On the other hand, Tom Brady, who is very much retiring, at least according to ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage, is clinging to the technicality that he hasn’t retired. Probably this is just so that he can eventually say the words himself, with the aid of a slick video package, rather than turn his last big day in football over to “sources.” Or maybe Brady is now so peeved about his big news leaking early that he will in fact come back for another season, for no other reason than to spite Adam Schefter, Jeff Darlington, and Jason La Canfora, who had it first.
That would surely go over well at the house, starting with the disturbing scenes of Bruce Arians driving to Brady’s home and kissing him full on the lips right there on the porch rather than spend a year pretending that life is worth living with Blaine Gabbert or Kyle Trask.
The Arians notion, though, carries us to the next big story, which we’re willing to bet isn’t Aaron Rodgers’s retirement but the continued hyperkinetic wooing of Jim Harbaugh. The Minnesota Vikings are now said to be properly intrigued by the notion, thus inserting themselves in the queue with every other team that had, has or or is considering a vacancy. Hell, knowing the Giants, they’d probably interview Harbaugh even after they just hired Brian Daboll because John Mara is a man of perpetual regrets.
Harbaugh has been the coaching rumor fraternity’s great white elk for years now, almost since he was shoved out of Santa Clara by the 49ers for getting on the bad sides of club president Jed York and then-general manager Trent Baalke, who is expected to be given the burlap goodbye in Jacksonville. That was 2014, and it embarked the 49ers on four years of awfulness before Kyle Shanahan and The Quarterback Who Shall Not Be Named dug them out of their self-made ruins. That was also the start of Harbaugh’s work at University of Michigan, which other Defectroids can wax with dewy-eyed glee at their respective leisures.
But even as he was embarking on his successful seven-year plan to not get his ass kicked by Ohio State, his name was never far from a rumormonger’s lips. The Raiders … the Colts … the Bears … the Mets (I think that was Comrade Roth’s idea) … no matter. If there was a coach packing up his car behind a facility, there was the rumor of Harbaugh entering the front, even if the rumors ultimately ended up being untrue.
Instead, Harbaugh spent more time at Michigan than he ever has at any other job except his time quarterbacking the Chicago Bears in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He even signed a five-year contract extension at UM at the beginning of 2021, which nobody expected either him or the school to fulfill. There would be the rumor that finally hit, even if he hadn’t been hired in any of the 67 NFL openings that had been created since he first reached Ann Arbor.
And maybe it’s the Vikings, making for fun times with Kirk Cousins, an oxymoron if ever one has existed. It could still be the Raiders and the peripatetic Mark Davis. It could still be Miami, where Stevie Ross runs the operation as though he was hooked on Ritalin. It could be New Orleans, where Sean Payton is playing out a late-midlife crisis that will end up with him wedged behind a giant semicircular desk and on a mock barstool between James Brown and Howie Long until the Cowboys job opens up. It could even be in Tampa, where Arians has to decide if he wants to look back at his time with Brady and Antonio Brown and say to himself, Yeah, I got the ring I’ve always wanted, but now I have a facial twitch I can’t get rid off, and I have these dreams of them as centaurs trampling through my rec room.
But it would seem that Harbaugh’s time is coming yet again, and maybe this time he’ll find the place that will pay him eight figures, let him be the general manager as long as he doesn’t schedule sleepovers with draft choices the way he did recruits, and most importantly, won’t pick fights with his bosses just for the satisfying chaos it creates. He’ll probably want the general manager’s job, too, which means the only people he has to avoid offending are those with the surname Wilf. That should be easy enough to remember.
In closing, though, this could also be his last turn in the rumor thresher, lest he become Josh McDaniels, who may end up with Las Vegas to what we can only assume will be a regrettable choice for both sides. This surely has to be Harbaugh’s moment, and he’ll create quite the to-do if he alights anywhere.
At least until Rodgers announces, denies and then hedges on his own football future simultaneously during Super Bowl Week, all while carrying off the wool cap and tank top look that conjoins him and Pat McAfee at the face. There’s a window here, that’s all we’re saying.