progress, Minnesota will continue to look into head coaching candidates to take over the team on the sidelines in 2022. But the latest inclusion of Harbaugh into those conversations and list of candidates is an intriguing idea, and it would be a win-now move for Minnesota to make rather than taking a chance on a younger, unproven candidate.
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