Can Jim Harbaugh Work His Magic in LA? Analyst Warns of High Expectations for Chargers in 2024

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers offseasons often bring with it an air of optimism and 2024 is no different. But The Athletic’s Mike Jones wants to throw some cold water on the team’s, sometimes, sky-high expectations in Jim Harbaugh‘s first year.

Jim Harbaugh’s Reputation

Jim Harbaugh Celebrates CFP Win
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORKCredit: Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Harbaugh is generally thought of as football’s quick-turnaround CEO. Someone who comes in rights the ship, and wins right away.

It is what happened the last time he joined the NFL. He took the 6-10 San Francisco 49ers and turned them into the 13-3 NFC West champions and made a deep playoff run in his first year as the coach. Those Niners teams burned hot, making it to the Super Bowl in his second season.

He executed a similar, although not as ‘flash in the pan’ seeming as the 49ers, turnaround in Michigan. In that instance, it took Harbaugh seven years to truly get the Wolverines back to national prominence. But he did flip a 5-7 program into a 10-3 program in one offseason.

Are The Chargers Overrated?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Minicamp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jones lumped the Chargers into a group of four teams he considers to be the “Most Overrated in the NFL” along with the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, and 49ers. Here is what he wrote about the 2024 Chargers;

“Harbaugh should be good for Justin Herbert and the Chargers in the long run; he was regarded as the top coach on the market this past winter. But an overnight turnaround might be far-fetched, particularly since Harbaugh hasn’t coached in the NFL in 10 years. Also, while the Chargers made an effort to bolster their defense, Herbert will be missing a number of go-to offensive players after the departures of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler.”

What Jones Gets Wrong

Defense: Jones mentions the Chargers bolstered their defense. And in ways they did, but mostly by not moving on from either Joey Bosa or Khalil Mack. In fact, the Chargers defense leaves a lot more to be desired than he lets on in this piece. Their defensive line is lacking high-end starters and quality depth. Their depth in the secondary is atrocious and the linebacking corps is a patchwork of an aging Denzel Perryman and inexperienced youth.

If there is a liability on this team it’s the defense. This isn’t good news, but if you are going to rip a team, do it for the right reasons.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Minicamp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Strength of Schedule: The Chargers have the second-easiest schedule in the league this year. They luck out by playing the NFC South this year. And because they finished 4th play a handful of last-place teams, in addition to four games against the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders.

Beating up on bad teams doesn’t necessarily mean that your team is good, but it could land the Chargers a playoff berth, and then everything is up for grabs at that point.

What He Gets Right

Jones points out some valid reasons for concern. The Chargers lost 45.8 percent of their 2023 offensive yards in those three players. And last year was a down year. In 2022, they represented 53.7 percent.

The receiving corps and offensive backfield lack a proven and consistent threat to defenses. But they bet big on creating an offensive line that will be the tide that lifts all boats on that side of the ball.