Inglewood, California. — Jim Harbaugh accomplished one of his goals by winning a national championship at his alma mater.
Now he seeks to achieve his ultimate goal of lifting the Lombardi Trophy with one of the teams he played for.
Harbaugh resumed his quest for a Super Bowl title Thursday when he was introduced as coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. He agreed to terms on a five-year contract last Wednesday after nine seasons at the University of Michigan, including a 15-0 record and winning the school’s first national championship since 1997 last month.
“It was time. I said this the other day: There are only a few sands left in the hourglass. I want another chance to just be known as world champions and win the Lombardi Trophy. That’s my mission,” he said. “I felt like the family and “The Spanos organization made it clear that 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 job I’ve taken on as a coach, there’s an emotional connection,” Harbaugh said. “Watching the intro video, all those memories came back. I think back to the last season I played with the Chargers and I traded jerseys and he signed them. “I have that shirt hanging in my house.”
Harbaugh’s hiring has also put the Chargers back on the national radar for more than just their tendency to blow late leads. The Bolts went 5-12 last season and were winless in seven games decided by three points or less.
“It’s been about a week and in this very short period of time, you’ve electrified this city and this fan base,” owner Dean Spanos told Harbaugh. “Our fans deserve a day like this. “I am incredibly happy for them.”
Chargers fans hope Harbaugh’s record as a coach is better than as the team’s quarterback. He was 6-11 as a starter in his two seasons in San Diego. They also hope he can bring consistent success to a franchise that hasn’t won a division title since 2009 and has made just three playoff appearances since 2013.
Harbaugh has already spoken with most of the players on the roster, including quarterback Justin Herbert. He said he’s already watched most of Herbert’s throws during his first four years in the NFL and is excited to work with the QB.
“What’s obvious is this tremendous talent,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited about the challenge. Let’s see if I’m man enough, good enough coach so that all your hard work can be done. “I want to work very hard so that your hard work can be done.”
While Harbaugh explained why he is returning to the NFL, there were more immediate questions left unanswered.
He said Ben Herbert would join the Chargers as strength and conditioning coach, but did 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 he can before I make the final hire. It would be tremendous. Jay is a shining star too,” Harbaugh said.
The other unclear issue 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 give more details about who would have the last word.
“It’s okay to have a disagreement and a difference of opinion about a player, but you have to be able to resolve it together,” Spanos said. “If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to look up at the “Whoever has the final say here, you have much bigger problems on your hands.”
Harbaugh left for Michigan after four years with the San Francisco 49ers. He led the Niners to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, but lost to his brother John and the Baltimore Ravens.
Harbaugh and Hortiz will have the fifth pick in April’s draft, but both also have key decisions to make 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 salary figures of at least $30 million for the 2024 season.
“I really think this is a talented group gathered here, I’m excited for the challenge,” Harbaugh said. “The response I have received is that they are ready to work. They want to win. They are going to see that things are changing and are different.”