While Chuck Pagano is still the head coach of the Colts, his job is far from guaranteed after this season. Would Jim Harbaugh be a good fit in Indianapolis?
Chuck Pagano began his tenure in Indianapolis with three straight 11-5 seasons making the playoffs each year. He led the team all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 2014, but it’s gone downhill ever since the infamous “Deflategate” loss to the Patriots.
After two 8-8 seasons the Colts have bottomed out this year, and with a new front office in place they may be looking for a new head coach this offseason.
Harbaugh’s Connection to the Colts
The main reason Jim Harbaugh has been linked to this head coaching position is his relationship with Andrew Luck from his days at Stanford.
Harbaugh recruited Luck to Stanford, and coached him for the first two seasons of his college career before Harbaugh became the head coach of the 49ers. Harbaugh would love to work with a talented quarterback like Luck again, but that situation has become much murkier with Luck’s troubles in recovering from shoulder surgery.
Harbaugh also played in Indianapolis from 1994-1997. He had his best year as a pro with the Colts in 1995 where he made his only Pro Bowl appearance and led the team to a conference championship game appearance.
Stanford went 1-11 the year before Harbaugh arrived, and he turned them into an 8-5 bowl team by his third season. The following year, Stanford was in the national title hunt and he led them to an Orange Bowl victory finishing fourth in the final polls.
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San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers fired Mike Singletary after a 6-10 season in 2010 before hiring Jim Harbaugh to turn the franchise around.
Harbaugh transformed them into a championship contender immediately as San Francisco went 13-3 in his first season, and came within one game of a Super Bowl appearance. The 49ers reached the Super Bowl in his second season at the helm, but they came up just short against his brother John’s Baltimore Ravens.
San Francisco made it to the NFC Championship Game again the next year, but he was fired after an 8-8 campaign in 2014 due in part to some personal conflicts with the front office.
Harbaugh wasn’t unemployed for long as he accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater after Brady Hoke failed to make a bowl game in his final season.
He turned around the program in his first season yet again as Michigan went 10-3 in each of his first two years before going 8-4 this season.
Harbaugh would likely want some personnel control if he were to leave Michigan for another NFL job. It remains to be seen whether general manager Chris Ballard would be willing to give him that, and Ballard doesn’t really have any ties to Harbaugh.
There’s no question that Jim Harbaugh is a fantastic football coach, but this may not be the perfect fit or great timing for him to return to the NFL with some unfinished business left to accomplish at Michigan.