4 Dark Horse Bill Belichick Replacements as Patriots Head Coach

Dec 25, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury walks the
Dec 25, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury walks the / Joe Rondone-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Jim Harbaugh

Fresh off a national championship with the Michigan Wolverines, rumors of a Jim Harbaugh return to the NFL continue to persist. In the aftermath of Michigan's title Monday night, Harbaugh was asked point blank about the possibility of a return to the pros. With a chance to immediately pour cold water on all speculation, Harbaugh instead replied "I just want to enjoy this."

Last week, NFL.com reported that "multiple NFL teams have been making calls in recent weeks to gather information about Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh." Harbaugh interviewed with the Minnesota VIkings two seasons ago, publicly stating after the process that it would be his last pursuit of an NFL coaching job. Harbaugh followed up that statement by interviewing with the Denver Broncos last offseason.

Following his interview with Minnesota, Harbaugh told reporters that coming up just short of a Super Bowl (Jim lost to his brother John in Super Bowl XLVII) kept enticing him to chase another NFL gig. Harbaugh said: "Sure, the Super Bowl is the greatest prize in our sport. But winning a national championship, that's pretty darn great. Let's do that." Now that he has his national championship, there may be no better time than the present for an NFL return.

Harbaugh has only further fueled rumors by enlisting agent Don Yee at the New Year. Yee's notable clients include Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Julian Edelman, and Sean Payton. The Patriots and Yee have crossed paths frequently between Brady, Garoppolo, and Edelman.

In his previous NFL stint, Harbaugh went an impressive 44-19-1 with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014. His Niners teams made three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances, including reaching Super Bowl XLVII.

Harbaugh is a polarizing candidate, especially with the controversy surrounding his Michigan squad this season, but he has won at every stop as a head coach. It is hard to second guess hiring a proven winner.