University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who has drawn the eye of a few NFL franchises, said he expects to coach the Wolverines in 2023.
"While no one knows what the future holds," Harbaugh said in a statement released on Twitter on Thursday, "I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023."
What Harbaugh did not do in the statement, however, is rule out taking an NFL job.
"I am aware of the rumors and speculation over the past few days," Harbaugh said. "College and NFL teams have great interest in all our personnel, from players to coaches to staff, and I truly believe that is a testament to the strength of our University of Michigan football program."
After taking a long look at the Vikings' job a year ago, Harbaugh said he was closing the door on returning to the NFL. Michigan earned a spot in the College Football Playoff this season, losing to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl semifinals on New Year's Eve. The 12-4 Vikings have had a successful first season under head coach Kevin O'Connell, whom Minnesota turned to after Harbaugh bowed out of the running.
But as NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported in early December, NFL teams are doing their homework on Harbaugh again and that Harbaugh would consider the right offer.
One of the teams that reportedly has reached out to Harbaugh in this hiring cycle is the Carolina Panthers. Although he admitted to a Charlotte-area TV station this week that he spoke with Panthers owner David Tepper, Harbaugh made a similar-sounding statement about that: "Although no one knows the future, I think I will be coaching Michigan next year."
While "expect" is a stronger word than "think," Harbaugh's future remains up in the air. Assuming there are no issues with his current contract, Harbaugh could simply have closed the door on any NFL speculation. Instead, he kept the door cracked.
Other teams that could make a run at Harbaugh include the Indianapolis Colts, for whom Harbaugh played and earned the "Captain Comeback" nickname in the 1990s, and the Denver Broncos. (Harbaugh also spent time on the roster of the 2001 Panthers.)
Following the conclusion of the NFL's regular season on Sunday, there might also be other head-coaching vacancies where Harbaugh could emerge as a candidate.
Is Harbaugh not interested in the current openings? Could he be jockeying for more money? We don't yet know, and until we have a definitive answer on his plans, the speculation will continue.
As Pelissero and Rapoport reported previously, landing Harbaugh would not be cheap. Michigan reworked his five-year contract last February, extending the deal through the 2026 season and guaranteeing he will make more than $7 million annually, with the potential to make millions more with performance bonuses.
Prior to taking the Michigan job, the 59-year-old Harbaugh spent four years as head coach of the 49ers, amassing a regular-season record of 44-19-1. He led San Francisco to three NFC Championship Game appearances and a spot in Super Bowl XLVII, where the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens and Jim's brother, head coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh also played 14 years as a quarterback in the NFL for the Bears, Colts, Ravens and Chargers. He made the Pro Bowl in 1995, when he finished fourth in the MVP voting, and ranks in the top 75 all time in completed passes, pass attempts and passing yards.