Former NFL GM’s Insanely Hot Take Leads Me To Believe He’s Colluding With New Coach

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Robert McGreevy Contributor
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Former New York Jets general manager and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum’s Tuesday mock draft predicts a shocking draft day trade, leading me to believe he could be colluding with Chargers’ coach Jim Harbaugh.

Hear me out here.

Tannenbaum’s mock draft has the Arizona Cardinals trading their star dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray, along with their 11th overall pick, to the Minnesota Vikings for the fourth overall pick which, according to Tannenbaum, they will use to select Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.

Former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who took a job as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in January, has been raving about McCarthy, his former quarterback, in recent days.

Harbaugh called the Michigan QB’s pro day workout “the best throwing day I’ve ever seen.”

Up until recently, most draft analysts had McCarthy outside of their consensus top-three QBs list. But Harbaugh’s endorsement seems to be changing that. “I think he plays quarterback the best of any quarterback in the draft,” Harbaugh said in a press scrum at the NFL Owners’ Meetings on Monday, according to ESPN. “He’s incredible. So, big market, small market. Cold weather, hot weather, it won’t matter,” he continued to gush.

Harbaugh’s Chargers hold the fifth overall pick in the draft. Up until Harbaugh began gushing over McCarthy, the consensus view amongst draft analysts has been simple: The Bears will select Caleb Williams first overall, and the Commanders, who hold the second pick will select one of LSU’s Jayden Daniels or UNC’s Drake Maye, while the third-slotted Patriots take whoever is left from that group.

Up until very recently, virtually nobody was talking about McCarthy as a top-five pick. Before March 19th, none of NFL.com’s mock drafts had him going in the top 10. But the tide seems to be shifting.

The lead draft analyst for the NFL, Bucky Brooks, released his second mock draft Feb. 27. He had McCarthy going 12th overall to the Denver Broncos. Tuesday he released his third iteration which had McCarthy going third overall to the New England Patriots, supplanting UNC’s Drake Maye who he originally tabbed for the Pats.

Chad Reuter also released a comprehensive mock on Tuesday and he had the consensus top-three of Williams, Daniels and Maye going in that order, but McCarthy slid in right behind Maye, going fourth to the Vikings, as Reuter predicted a similar draft day trade as Tannenbaum.

That would literally be the perfect scenario for Harbaugh and the Chargers. With their fifth overall selection, LA would have their pick of the litter for all the best non-QB prospects in the draft. Seeing as they already have a franchise QB in Justin Herbert, Harbaugh would be defacto turning his fifth pick into a first overall selection.

He could take any one of the stud receivers on the board after his Chargers traded away star wideout Keenan Allen and cut Herbert’s other favorite target, Mike Williams. There’s Washington’s Rome Odunze, who Harbaugh’s Wolverines faced in the NCAA National Championship. (RELATED: Star Receiver Mike Williams, Who Just Got Cut, Finds New Home With The New York Jets. It’s A Perfect Fit)

He could also take Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., who many believe Arizona will nab with the fourth selection. He could even go with the best lineman in the draft, Notre Dame’s Joe Alt. In this scenario, the world is his oyster.

I don’t want to get grandly conspiratorial. McCarthy is Harbaugh’s college QB, he’s the first guy to help deliver Harbaugh his once-elusive National Championship. Of course, he’s going to say nice things about him. But he’s been laying it on extra thick, and for quite some time now. (RELATED: Are Harbaugh Family Values Making Football Great Again?)

He told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd in early February he could see McCarthy going first overall. This is in the same draft where Caleb Williams is about as locked into the first spot as any player has been since Andrew Luck.

But I believe Harbaugh is playing chess, not checkers here. It’s a mutually beneficial strategy for nearly everyone involved. McCarthy gets paid more. Harbaugh looks like a genius for coaching up such a strong prospect and the Chargers get their guy, whoever that may be.

As far as Tannenbaum’s role? Maybe he’s just a useful idiot. Maybe the former NFL GM-turned-hot-take-artist is just caught up in a sprawling scheme he knows nothing about. Or maybe… just maybe, there’s collusion afoot. Tannenbaum has raved about Harbaugh in the past, predicting his Chargers will make the Super Bowl this year and has previously gushed over his personality, saying he was “Dynamic. Smart. Could light up a room” in a 2013 interview where he revealed he almost hired Harbaugh to coach the Jets.

Hey, it could be nothing. But if it works out like Tannenbaum says it will, Harbaugh walks away with a hell of a draft day. Collusion? I’ll leave that up to you.