It remains to be seen if Raiders owner Mark Davis can lure Jim Harbaugh out of Michigan to return to the organization where he began his NFL coaching career, but if he does, league sources said several current NFL coaches would have their eye on the opening in Ann Arbor.
Panthers' embattled head coach Matt Rhule would be at the top of that list, league sources indicated, with Rhule already considering several college options this past season, and with him firmly on the hot seat with owner David Tepper for 2022 after receiving an eventual vote of confidence from ownership.
Rhule was keeping a close eye on the Penn State situation, sources said, where James Franklin ultimately landed a big extension, and may have pursued the LSU opening as well had they been more interested in him. With Rhule facing a pivotal third year in Carolina, with an expectation for much better results, a big-time college job opening up would draw attention.
Harbaugh has been in negotiations with Michigan about a reworked contract after reaching the College Football Playoff this season, and sources have indicated for weeks that he is open to exploring certain NFL possibilities. Davis is a fan of his work, and there have been rumblings through the scouting community about former Chiefs and Browns general manager John Dorsey emerging as a strong general manager candidate. The Raiders just began their search late this week after parting with general manager Mike Mayock, and are in the midst of a coaching search as well, albeit one that includes interim head coach Rich Bisaccia.
The Raiders' job is viewed as very attractive to many of the top coaching candidates. Davis has shown a willingness to spend big, give a coach significant authority and, despite some roster warts, Las Vegas did reach the postseason this year. The Raiders are still working through their hiring process, but would get interest from former Broncos head coach and longtime Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels if they reached out, as well as former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, currently defensive coordinator of the Bucs, sources said.