The Los Angeles Chargers, who fired Brandon Staley as head coach after a Week 14 blowout loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, are apparently interested in making a big splash with their next head coaching hire.
And there aren’t many coaching names bigger than Jim Harbaugh.
One report Wednesday indicated the Chargers “have interest” in Jim Harbaugh, who is about to lead Michigan into its College Football Playoff matchup against Alabama in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
In addition, Chargers president John Spanos said the team would place “no limitations” on their next coaching and GM hires. GM Tom Telesco lost his job at the same time as Staley.
Without any self-imposed financial restraints, the Chargers’ field of options widens considerably to include every available option, including Jim Harbaugh, who has yet to indicate if he intends to stay at Michigan or make a move back to the NFL.
There’s a speculation that Jim Harbaugh, in his ninth season at Michigan, might not want to return after this season, one in which he served a three-game suspension over the sign-stealing scandal.
The only achievement missing from Jim Harbaugh’s resume at Michigan is a national championship, and there is speculation that Jim Harbaugh would leave Michigan and return to the NFL if the Wolverines emerge victorious in the national championship game on Jan. 8 in Houston.
At that point, NFL teams with head coach openings will line up to court Jim Harbaugh. Yet there is only one franchise that would be a perfect fit for Jim Harbaugh: The Los Angeles Chargers.
Here are three reasons why the Chargers hiring Jim Harbaugh would be the perfect marriage.
1. Jim Harbaugh Is Familiar With The Spanos Family.
Jim Harbaugh played 14 NFL seasons with four teams, the final one being the then-San Diego Chargers. He started 17 games over two seasons and led them to a 6-11 record before calling it a career after the 2000 season.
Working for the Chargers means working for the Spanos family, who own the Chargers. Having a previous relationship with the Spanos’ should give the Chargers an advantage over other teams vying for his services.
When John Spanos said there would be no limitations based on salary and experience, he likely said that as a way to send a subtle message to Jim Harbaugh to consider returning to the Chargers. Time will tell if Harbaugh got the message and will respond favorably, but it doesn’t hurt that came it from someone familiar.
2. Jim Harbaugh Is The Ultimate Quick-Fix Head Coach.
If you look at Jim Harbaugh’s track record, it’s uncanny how he has improved every team immediately after being hired, and that includes his previous NFL stint as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
When he was hired at Stanford before the 2007 season, Jim Harbaugh turned a program that had been 1-11 the previous season into a 4-8 team that three years later went 11-1 and won the Orange Bowl.
Hired by the 49ers, who’d gone 6-10 in 2010, Jim Harbaugh led them to a 13-3 record and the NFC championship game in his first season. In four seasons, he went 44-19-1 and coached in three NFC championship games and one Super Bowl, losing to his brother John and the Baltimore Ravens.
Then at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh took a program that had gone 5-7 in 2014 and transformed it into a 10-3 team the following year. Overall, he’s put together an 84-25 record and has directed the Wolverines to wins over rival Ohio State and to the CFP for the past three seasons.
Given the talent on the Chargers’ roster, Jim Harbaugh could affect the same sort of positive change immediately. The parts are there, with quarterback Justin Herbert, receiver Keenan Allen, and defenders Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jim Harbaugh had the Chargers (5-9) back in the postseason in 2024.
3. Jim Harbaugh Is What The Chargers Need In A Big Market.
The Chargers, who built a new state-of-the-art practice facility in El Segundo, share SoFi Stadium with the Los Angeles Rams, and are competing with them for an audience in the Los Angeles market, the second biggest in the country.
The Rams have a distinct advantage in terms of building their fanbase in that they’ve won a Super Bowl in recent years, and they had a previous long run in Los Angeles before leaving for St. Louis and then returning in 2016.
For the Chargers to generate more ticket sales and garner more attention, it would help to hire a head coach whom everyone knows and could get excited about — and that would be Harbaugh.
Winning breeds popularity, and if Harbaugh is able to turn the Chargers back into winners again right away, it gives them the best opportunity to outperform, outdraw and outsell the Rams as the No. 1 teams in LA.
How Much Will Jim Harbaugh Cost?
Obviously, Harbaugh will come at a high cost. He’s currently earning more than $7 million per year at Michigan on a deal that runs through 2026. He could command double that in a return to the NFL.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the highest-paid NFL coach, with an annual salary of $20 million. He’s followed by Denver’s Sean Payton, Seattle’s Pete Carroll ($18 million), and Sean McVay of the Rams ($15 million).
Given his experience and previous NFL success, Harbaugh would likely command Belichick money. And if the Chargers are willing to pay a comparable salary, as John Spanos suggested, then Jim Harbaugh is their man.