NFL Insider Reveals Los Angeles Chargers Surprise Head Coach Backup Plan If Jim Harbaugh Went Elsewhere

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After firing head coach Brandon Staley, Jim Harbaugh quickly emerged as the top option to take over as the Los Angeles Chargers coach in 2024. However, had he backed out of an NFL job again, the team reportedly had an interesting backup plan to replace him.

Los Angeles conducted one of the most thorough coaching searches in the NFL this offseason. The Chargers interviewed 15 coaching candidates, with a pool of names including Harbaugh, David Shaw, Todd Monken, Mike Macdonald, Mike Vrabel, Brian Callahan, and Dan Quinn.

Related: Top draft prospect reveals why he’s perfect fit for Chargers, Jim Harbaugh

The Chargers’ meeting with Shaw, who had spent more than a decade with the Stanford Cardinal, added fuel to the belief around the league that Harbaugh would replace Staley in Los Angeles. However, the team also faced significant competition from the Atlanta Falcons.

  • Jim Harbaugh NFL record: 44-19-1, 5-3 in the NFL playoffs

Los Angeles Chargers Plan If They Missed On Jim Harbaugh

During an appearance on Pardon My Take, ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter shed light on the Chargers’ process and the competition for Harbaugh. Los Angeles was in real jeopardy of losing Harbaugh if he took his flight to Atlanta. The coach’s leverage resulted in the Chargers giving him the contract he wanted and officially hiring him. However, if he had taken that flight, the coaching search likely would’ve ended very differently for the Spanos family.

Related: NFL insider reveals Los Angeles Chargers’ preferred plan in 2024 NFL Draft

“Mike Vrabel, I think, would have gotten the Chargers job if Jim Harbaugh would have gotten on the plane to go to Atlanta. I think Jim would have had a decent chance to get the Falcons (gig), which one move obviously impacts the other. Vrabel had a great interview with the Chargers and they really liked him. It just was one of those things where it didn’t go his way in this cycle.”

Adam Schefter on the Los Angeles Chargers’ backup plan to Jim Harbaugh

When Vrabel was fired by the Tennessee Titans in January, most assumed he would be one of the first NFL coaches hired. While he met with the Chargers and the Carolina Panthers, Vrabel was never offered a head-coaching job and no team has even hired him as a defensive coordinator for the 2024 season.

Related: Best NFL players of all time

A variety of explanations have been provided by NFL reporters as to why Vrabel wasn’t hired in this cycle. While one NFL executive suggested Vrabel’s size (6-foot-4) might’ve been “intimidating” for NFL owners, the real reasoning likely ties back to what happened in Tennessee.

Vrabel was not good at working with Titans general manager Ran Carthon, with reports of a rift between the two. More than that, Tennessee’s former coach wanted significant involvement in football operations including roster construction and was far less collaborative than Tennessee wanted. Given that reputation, it’s possible the Chargers may not have landed general manager Joe Hortiz if they hired Vrabel as coach.

Related: Examining 4 Los Angeles Chargers trade-down scenarios in 2024 NFL Draft