Jim Harbaugh has said he’s still going to be the Michigan coach. And Nick Saban once said he’s not going to be the Alabama coach. So we know to never take prominent denials at face value.
From anyone. Coaches routinely tell something other than the truth for strategic reasons, and teams do, too. Harbaugh made his comments while recruiting, blaming the rumors about an NFL return on someone trying to throw a wrench in his efforts to attract to Ann Arbor the best possible unpaid players. Regardless of the motivation, the last thing he would have said at the time is, “Yep. Thinking about it. May do it.”
That all changes once jobs officially become open and offers become something more than hypothetical. So with Harbaugh currently making $7 million per year in Michigan, what would it take to get him back to the pro game?
Despite very real differences when it comes to player acquisition, the jobs are basically the same: High profile, high pressure, high-level football. So how much more than he currently makes would Harbaugh need to be offered to say yes?
Would a doubling of his salary do it? That would put Harbaugh at $3 million more per year than Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, giving brand new meaning to “what’s your deal?”
With no salary cap for coaches and with the Jets seemingly determined to get the most out of their budding franchise quarterback, $14 million per year would be more than reasonable for a guy who, like most NFL coaches, could have more of an impact on an NFL team than any player ever does.
Sure, the Jets issued a statement attempting to return the toothpaste to the tube. And for good reason. If word gets out prematurely, multiple problems could develop. From compliance with the Rooney Rule if minority candidates believe Harbaugh is the guy to managing the P.R. complications that come from potentially not getting their top choice (and the New York media never letting them forget it), the Jets can’t afford to acknowledge interest in Harbaugh until he has signed on the dotted line.
“Todd Bowles is our Head Coach,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said Monday, not “will be our coach” or anything having any relevance beyond Sunday. “There is no truth to the report of our interest in Jim Harbaugh.”
Freudian slips rarely come in writing, but there’s something odd and intriguing about Johnson using the phrase “our interest.” It’s like me saying, there’s no truth to the report of a mechanical problem with my private jet. How can a possessive pronoun attach to something that doesn’t exist?
It can’t. And in this case, their interest isn’t non-existent. It’s real, no matter how loudly they deny it. Moving forward, what matters most is whether the interest becomes reciprocal.