Heads up, Rap.
Last night got a little wild when a bunch of NFL reporters "reported" or "confirmed" Michigan's 6-year, $48 million offer to Jim Harbaugh. This prompted something of an about-face from a group that had poo-pooed the notion an established, successful coach working for The Shield would deign to consider a college job.
That doesn't mean these reporters were wrong, though! Work the narrative hard enough and such a thing is impossible. Here's the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, circa December 7th:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 7, 2014
So he's wrong, right? Think again. The situation simply changed drastically once Michigan realized a key factor in contact negotiations is, um, offering a contract:
Sources: #Michigan has made another run at Jim Harbaugh after he initially rebuffed the school. U-M has made an offer of 6 years, $48M. Wow.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 17, 2014
Jim Hackett was "rebuffed," you see, and just spent the last two weeks begging for spare change and allowing other viable coaching candidates to land elsewhere in the hopes that Harbaugh would completely change his mind. Yeah. That's it.
Rapoport was far from the only NFL guy to make this mistake. CBS Sports's Jason La Canfora, December 7th:
While many are connecting Harbaugh to the opening at Michigan, where he was a star quarterback, sources close to the coach maintain he is not interested. Harbaugh's family has close ties to outgoing Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Harbaugh is much more interested in NFL possibilities.
Yesterday, La Canfora somewhat acknowledged Michigan's offer, only to suggest that the Raiders would easily beat it because the Raiders did what now?
Little doubt Mark Davis could beat any Michigan offer to Harbaugh. I heard he had double this out there for Gruden, who walked. Stay tuned
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 18, 2014
Quite a convenient time to report this, considering Jon Gruden signed a lengthy extension with ESPN three days ago.
ESPN's Adam Schefter at least acknowledged the remote possibility that Harbaugh would consider Michigan, though he didn't "see that happening," and his explanation for why Harbaugh is now considering M is laughable:
Asked why he was considering it now, but hadn’t been previously, one person said now that the 49ers are out of the playoffs, it was possible for Harbaugh to at least consider it.
That's quite an interesting interpretation of Harbaugh saying he wasn't discussing any future job prospects while he still had a job with the 49ers. Yes, San Francisco getting officially eliminated from playoff contention meant Harbaugh almost certainly wouldn't be coaching on that particular side of the Bay Area next year, but it's rather hard to believe he woke up after losing to the Seahawks and realized at that moment he should probably start considering his future in private.
If only someone had reported that Michigan aimed the proverbial money cannon Harbaugh's way earlier. Someone like, say, Wolverine247's Steve Lorenz, on December 3rd ($):
I believe we were the first to report this, but we've been saying for a while that money was not going to be an issue for Michigan in this coaching search. This is almost certainly a combination of the highly profitable Michigan athletic department and donor/booster Stephen Ross, who will play a role in a potential Harbaugh hiring.
Around 9:30 this morning, I got a message from someone I consider a reputable source that echoed the 8 million/year number that has been bandied about.
The DSR's Jeff Moss reported similar that day, saying that Michigan had offered Harbaugh a financial package that would make him the highest-paid coach in the sport. The crew at Go Blue Wolverine has long maintained that money wouldn't be an issue in M's quest for Harbaugh ($). Same goes for Chris Balas at The Wolverine ($).
Unlike the NFL guys, the Michigan insiders have been open in acknowledging the nature of their sources and the fluidity of any coaching search, especially one that—in this case—is centered on a currently employed coach with a year left on his contract. They also had last night's suddenly groundbreaking info weeks ago. Funny how that works.