Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh might be an appealing target for one of the NFL head coaching vacancies, but not the one in Miami. As the biggest donor in the history of the University of Michigan, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross isn’t about to rip the first coach to lead the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff from his alma mater.
“I’m not going to be the person that takes Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan. I hope he stays there. He’s a great coach,” Ross told reporters during his Monday news conference after the surprising decision to fire head coach Brian Flores after three seasons.
Ross, who grew up as a Michigan fan in his native Detroit, likes Harbaugh where he is. The former San Francisco 49ers coach, after some disappointing years coaching at the school where he played quarterback from 1983-1986, led Michigan to a 12-2 season and a berth in the College Football Playoff this year. That included his first win over archrival Ohio State in his seventh year at UM. That victory, along with a win over Iowa in the Big Ten title game, vaulted Michigan into its first CFP berth since the playoff’s inception in 2014.
Ross earned a business administration degree from Michigan in 1962. His financial gifts to the university total more than $300 million, and Michigan’s Ross School of Business is named for him.
Ross on Monday also expressed support for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Although the Dolphins engaged in midseason trade discussions with the Houston Texans about acquiring Deshaun Watson, Ross said Tagovailoa’s performance did not factor into the decision to dismiss Flores.
“It played no role at all. I have a lot of confidence in Tua, and I think the next head coach will work with him. … I have a lot of confidence in him,” Ross said. “I’ve watched him grow. He’s a fine young man. He is right now the quarterback and will be depended upon by the new head coach, but I have a lot of confidence in Tua.”
Ross added that he has no plans to acquire Watson, who currently faces 22 allegations of sexual misconduct and did not play a snap during the 2021 season.
Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is 13-8 as a starter over two seasons in Miami, but has often struggled to make explosive plays downfield in the passing game. He’s averaged 6.6 yards per attempt for his career, but poor pass protection and a lackluster rushing attack have made the left-hander’s development problematic.
Whomever Ross selects to replace Flores, Tagovailoa’s improvement will be a critical task for the new coach.
A coach who it appears most certainly won’t be Harbaugh.
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