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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Panthers owner David Tepper had a chat, but about what?

Though the coach recently said he’ll be returning to Michigan’s program, his recent chat with the Panthers owner seems to suggest otherwise.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Panthers owner David Tepper had a chat, but about what?
Kirby LeeUSA TODAY Sports

Despite his recent comments suggesting otherwise, it appears the speculation surrounding the future of Michigan’s highly coveted coach may yet have a leg to stand on consider this latest development.

Jim Harbaugh chatted with Panthers owner David Tepper

Though you might have seen our recent report, about the fact that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh intends to return to the program for another year of college football, there has since been a new development. Harbaugh, who is fresh off of a second consecutive College Football Playoff appearance with the Wolverines, has apparently been chatting with Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper. Indeed, speculation has been intense since a NFL report last Sunday, claimed that the former 49ers coach was being vetted by a number of NFL teams. Yet, it’s important to note that reports stress the fact, that the conversation with Tepper was not a formal interview.

Where the Panthers are concerned, it’s no secret that they’re in the market for a new coach after firing Matt Rhule. With that said, some reports suggest that interim head coach Steve Wilks, who has just a single year of head coaching experience - it came with the Arizona Cardinals - remains the central candidate for the job. Considering the fact that the Panthers were 1-4 when he took over from Rhule and are now 5-6, that’s understandable. Add to that, the fact that Tepper himself has previously indicated that he has no interest in a college-based coach and it seems to be a closed case. Yet, this is Jim Harbaugh we’re talking about, which is to say one of the best and most successful coaches out here on the NFL market right now.

Is Jim Harbaugh about to return to the NFL?

In case you don’t remember Harbaugh’s time in the NFL, let us remind you. As head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, he was the architect behind a record of 44-19-1 across four seasons. The culmination of his efforts, was of course a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in his second year, which interestingly enough, he lost to his brother John, who was at the time and still is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Harbaugh would take the Niners to the NFC championship game in three straight seasons, but things would eventually falter with an 8-8 record in what would become his last season in the league. Following a battle for power with San Francisco’s front office, he finally took the decision to return to his alma mater.

To be honest, he didn’t hit the ground running in Ann Arbor, but things definitely started to roll last year. Following a historic victory over Ohio State, Harbaugh took the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff for the first time in the program’s history. Unfortunately, they would lose to eventual national champion Georgia, but it was clear that Harbaugh had impressed. Following the season there were reports of an interview with the Minnesota Vikings, but in the end, he decided to return to Michigan and that was that, or was it. As things stand, we are once again in a similar situation. Michigan beat Ohio State to conclude a stellar season and though they did lose an epic semifinal 51-45 in the College Football Playoff, it’s once again clear that Harbaugh has impressed. So, what happens next?

What’s the catch with a potential Jim Harbaugh move?

If there’s one thing that could potentially be a hindrance, it’s Harbaugh current five-year, $36.7 million contract extension with Michigan was signed just after the Vikings interview last offseason. To be clear, the deal holds a $3 million buyout until Jan. 11, per ESPN, at which point it decreases to $2.25 million. While it’s not completely a no-go it stands to reason that some teams may have doubts about paying such a clause in addition to whatever salary the coach would demand. Where Harbaugh himself is concerned, he recent denied the idea that he wanted a job in the NFL, but he also added that “no man knows the future.” At any rate, league rules stipulate that a minimum of two minority candidates must be interviewed before a final decision can be made. So, at the least we won’t be seeing any movement until wild-card weekend has passed. Watch this space.