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If you were underwhelmed by the list of candidates that the Minnesota Vikings interviewed prior to Saturday, the Vikings dropped a box of fireworks in your lap on Saturday with reports that they will interview Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

When Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman were fired, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Vikings would look for an up-and-coming offensive mind with a fresh lease on the pass-first life and an attitude that would be only a shade less spunky than PJ Fleck. Usually teams go the opposite of the type of person they just fired. Certainly that is the case with new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah versus his predecessor. But in Harbaugh’s case, the Vikings wouldn’t exactly be spinning in a 180.

If you look up some of the stories about Harbaugh’s exit from the San Francisco 49ers, where he had a successful tenure going 44-19-1 with a trip to the Super Bowl, you will find some things that look familiar. Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reported that Harbaugh had “extensive and nasty” fights with the 49ers’ front office and that he became “increasingly difficult to get along with.” That rings some bells of Deion Sanders saying that Zimmer and Spielman hadn’t spoken for months, does it not?

Adofo-Mensah and Harbaugh were in San Francisco together for one year, crossing over as things were coming apart in 2014. Maybe the sheer fact that the Vikings are interviewing Harbaugh is a sign that Adofo-Mensah did not feel Harbaugh was on the wrong end of the drama. But drama does seem to follow Harbaugh, whether it’s storming out of a press conference, his tweets, Richard Sherman’s beef with him or his shots at Ohio State’s coach Ryan Day (and getting shots back from an Ohio State legend), the former Bears, Colts and Chargers quarterback always seem to make headlines.

CBS’s Jim Rome put it this way: “He runs way too hot and he was wearing people out. Don’t get it twisted now. Great coach. Unbelievable coach. I’m sure he’ll do a great job there. But when you have a coach who wins as he wins and nobody is ever sorry to see him leave, that tells you a little something about that guy.”

Maybe none of that is a turn off to the Vikings, who have fallen completely out of the spotlight. The Harbaugh rumors might be the most relevant they have been in the national spotlight in the last two years. It’s possible that the organization could view his presence as an energetic shot in the arm for the franchise that has gone stale.

And Harbaugh has been here before. When he took over the 49ers in 2011, the team was coming off 7-9, 8-8 and 6-10 seasons. That sounds familiar. He immediately jolted them to a 13-3 season and a trip to the NFC Championship behind a brilliant Vic Fangio defense. Hey, Vic Fangio is available, isn’t he?

Harbaugh’s success wasn’t exactly a flash in the pan either. He followed up a blazing start to his tenure with a trip to the Super Bowl in 2012, which was fueled by a bold decision to move on from a game-managing quarterback in Alex Smith to a more athletic, strong-armed QB in Colin Kaepernick. Is it too much of a stretch to call that a Vikings connection?

Pairing Adofo-Mensah’s analytical background with a former quarterback who got the most out of Smith and Kaepernick is enough to be intrigued.

But there are plenty of questions to be asked. Will things that worked for Harbaugh a decade ago still work in 2022? The 49ers had the second most rushing yards in the NFL between 2011-2014 and ranked 30th in passing yards. The NFL changes quick and we saw the pitfalls of a run-first offense under Zimmer.

What if Adofo-Mensah and Harbaugh can’t agree on which quarterback to draft? Who wins that battle? Probably the guy with the longer contract, which you can bet will be Harbaugh.

If you wanted the Vikings to be more aggressive than interviewing the Giants defensive coordinator, which they did on Saturday, you got your wish. Though when you hire Jim Harbaugh, you become the Jim Harbaugh Vikings. Nobody is bigger and nobody is going to carry more power. That doesn’t mean it can’t work — this isn’t Matt Rhule or Urban Meyer coming over to the NFL with no pro head coaching experience before — but it does mean putting complete trust in someone who has been volatile in the past. 

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