Very few people predicted the Bears would make a playoff run before the season began. Even some of the most optimistic fans tempered their expectations and expected them to be right around .500 by season’s end. They are only in the second year of a rebuild, after all. However, not many expected them to be in the same exact position that they were a year ago. To make matters worse, the way in which they have found ways to lose games they had no business losing has been downright embarrassing.
While the Bears are still a few pieces away from being a playoff contender, they no longer have a deficiency of talent across the board (which was a valid excuse for Eberflus and Co. last year). Instead, the coaching staff has proven, without a shadow of a doubt, to be Chicago’s top issue. Now that it has become painfully clear that they will not be going anywhere with their current coaching staff at the helm, they need to start looking ahead to who can turn the franchise around. I think Jim Harbaugh is the man best prepared to do just that.
There is no way to sugarcoat the Bears’ abysmal history of head coach hires since letting go of Lovie Smith 11 years ago. They always seem to go out of the box with their coaching hires, which never works out in their favor. They need someone with a proven track record of winning. Harbaugh, who has a career record of 49-22-1, certainly has that. Say what you will about his tenacity, but there is no denying that he can establish a winning culture. He is a proven leader who expects the most from his players.
The downside of Harbaugh has always been the notion that he rubs people the wrong way. The Bears cannot afford to let something like that prevent them from adding him, especially with their recent history of losing. Additionally, a reported power struggle between he and the rest of the 49ers’ dysfunctional front office was a major factor in him getting branded in that negative light, and history would support that he might not have been responsible for that tumultuous relationship.
The Bears need to get the most out of Justin Fields. If they fail to keep him in mind with their next hire, they risk losing him to another coaching staff that could turn him into a star. That would undoubtedly be a fireable offense as the GM of a franchise starved of elite quarterback play. If anyone can get the most out of him, that man is Harbaugh. In fact, Harbaugh thrived in San Francisco with another dual-threat quarterback during his time with San Francisco in Colin Kaepernick. Before that, he helped resurrect the career of Alex Smith, who also stressed defenses with his legs.
His ability to develop quarterbacks goes far beyond the NFL, as he helped Andrew Luck become one of college football’s most polished signal-callers in recent memory during his time with Stanford. Likewise, he also had JJ McCarthy looking like a Heisman candidate and surefire first-round selection this season. He simply knows how to get the most out of quarterbacks, which isn’t a huge surprise considering he played the position.
Harbaugh’s name gets brought up every time the coaching cycle runs its course, but he always remains with Michigan. However, after getting suspended for the final three games due to sign-stealing allegations, many believe he might finally make the jump back to the pros.
There have already been rumblings that Chicago could be interested in a reunion with their former signal-caller, whom the team selected in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft, and there is reason to believe the interest could be mutual. The Bears have talent across the board and already have a quarterback that most feel is worth building around. They also have significant available cap space to spend in the offseason. They could be a quality coaching staff away from competing as early as 2024, and that should be something Harbaugh has no problem assembling.
Some believe Ryan Poles might give his first head coach hire another chance to run it back for year three. While that would be the most ‘Bears’ move he could possibly make, I think he will eventually realize his career might depend on it and will no longer want to hitch his wagon to a dying horse. If he comes to that realization, the front office would be wise to bring Harbaugh into the fold.