Former New Orleans Saints head coach and current FOX Sports analyst Sean Payton and Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh are reportedly both "still options" for the Denver Broncos' head coaching vacancy, NFL Network Senior Insider Ian Rapoport said during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday (January 31).
"Until Sean says, 'I'm definitely going back to TV,' or until Harbaugh says, 'we're good and I'm definitely going back to Michigan,' those are still options," Rapoport told McAfee.
Rapoport said Denver could be "collecting itself and getting ready to put in new slips and restart its search" or planning to target "someone that has not yet been eliminated," amid reports that San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans rejected the Broncos' head coaching vacancy to target the same position with the Houston Texans, his former team during his playing career.
Harbaugh has publicly stated his intention to return to Michigan next season, however, has yet sign a new deal with his alma mater.
"When Harbaugh officially signs his deal [with Michigan] I've eliminated him but I don't think that's been eliminated 1,000% percent and Sean Payton hasn't been eliminated."
Payton has reportedly interviewed with the Broncos, as well as the Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. The former Super Bowl champion informed the New Orleans Saints that he was "stepping away" from the team in January 2022 and still has two years remaining on his contract, which means other teams must seek consent with New Orleans to negotiate with Payton, as well as provide compensation if he's hired. The 58-year-old is the winningest head coach in Saints franchise history with a 152-89 (.631 winning percentage) regular season and 9-8 (.529) playoff record since being hired in 2006, having led New Orleans to its only Super Bowl victory in franchise history during the 2009-10 season, defeating the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV.
Harbaugh, who interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings' head coaching vacancy last offseason before the franchise hired Kevin O'Connell, had previously coached the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons, which included a Super Bowl XLVII appearance and winning the NFL Coach of the Year award in 2011. The former quarterback has a 44-19-1 NFL head coaching record, which includes postseason berths in each of his first three seasons with the 49ers.
Harbaugh is coming off back-to-back seasons in which Michigan won the Big Ten Conference championship and appeared in the College Football Playoff. The 59-year-old has a 132-52 collegiate head coaching record, having also coached at San Diego (29-6) and Stanford (29-21) before taking over at Michigan (132-52) in 2015.
The NCAA is reportedly investigating alleged violations of impermissible contact with recruits committed by Harbaugh and the Wolverines football team.