MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jim Harbaugh has taken a step toward a possible return to the NFL.
Harbaugh and the Minnesota Vikings had an exploratory conversation about the team’s head coaching vacancy on Saturday, a person with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team was not publicizing the interview, said both sides were gauging interest. The Vikings made the formal request earlier this week to speak with him.
A message was left seeking comment with Harbaugh, whose seventh season at Michigan ended last month with a loss to Georgia in college football playoffs.
The Vikings hired former Cleveland Browns vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager this week and are still looking for a coach.
Harbaugh, 58, could be a good fit for Adofo-Mensah, who is a GM for the first time at age 40. Adofo-Mensah began working in research and development with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, when Harbaugh was in his third of four seasons as head of the team.
Is Michigan’s khaki-clad coach ready to leave his alma mater?
Harbaugh is 61-24 with the Wolverines, whom he led to a win over rival Ohio State last season for the first time under his management. They then ended a 17-year streak without a Big Ten championship, a school record, and made the four-team national playoffs for the first time in eight years under the current format.
The former NFL quarterback went 44-19-1 as San Francisco’s coach from 2011-14 and went 5-3 in the playoffs, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. They lost to the Baltimore Ravens, who were coached by his brother, John Harbaugh.
A little over a year ago, Michigan gave Harbaugh a new five-year contract that lowered his guaranteed compensation and gave him the opportunity to make up for the financial loss with performance bonuses. Harbaugh bounced back to produce his best season with 12 wins.
The Vikings fired general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer after a second consecutive absence from the playoffs. Zimmer was 72-56-1 in eight seasons and 2-3 in the playoffs.
The Vikings also conducted a virtual interview Saturday with New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. They have now talked to 10 candidates, including Harbaugh.
Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was the first to be interviewed and has been hired by the Denver Broncos. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has decided to remain in his current role.
The others still available are Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and the two top assistants from the Los Angeles Rams, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Kevin. O’Connell.
The Rams and 49ers play Sunday in the NFC championship game.
AP sportswriter Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Michigan, contributed to this report.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism