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After 12th National Title, Uncertainty Surrounds Michigan Football’s Future

Updated: Jan 12

Brian Gornick, Sports Editor

Jim Harbaugh at the 2024 CFP National Championship game on January 8, 2024. Photo//Jamie Schwaberow

As the confetti fell in NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas after the Michigan Wolverines won their 12th national title in program history, the team wished to bask in their moment in college football history. However, in the back of both their minds and those of the fan base, major questions concerning the future of the program loomed large. 

One position of uncertainty for the Wolverines is who will be taking snaps under center for the team next season. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy has plenty of buzz surrounding him entering the 2024 NFL Draft, with high expectations of potentially being the first Michigan quarterback to be drafted in the first round since now head coach Jim Harbaugh in 1987.

McCarthy will have to make his decision quickly, as the deadline for entering the 2024 NFL Draft is January 15, four days away. 

Should McCarthy declare for the draft, Michigan will most likely be forced to go to unproven quarterbacks to shepherd them into the future. A few options on the roster currently include sophomore Alex Orji and incoming four-star freshman Jadyn Davis, who enrolled early and practiced with the team this past month.

Both quarterbacks would be the likely favorites to start unless Michigan picks up a quarterback in the transfer portal. If McCarthy chooses to stay at Michigan another season however, both Orji and Davis would get a year to develop more behind McCarthy before he inevitably declares for the NFL Draft following his senior year.

With the most important position on the roster bearing question marks, the most important coach on the team is also staring down an uncertain future. Jim Harbaugh is facing rumors of a potential jump to the NFL to become a professional head coach once again. 

Prior to coming to Michigan, Harbaugh was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons, taking them to Super Bowl XLVII in 2012, losing to the Baltimore Ravens under his brother, John Harbaugh. 

For years, Jim has been rumored to be wanting to return to the NFL to try and win a Super Bowl, something he couldn’t accomplish in San Francisco. After winning a national championship with Michigan, Harbaugh feels he may have accomplished his goal of bringing a title to his alma mater, and move on to new horizons. 

Last year, Harbaugh was heavily rumored to the head coach openings for the Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos. This year, he’s been rumored to more head coach openings. ESPN Insider Jeremy Fowler linked Harbaugh to both the Las Vegas Raiders and the Washington Commanders. The former is reportedly a position where Harbaugh is the “leading candidate," and the latter due to the closeness to his brother John Harbaugh in Baltimore. Harbaugh is also linked heavily to the Los Angeles Chargers, who he played for in the NFL for two seasons in the later years of his career. 

With both their head coach and quarterback’s futures uncertain, Michigan football’s near future could look very different in the next couple of months depending on Harbaugh and McCarthy’s decisions.

If both choose to stay at Michigan, which is the most unlikely of outcomes, the Wolverines could make another major push at a national title next season, becoming one of the few teams in NCAA history to be back-to-back national champions. 

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