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Harbaugh Watch: The latest as Michigan coach gets set to interview with Vikings on Wednesday

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh stands on the sideline during the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. Ohio State Buckeyes At Michigan Wolverines

Will Jim Harbaugh be the Vikings’ coach by the end of the week?

Things seemed to be trending in that direction on Tuesday, but Harbaugh’s scheduled interview with the Vikings on Wednesday at TCO Performance Center will determine whether he’s named the 10th coach in franchise history.

Harbaugh, 58, who went 44-19-1 in four seasons (2011-2014) as coach of the San Francisco 49ers and has been coach at the University of Michigan since 2015, has given every indication he believes he’s going to get the Vikings job. He interviewed via video conference last week with a group of team officials that included new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

Adofo-Mensah was the 49ers’ manager of football research and development during Harbaugh’s final two seasons with the franchise and the two are friends. Adofo-Mensah is believed to be playing a key role in the Vikings pursuing Harbaugh. But Harbaugh might need to convince some others within the organization that he will be part of the collaborative process they have talked about establishing since firing general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer on Jan. 10.

Sources have indicated that Harbaugh is not seeking control of the 53-man roster and just wants to coach. That’s likely to allay the fears of Vikings officials who don’t want a repeat of the end of Harbaugh’s time in San Francisco, when he and general manager Trent Baalke had issues. The Vikings also want to avoid the falling out that occurred this year as Zimmer and Spielman stopped talking, according to Zimmer’s friend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

There is growing feeling in Ann Arbor, Mich., that Harbaugh is gone. Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com reported that Harbaugh’s trip to Minnesota is a “formality,” according to multiple sources. Harbaugh was not in his office at Schembechler Hall on Tuesday, and Balas wrote that sources told TheWolverine.com that while Harbaugh didn’t address the team, he did say some “goodbyes” and “thank yous” on Monday. It would cost the Vikings only $1.5 million to buy out Harbaugh’s contract at Michigan.

Harbaugh, whose older brother John has coached the Baltimore Ravens since 2008 and beat Jim’s team in the 2012 Super Bowl, is one of four finalists for the Vikings job.

Co-owner Mark Wilf, executive vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski and Adofo-Mensah were in the Los Angeles area on Monday to conduct second interviews with Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. The plan was to talk to San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans early this week, but he elected to remain with the 49ers.

On Tuesday, Vikings officials returned home and interviewed Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for nine hours, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Graham and Adofo-Mensah are good friends but have never worked together in the NFL. Brian Daboll, the Giants’ new coach, said this week that he would like Graham to remain as New York’s defensive coordinator.

Graham was in that role the previous two seasons under Joe Judge, and Daboll and Graham worked together on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff with New England from 2013-15.

In addition to the Vikings job, Graham has interviewed to be the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator under Mike Tomlin.