Happy Thursday, all!
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
The six words every Michigan fan was hoping to hear this offseason have come true: Jim Harbaugh is staying at Michigan.
After showing serious interest in an NFL return -- and even interviewing with the Vikings on Wednesday -- Harbaugh will return for his eighth year in charge in Ann Arbor.
This is huge for Michigan. Last year, the Wolverines...
- Made the College Football Playoff for the first time
- Tied the program record with 12 wins
- Beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011
Michigan was 11th in Dennis Dodd's Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2022, and with Harbaugh back in the fold, the Wolverines should continue to build momentum, writes our college football expert Shehan Jeyarajah:
- Jeyarajah: "His decision to recommit to his alma mater could not have come at a more advantageous moment. The Wolverines are fresh off the best season in two decades and reeled in the best recruiting class since 2019. Now more than ever, the Harbaugh era has momentum. Getting him back is big for the future of the program."
.. AND THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS AND KEVIN O'CONNELL
It didn't take long for the Vikings to pick a different candidate, though. According to reports, they will hire Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell, a deal that will be finalized after the Super Bowl. O'Connell worked alongside new Vikings GM Kewsi Adofo-Mensah in 2016 with the 49ers.
It's always tough to make snap judgments on these hires, especially for first-time head coaches, but if O'Connell follows in the footsteps of other members of Sean McVay's burgeoning coaching tree, he should be just fine:
- Matt LaFleur (Packers)
- Zac Taylor (Bengals), who will coach against McVay, O'Connell and the Rams in the Super Bowl
- Brandon Staley (Chargers)
- No. 18 Illinois took the Big Ten lead with an 80-67 win over No. 11 Wisconsin. Kofi Cockburn had 37 points (!) and 12 rebounds.
- No. 24 Marquette beat No. 12 Villanova, 83-73, in a huge Big East battle.
And not such a good morning for...
When Tom Brady retired, he interestingly left the Patriots out of his lengthy announcement. And while Brady later went on to thank the organization, the omission reportedly didn't sit too well with plenty of New England fans -- including team owner Robert Kraft.
According to former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Kraft threw a "temper tantrum" with "screaming and yelling" after seeing Brady's announcement.
While it was surprising to see the Patriots left out of the post, it's equally surprising to see Kraft so upset -- and even more surprising that this report got out, considering New England has long been one of the most covert organizations in the league.
Not so honorable mention
- Shortly after Brian Flores sued the NFL, Dolphins, Giants and Broncos, former Browns head coach Hue Jackson suggested team owner Jimmy Haslam paid him to tank.
- Brian Kelly went viral for his not-so-smooth dance moves in a recruit's video. It must have been even tougher when that recruit, Danny Lewis, committed to Alabama.
Texas A&M makes history on National Signing Day 🏈
Yesterday was National Signing Day, and the Texas A&M Aggies polished off not just the highest-ranked recruiting class of this year, but the highest-ranked recruiting class ever (...well, at least since 247Sports started ranking classes over 20 years ago).
The Aggies' 2022 class pushed by Alabama's 2021 class for the distinction after securing the commitment of five-star defensive tackle Shemar Stewart. The No. 10 overall player in the class is a major addition, writes our Tom Fornelli.
- Fornelli: "It's not hard to understand why Texas A&M -- and every other program -- wanted Stewart suiting up for their team; he has everything you could hope for in a defensive line prospect out of high school. He checks in at 6-6 and 272 pounds, but with that size comes plenty of speed, so he can beat his foe with brute force or just run by them."
The loaded class includes an astounding seven of the top 25 prospects in the class:
- DL Walter Nolen (No. 2 overall, No. 1 DL)
- DL Shemar Stewart (No. 10 overall, No. 3 DL)
- WR Evan Stewart (No. 11 overall, No. 2 WR)
- DL Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy (No. 16 overall, No. 4 DL)
- QB Conner Weigman (No. 19 overall, No. 2 QB)
- CB Denver Harris (No. 22 overall, No. 4 CB)
- WR Chris Marshall (No. 24 overall, No. 3 WR)
The recruiting haul shows just how valuable Jimbo Fisher is, writes Jeyarajah:
- Jeyarajah: "There's little question that the stability at Texas A&M played a major role in the decisions. The three teams vying for the No. 1 spot in the recruiting rankings were Fisher's Texas A&M, Nick Saban's Alabama and Kirby Smart's Georgia. Fisher is locked up with the Aggies until 2031. Saban was extended through 2029. Smart's contract only runs through 2024, but there's little question a massive extension is coming after winning the Bulldogs' first national championship since 1980."
USMNT tops Honduras for key win ⚽
Facing a near must-win scenario, the US men's national team got the job done, beating Honduras 3-0 in the coldest USMNT game on record. With the temperatures in the single digits and the wind chill well below zero, Weston McKennie and Walker Zimmerman provided first-half goals before Christian Pulisic tallied shortly after coming on as a sub in the second half.
It was a crucial three points for the stars and stripes after they dropped a 2-0 decision to Canada over the weekend. Four players earned a team-high 8/10 rating in our soccer scribe Roger Gonzalez's grades, and I was impressed by one in particular.
- Gonzalez: "Walker Zimmerman (8/10): Playing his way into a sure starter with this team. Just a boss that can bring the power when needed. Also scored on a quick turn and finish on a loose ball."
Where will Jimmy Garoppolo end up this offseason? 🏈
After five years with the 49ers -- a stretch that included two NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl appearance -- Jimmy Garoppolo will likely play next season somewhere other than San Francisco. Despite the team's success with Garoppolo recently, there are many signs pointing to his exit:
- The 49ers traded up to select Trey Lance third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
- Garoppolo's play -- especially in the playoffs -- left much to be desired.
- Garoppolo is owed nearly $27 million next season, but the 49ers can recoup almost all of that by cutting or trading him.
At 30, Garoppolo is still in his prime, and he proved in San Francisco that if enough things are in place around him, he can be an adequate quarterback -- and "adequate" would be an upgrade for several teams. Our NFL guru Cody Benjamin broke down 13 potential landing spots for Garoppolo, split into "unlikely but possible" and "favorites." Here's my top choice among the favorites:
- Benjamin: "Steelers -- They need a long-term answer after Ben Roethlisberger's retirement, but even if they spend an early pick at QB, Garoppolo would make for a logical stopgap, considering Mike Tomlin is always coaching for the playoffs and has the pieces to lean on the ground and defense moving forward."
The Steelers have a Pro Bowl running back in Najee Harris and some nice pieces elsewhere on offense, plus a solid defense with superstars in T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. They made the playoffs this season even though Roethlisberger was a shell of his former self. Garoppolo -- who led the league in net yards per attempt and yards per completion in 2021, I might add -- would be an upgrade.
As Cody mentions, the Steelers are always looking to win under Tomlin, who has never had a losing season in 15 years in Pittsburgh. Garoppolo expressed a desire to go somewhere that wants to win, and I think San Francisco GM John Lynch -- who hugged Garoppolo after Sunday's season-ending loss -- will respect that wish.
With just one year left on his deal, Garoppolo could serve as a bridge quarterback, and there are a lot worse places to play a "prove-it" year than Pittsburgh.