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Paul Finebaum, Cris Carter fuel speculation about Jim Harbaugh’s return to the NFL

For The Win logo For The Win 12/5/2018 Michelle R. Martinelli
a man wearing a hat: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

In the 24 hours since Ohio State announced that Urban Meyer will step down after the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl game against Washington on January first, how the head coach's departure will impact the program and the Big Ten has been intensely dissected.

Much of the chatter has revolved around Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, who were favored to beat Ohio State this season before getting blown out, 62-39, two weeks ago. Harbaugh is 0-4 against Meyer, so perhaps with Ryan Day taking over at Ohio State, he can get his first W over the Buckeyes.

That is an expected talking point about the effects of Meyer retiring from Ohio State, but speculation about Harbaugh bailing on Michigan being reignited is not. Why would Harbaugh leave for the NFL now when his team had its most successful season so far under him? It could also just be a coincidence, considering the Green Bay Packers fired Mike McCarthy.

Paul Finebaum discussed the possibility of Harbaugh returning to the NFL on ESPN's Get Up on Wednesday, and he expanded on his opinion on First Take that Harbaugh could be on his way out:

"My inclination that he wants to go to the NFL is more based on his frustration at Michigan and I believe a strong frustration by that Michigan fan base. Now listen, this is not Ohio State or Alabama or even Clemson. Michigan has won, I think, half a national championship in 70 years. They act like they're on a run of 15 in a row. …

"Their fans don't want to admit that he didn't pan out. So they're not calling or his head like other fan bases would. But privately I think they're really fed up with him."

When Stephen A. Smith asked Finebaum if he had heard any NFL rumors or if Harbaugh has anything to gain by sticking around in Ann Arbor, Finebaum said:

"On the NFL side, there are plenty of whispers out there because of the multitude of jobs that Harbaugh would be on many people's lists (for). I think he would be a very good NFL coach. He's already proven that in San Francisco. I don't think he has anything to gain and a lot to lose at Michigan. Next year, the game (against Ohio State) is in Ann Arbor. If he loses to Ryan Day - I'm not laughing at Ryan Day. Well… Ryan Day hasn't accomplished anything other than win three games (while Meyer was suspended at the beginning of the 2018 season). The biggest win of his career is over TCU - a lousy TCU team at that.

"So that's a high-wire, high-risk opportunity for Jim Harbaugh to look even worse than he does already. So I don't know what's inside Jim Harbaugh's mind. I don't think anyone does. I'd love to do a reality series about it. But I think he would very anxiously get out of there."

Finebaum also said he believes the Michigan coach "is stuck in the '80s today" and hasn't adapted well to the version of college football that we have now.

Harbaugh is the third-highest paid college football coach behind Nick Saban and Meyer, according to USA TODAY Sports, and he's under contract in Ann Arbor until 2021.

But Finebaum wasn't the only one discussing a possible departure for Harbaugh on Wednesday.

FS1's Cris Carter got more specific and said he has "good sources" telling him that Harbaugh might be interested in coaching the Green Bay Packers or the Cleveland Browns - who fired Hue Jackson this season.

After first discussing Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as a possibility for the Packers, Carter, who played for Ohio State when Meyer was an assistant, said:

"Watch out for Jim Harbaugh because Jim Harbaugh, potentially, is trying to get his way out of Michigan, all right? I've got good sources that are telling me not only Green Bay but also watch out for the Cleveland Browns. He likes the quarterback situations there, and, I believe, that there is front office people in Green Bay who are enamored with Jim Harbaugh and potentially trying to get him to come to Green Bay."

Harbaugh's potential return to the NFL is often a popular topic, and it's entirely possible that Harbaugh leaves Michigan for an NFL job. But it also seems highly unlikely.

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