It’s officially official. National champion head coach Jim Harbaugh is taking his talents to the Los Angeles Chargers.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report on Wednesday that Los Angeles had hired the former Michigan Wolverines head coach to replace Brandon Staley.
The Chargers would later confirm the hiring.
This could very well end up being a monumental and franchise-altering hire for the downtrodden Chargers. They were a disaster of epic proportions under Staley last season, finishing with a 5-12 record. That included a downright humiliating 63-21 loss to the rival Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 14, which led to both Staley and general manager Tom Telesco getting the hook.
Owner Dean Spanos went away from his typically cheap ways to dole out what promises to be a near-record contract to Harbaugh. In making the move from Ann Arbor, Harbaugh reportedly turned down a deal from the Wolverines that would have made him the highest-paid college football coach in history.
There are so many layers to Wednesday’s huge Chargers news. How will the Harbaugh hiring impact franchise quarterback Justin Herbert? Who will join his coaching staff? What about the next general manager? Let’s look at all of that and a whole lot more below.
Los Angeles Chargers Hiring Jim Harbaugh Was Primarily About Justin Herbert
It was ahead of the 2023 season that Herbert signed a then-record five-year, $262.5 million contract extension with the Chargers. This was the clearest tell yet that the Chargers were ready to give the keys to their kingdom to the former No. 6 overall pick.
Herbert proceeded to put up the worst statistical season of his four-year career before going down to injury 13 games in.
- Justin Herbert stats (2023): 65.1% completion, 3,134 yards, 20 TD, 7 INT, 93.2 QB rating
There were a lot of reasons for this. Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams dealt with injuries. The same thing could be said for running back Austin Ekeler. Meanwhile, Herbert just never seemed comfortable in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s system.
This is highly unlikely to be the case with Harbaugh in Los Angeles. Regardless of who the next offensive coordinator is, quarterbacks have a track record of success under Harbaugh. It really is eye-opening.
During his two years with Harbaugh at Stanford, Andrew Luck threw 45 touchdowns compared to just 12 interceptions. It led to him being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Once Harbaugh moved on to the San Francisco 49ers, he oversaw vast improvement from former No. 1 pick Alex Smith. The quarterback threw 30 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in 25 starts before being benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick midway through the 2012 season. All Kaepernick did as a sophomore was lead San Francisco to an appearance in the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh has had success at every stop during his coaching career. We’re talking team-wide success. But his ability to get the most out of quarterbacks is key here. That’s magnified after that J.J. McCarthy did last season in leading Michigan to the national championship.
Jim Harbaugh coaching staff with the Los Angeles Chargers
Several indications are that Harbaugh will bring in veteran Greg Roman to run his offense. Roman, 51, is a familiar name for football fans in California. He served as Harbaugh’s assistant coach with Stanford from 2009-10 before joining him in San Francisco in 2011. Roman would end up spending four years with Harbaugh in Northern California.
Roman has also coordinated offenses for the Buffalo Bills (2015-16) and Baltimore Ravens (2017-22). This span has seen him lead six top-11 scoring offenses. His rushing offenses have finished no lower than eighth in any of Roman’s 10 years as an NFL coordinator. That, too, could play a big role if the Chargers go in this direction.
These very same reports indicate that current Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will follow Harbaugh to the Chargers. Minter, 40, is seen as an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He led the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense (10.3 PPG) in 2023 with that unit also ranking seventh in 2022.
Minter also worked with Jim Harbaugh’s brother, John, for four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He would likely come in and run a 3-4 defense if hired.
General manager will be key for Jim Harbaugh, Los Angeles Chargers
Harbaugh’s otherwise brilliant four-year run with the 49ers, from 2011-14, ended in a ton of drama. That included a rift between the head coach and general manager Trent Baalke as well as CEO Jed York.
Despite Harbaugh boasting a 44-19-1 record with three NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance in four seasons, he was ousted following th 2014 season.
Make no mistake about it. Harbaugh is an interesting character. It’s also known that he’s not necessarily the easiest to work with.
That’s what makes the Chargers’ general manager decision so important. Current New York Giants assistant general manager Brandon Brown was in the building when the Chargers made Harbaugh’s hiring official. Former NFL Chief Adminstrator of Football Operations Dawn Aponte had also just finished up her second interview earlier in the day.
Obviously, this could all just be a mere coincidence. Most believe that current Indianapolis Colts assistant general manager Ed Dodds should be favored for the job. He was a top candidates for the Raiders’ opening before they decided to hire former Chargers GM Tom Telesco.
Baltimore Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz is also slated for a second interview. Having worked with Harbaugh’s brother, he could be a darkhorse candidate.
Hiring Harbaugh was the first step for Los Angeles. But there is a whole lot more work to do before the organization even looks forward to what promises to be a franchise-altering remainder of the offseason.