Why Jim Harbaugh Is A Serious Candidate To Coach The Bears In 2018

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jim harbaugh bears

In anticipation of the firestorm from Michigan fans, please let this be known. This Jim Harbaugh Bears connection exists. It would be foolish to deny it. Of course it doesn’t guarantee anything. He could very well stay in college, but rumors have hinted for the past year plus that he is awaiting an opportunity to get back into the NFL. Specifically in Chicago .

Jim Trotter, a respected analyst who works for ESPN and Sports Illustrated said so back in December of 2016. The buzz didn’t come out of nowhere.

If he were to come back to the NFL, from what I’ve been told, is that his dream job would be in Chicago where he started his playing career under Mike Ditka.

“People are going to take that as me saying he’s looking to leave Michigan, but I’m not saying that at all. If you know Jim Harbaugh the competitor, you’d know he has unfinished business with Ohio State having not beaten Urban Meyer yet. But from what I’ve been told, Chicago would be his NFL dream job.”

Nothing is set in stone of course. Harbaugh could easily lose the itch and stay in his cushy position at Ann Arbor. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to think he’d make the jump back to the pro level. Here are the biggest ones and why the Bears are the desired landing spot.

The Jim Harbaugh Bears ties

This of course is the easy one. Harbaugh has deep ties to the Bears organization He was of course drafted in the first round by them in 1987. Over the next few years he went 35-30 as a starter and got them to the playoffs in 1991. Former team chairman Michael McCaskey had a hand in him being drafted in the first place. It seems the man made an impression even before he was part of the organization.

After playing in Chicago for seven years he was released in 1994. A move that then-head coach Dave Wanndstedt says he deeply regretted. Harbaugh of course went to Indianapolis and a year later reached a Pro Bowl and AFC championship. That mental toughness and will to win was something they took for granted, having watched him endure the ire of Mike Ditka during six of those seven seasons.

That would explain how he’s able to shrug off critics so easily.

It almost happened seven years ago

This will be the one that catches a ton of people by surprise. Many don’t know that the seeds for Harbaugh becoming head coach in Chicago were planted back in 2010. According to Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Tribune, the McCaskey family had their eyes on him that year. The Bears had just gone 7-9. The third-straight losing season under Lovie Smith after reaching the Super Bowl.

They had a new quarterback in Jay Cutler who needed grooming. Perhaps Harbaugh, who was enjoying breakout success at Stanford, was just the man for the job given his QB background. It got so far as his representatives meeting with the Bears brass.

“Less known is the fact Harbaugh once was atop a wish list of candidates to coach the team if Lovie Smith were ever fired.

When Harbaugh still was coaching Stanford late in 2009, a member of the McCaskey family made it clear the franchise was aware of Harbaugh, who was on a fast track for an NFL job and would top the family’s wish list if things didn’t work out with Smith.

Shortly after that season’s conclusion, a former representative of Harbaugh’s met with Bears brass, including then-general manager Jerry Angelo, at Halas Hall.”

Odds are Smith would’ve been fired in 2011 and Harbaugh the primary pursuit. However, it didn’t work out that way. The Bears reached the NFC championship in 2010, Smith thereby saving his job. Harbaugh instead went to San Francisco.

Vic Fangio would likely stay

There is no question the end game of the Bears would be simple if John Fox were fired. Find a way to keep defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in place. He has had the most success of anybody on the coaching staff since arriving in 2015. The players love him and feel he can get that defense back to playing dominant football again.

Of course the tricky part is hiring a head coach that would be willing to keep him and also somebody Fangio would be willing to work with. Harbaugh solves both those problems. He and Fangio go way back. The two got together in 2010 at Stanford. Fangio became his defensive coordinator. Then when Harbaugh made the jump to San Francisco, Fangio followed. Together they reached three-straight NFC championships and a Super Bowl.

It’s hard to imagine there being a problem with a reunion.

Mitch Trubisky

When it comes to luring in top quality coaches, every team needs a carrot to dangle. Often the best bait? A talented, young quarterback to build around. For years the Bears just haven’t had that. They did back in 2010 with Cutler, who was 27-years old at the time. That fell through though. Now they’ve got another chance thanks to the presence of Mitch Trubisky. The #2 overall pick is considered the future of the franchise.

He’s also the type of talent Harbaugh never really had in San Francisco. To be more precise he is a natural thrower with a stronger arm than Alex Smith. He has greater pocket awareness and better touch on his passes than Colin Kaepernick. It’s not hard to imagine putting him in the hands of a QB specialist like Harbaugh.

After all the last time he had a Fangio defense, a Pro Bowl running back and a talented passer he was taking his team to conference championship games. There is no doubt Chicago would love to see him do it. Accomplish something as a coach he never was able to as a player with the Bears. All the while exorcising some demons. Whether it be conquering the shadow of Ditka or finally getting that ring which has eluded him for years.

It just makes sense. Will it happen? That depends on what transpires over the next eight months.

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Erik Lambert
Brainwashed by the sports culture as a wee lad, Erik was educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College. He has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.