Jim Harbaugh Blake Corum Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh walks off the field after the Wolverines lost, 34-11, to Georgia at the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.

Jim Irsay shouldn’t overthink this. Jim Harbaugh is the right man for the job. Bringing back the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback to be the organization’s head coach is the best way and easiest way to restore credibility. If Harbaugh is interested, which seems to be the case, Irsay should hand over a blank check to the Michigan coach. 

No team needs Harbaugh more, especially after the Jeff Saturday experience. The Colts are 31-34-1 since the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck before the start of the 2019 NFL season. Assuming Saturday is not retained, Indianapolis will have its third different coach and will have its eighth different starting quarterback.

Irsay’s decision to hire his unqualified buddy on an interim basis was a disaster. After replacing Frank Reich, Saturday’s Colts were one of the worst teams in the league. Some pundits were unnecessarily smug when Saturday beat the hapless Las Vegas Raiders in his debut. That victory lap didn’t last long. Under Saturday, the Colts went 1-7 with a points differential of -87. They were on the wrong end of the biggest meltdown in NFL history. They somehow blew a late lead spectacularly in the regular-season finale. The Colts need an upgrade. They need Captain Comeback.

Before Luck, before Peyton Manning, Harbaugh was the quarterback who delivered the defining moments for the Indianapolis version of the Colts. He guided the franchise to the brink of the Super Bowl during the 1995 season. Throughout that year, Harbaugh rallied the team to earn the nickname Captain Comeback and finish fourth in the MVP voting. In the playoffs, the Colts won on the road against the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. They almost upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, but the miracle run ended when Harbaugh’s Hail Mary pass to Aaron Bailey fell incomplete in the end zone.

That season is cherished by many older Colts fans. Harbaugh gave them a sense of hope for the first time since the team relocated from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984.

Bringing back Harbaugh is no nostalgia play. His credentials are impeccable. He would easily be the best coach the team has had since Tony Dungy, who delivered that 2006 Super Bowl-winning season. Harbaugh went 44-19-1 with the San Francisco 49ers with three trips to the NFC Championship game and a Super Bowl appearance. He might still be in San Francisco if not for losing a power struggle with then-general manager Trent Baalke. 

Landing Harbaugh won’t be easy. He has suitors. The Colts’ biggest competitor appears to be the Denver Broncos, a tradition-rich team with an extremely-rich owner. Today, Denver has a better roster, but is it a better situation? The Broncos could be vastly improved next season and still be third in the AFC West. Patrick Mahomes is 27. Justin Herbert is 24. They’re not going anywhere. Indianapolis plays in a division where the winner, the Jacksonville Jaguars, went 9-8. No one in the AFC South has a Pro Bowl quarterback, although Trevor Lawrence showed vast improvement in his second season. Indianapolis offers a much easier path to the playoffs. 

Irsay could also offer more power than Harbaugh has ever had. Perhaps, a final say on the roster or even allowing him to hire his own general manager. While Irsay has publicly said that Chris Ballard will be back, these situations can be fluid.

Of course, there’s the possibility that Harbaugh stays put. He’s a Michigan Man, and the Wolverines have gone 25-3 over the past two seasons with a pair of College Football Playoff appearances. They’ll be favored to win the Big Ten title in 2023. However, his program is under NCAA investigation, and Harbaugh was under fire a few years for not beating Ohio State. 

After eight seasons in Ann Arbor, it might be time to leave. Irsay should make Captain Comeback an offer he can’t refuse.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.