Another Vikings Draft Theory Emerges — This Time Featuring Jim Harbaugh

A little over two years ago, there was a pretty high possibility that the Vikings would hire Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach.

Instead, Harbaugh would return to the University of Michigan in 2022, and the Vikings ended up hiring Kevin O’Connell following his Super Bowl victory with the Los Angeles Rams as offensive coordinator.

Harbaugh proceeded to win a national championship with the Wolverines in 2023 and was hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason. The Chargers were a team widely expected to trade down in the 2024 NFL Draft (with the Vikings being the main rumored trade partner), but one analyst believes that Harbaugh may have played a role in a deal not getting done with Minnesota.

The Vikings Draft Theory Involving Jim Harbaugh

Dec 31, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts from the sideline during the second half in the Orange Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote this week, “Minnesota — which selected McCarthy No. 10 overall, having traded up one spot to the New York Jets’ spot — made calls through the top 10 leading up to the draft. The Vikings and Chargers talked. And one league exec wondered if Minnesota passing on Jim Harbaugh for the head-coaching opening two years ago would have caused Harbaugh to be awfully stubborn on any potential deal between the sides.”

Harbaugh spent nearly an entire day interviewing for the Vikings job back in 2022, and many believed a deal would get done by the end of it. However, nothing materialized, thus allowing him to head to Los Angeles this spring.

Ultimately, the Chargers stood pat with the fifth overall pick and opted to select Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt. Playing alongside Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles now has one of the more talented offensive tackle duos in the NFL.

Oct 28, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Joe Alt (76) leaves the field following the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Things worked out just fine for the Vikings as well. Despite being unable to make a trade with the Chargers, they only needed to move up one singular spot to snatch J.J. McCarthy, who was coached by Harbaugh throughout his career with the Wolverines.

“That’s where he had his heart set, and I’m just so happy for him. Love him like a son, and I was praying and pulling for it to work out the way he wanted it to work out,” Harbaugh said at LA’s press conference after the draft.

The lack of a trade up to No. 5 also allowed the Vikings to snatch Dallas Turner later in the first round, and the hope is that he can emerge as the next great Vikings pass rusher after Danielle Hunter left in free agency.

Vikings Draft
Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps Harbaugh’s stubbornness did play a role in a lack of a blockbuster between the Chargers and Vikings, but at the end of the day, things worked out about as well as they could have for both sides.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.