Harbaugh ready to resume his chase of a Super Bowl title with Chargers
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh fulfilled one of his goals by winning a national championship at his alma mater.
Now he's looking to capture his ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with one of the teams he played for.
Harbaugh resumed his pursuit of a Super Bowl title on Thursday when he was introduced as the Los Angeles Chargers' coach. He agreed to terms on a five-year contract last Wednesday after nine seasons at the University of Michigan, including going 15-0 and winning the school's first national championship since 1997 last month.
“It was time. I said this the other day, there’s only so many sands left in the hourglass. I want another shot to simply be known as world champions and to win the Lombardi Trophy. That’s my mission,” he said. “I felt that the Spanos family and organization made clear they like what I did and how I did it. That’s all you want from an employer.”
Harbaugh becomes the 19th coach in franchise history and the first former Chargers player to return to the team as head coach. He played for the Bolts in San Diego in 1999 and 2000 before retiring after the 2001 season.
Although Harbaugh had expressed interest in Minnesota and Denver the past two seasons, returning to one of the five teams he played for during his 15-year career struck a chord.
“Every single job I’ve taken in coaching, there’s an emotional tie there,” Harbaugh said. “Watching the introduction video, all those memories came flooding back. I think back to the last season I played with the Chargers and I exchanged jerseys and he signed it. I have that jersey hanging in my house.”
Harbaugh's hiring has also put the Chargers back on the national radar for something other than their penchant for blowing late leads. The Bolts were 5-12 last season and were winless in seven games decided by three points or fewer.
“It’s been about a week now and in this very short period of time, you’ve electrified this city and this fan base,” owner Dean Spanos said to Harbaugh. “Our fans deserve a day like this. I am so incredibly happy for them.”
Chargers fans are hoping Harbaugh's record as coach is better than it was as the team's quarterback. He was 6-11 as a starter in his two seasons in San Diego. They are also hoping he can deliver consistent success to a franchise that hasn't won a division title since 2009 and has made only three playoff appearances since 2013.
Harbaugh has already talked to most of the players on the roster, including quarterback Justin Herbert. He said he has already looked at most of Herbert's throws during his first four years in the NFL and is excited about working with the QB.
“The thing’s that’s jumping out is just this enormous talent,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited about the challenge. Let’s see if I’m man enough, a good enough coach so that all his hard work can be realized. I want to work really hard so that his hard work can be realized.”
While Harbaugh explained why he is returning to the NFL, there were more immediate questions that went unanswered.
He said Ben Herbert would be joining the Chargers as strength and conditioning coach, but would not reveal anything else about his staff. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter and safeties/special teams coach Jay Harbaugh — Jim's son — are also expected to come from Michigan to Los Angeles, but that was not announced.
“We are going through the process right now. Jesse is phenomenal, but I want to talk to as many people as I can before we make the final hire. He would be tremendous. Jay is a shining star as well,” Harbaugh said.
The other matter not cleared up is who would have personnel control between Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz, who was hired on Tuesday.
Both will report to John Spanos, the franchise's president of football operations. But Spanos also did not elaborate over who would have the last word.
“It's OK to have a disagreement and difference of opinion on a player, but you have to be able to work through that together," Spanos said. "If you’re ever in a situation where you’re having to look up in the contract who has final say here, you’ve got much bigger problems on your hands.”
Harbaugh and Hortiz will have the fifth pick in April’s draft, but they both also have to make key decisions on a roster that is at least $45 million over the salary cap. Wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, along with linebackers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, have cap numbers of at least $30 million for the 2024 season.
“I really think this is a talented group assembled here, I’m excited about the challenge,” Harbaugh said. “The feedback I’ve been getting is that they are ready to work. They want to win. They are going to see things are changing and different.”
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