Jim O'Donnell: Too much ragged history for the Bears to have a shot at Jim Harbaugh

HERE'S A BOLD STATEMENT that's hard to pick apart:

Jim Harbaugh is the most talked about unbeaten football coach in America.

Love him or diss 'im, "My Way James" is showing a self-assured spirit that could make the ghost of Woody Hayes want to punch out another Clemson linebacker.

Harbaugh will be back on a center stage Saturday night when his Wolverines (12-0) face Kirk Ferentz and inoffensive Iowa (10-2) in the Big Ten title game (7:15 p.m., Fox).

Michigan is minus-23 ½ points and rising. UM may be due for a sluggish outing. But if Ferentz has to rely on his Play-Doh offense, the Hawkeyes charter might not make it east of Bettendorf.

THE BIG GAME IN INDIANAPOLIS should hold national interest for a while. For Bears fans, the bigger question is:

If Harbaugh decides to flee the posse trying to seal Ann Arbor, will he wind up as a potential Mike Ditka 2.0 at Halas Hall?

And the updated answer is, "No … extremely unlikely."

PRIMARY REASONS, according to sources with expert knowledge of the matter:

• Harbaugh knows the McCaskeys and their Bears culture far too well. It's perfectly clear to him that the job in NFL / Lake Forest is a coaching death trap.;

• Kevin Warren is said to want "input" into the selection of the next Bears HC. That makes perfect sense, since Warren hasn't prompted skid marks by construction traffic racing to build a new stadium at Arlington Park or anywhere else.

Somehow, he needs to justify his salary and orange ties.

Harbaugh and Warren have a strained relationship going back to Warren's brief tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten (2019-23). That channeling was stretched during Warren's vacillation on whether or not conference football would be played during pandemic-plagued 2020.

Eventually, Warren flipped his initial stance and a shortened season was presented. Harbaugh was hollering to allow play from early on.

ALL IS PREDICATED ON Harbaugh leaving Michigan, whatever the profile of the next six weeks, and the Bears firing Matt Eberflus.

Eberflus let Luke Getsy introduce the Bears' new "Little Egypt Offense" - Cairo Santos kicking field goals after drives stall - at Minnesota Monday night.

If his brood comes out of their bye week and finishes 3-2 or better, that means a final tally of 7-10 or higher. That also means that Eberflus becomes a very different sort of blame-duck coach.

For the hyenas screeching that Eberflus has to go, it can't be discounted that the man has overcome a great deal during the 2023 season. He also has his defense - when healthy - performing at an impressive level.

AS FOR HARBAUGH, if he returns to the NFL, very smart people continue to insist that his most likely glitz-in will be Las Vegas.

Principal partner Mark Davis will give "My Way James" all of the football control and many of the other considerations he wants. That could extend to allowing Harbaugh to dictate the Raiders' next GM. The post is held by interim Champ Kelly, a former Bears personnel associate.

All while "Champ" anything remains an elusive concept for the McCaskey Bears.

But at least they'll have the winter months to command snow control over the 326 empty acres that once housed Arlington Park.


Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt will call the Michigan-Iowa fandango for Fox. Klatt has leapfrogged the diluted Kirk Herbstreit as the most textured major college football analyst in the land. (The former Colorado QB also effectively uses silence as a punctuating mark, a fading art.) ...

Chris Collins and Northwestern (5-1) have a grand opportunity vs. visiting No. 1 Purdue (7-0) Friday night (8 p.m., BTN, AM-720, ). A victory would be the flashiest coaching triumph by the Collins family since Doug Collins allowed Michael Jordan to make that May Day clincher over Craig Ehlo in Richfield all those Jumpmans ago. …

Paul Sullivan had a nice national breakaway with his report that Andre Dawson wants the cap insignia on his Cooperstown plaque switched from Expos to Cubs. (Although it says here that no player from a last-place team should ever be a league MVP; NL pennant energizer Ozzie Smith was denied by sugary voting back in '87.) …

Mike Korcek, Jim Lentz and other DeKalb die-hards have been smiling all week: In basketball, the Northern Illinois men (+4 ½) crunched host DePaul 89-79 and the football Huskies became bowl-eligible with a 37-27 win at Kent State. Thomas Hammock's grid group is likely headed for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 23. (For some, that beats Christmas Eve at the Hy-Vee in Sycamore.) …

Jim Nantz and Tony Romo are off this weekend. That's a break for Romo, who - like Cris Collinsworth - is having an uphill NFL broadcast campaign. Romo also hasn't been helped by a comparatively uninspiring slate of games on CBS. …

And, Mike Bakarat - on tonight's Gavin Newson-Ron DeSantis debate (8 p.m., Fox News): "Wasn't there any way to tie it into the Knockout Round of the NBA's In-Season Tournament?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

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