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Maybe Jim Harbaugh can finally finish the job as the Chargers head coach

The Chargers announced on Wednesday that they hired Jim Harbaugh to be their new head coach for the 2024 season and, hopefully, beyond.

Harbaugh, 60, spent the previous nine seasons in the college ranks, coaching his alma mater, Michigan, where he won a national title to close out the 2023/2024 campaign.

Harbaugh was suspended six games in 2023, as his final year at Michigan was tainted by cheating scandals and violations.

Harbaugh, who passed for over 26,000 yards during a 15-year career as a journeyman NFL quarterback, previously coached with the 49ers at the professional level. Starting in 2011, Harbaugh led San Francisco to three straight NFC title games and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 campaign. In a much anticipated and hyped Super Bowl matchup vs. his brother, John Harbaugh, San Francisco lost a nail-biter to the Ravens.

It was in 2014 when rumors first surfaced of a power struggle between Harbaugh and team executives in San Francisco. There turned out to be real fire where that smoke came from, and news broke that Harbaugh would step down as head coach at season’s end.

Here we are, again. Harbaugh is back in the NFL after a decade-long absence.

Can Harbaugh finally get the job done at the professional level and win a Super Bowl in Los Angeles? Can he go the route of Pete Carroll, who also coached in the NFL for a few years in the late-’90s before heading to the collegiate level and winning multiple national titles with USC? Carroll left USC amid recruiting scandals and became head coach of the Seahawks in 2010. He ultimately led Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowls and a Lombardi trophy following the 2013 season.

Harbaugh will already have the most important piece to a championship puzzle. I’m talking about Justin Herbert, who has been one of the best and most talented quarterbacks in the NFL since he made his rookie debut in 2020. Unfortunately, Herbert’s considerable talents haven’t done much to boost the Chargers’ championship aspirations. Los Angeles has made the playoffs just once in four seasons with Herbert at the helm and blew a 27-0 lead to the Jaguars in a wildcard game following the 2022 regular season.

Herbert signed a five-year, $262.5 million mega-deal prior to the 2023 campaign and will be with the Chargers through 2029. It’s now up to Harbaugh to build his entire team around a bona fide franchise quarterback.

The good news is that the spotlight won’t be overwhelmingly bright on Harbaugh in a city like Los Angeles. I know that seems weird, but it’s LA, where the true superstars read scripts, not playbooks. Besides, the Lakers and Dodgers are kings there, and that’s when the citizens feel like paying attention to sports at all.

And when it comes to professional football, the Chargers play second-fiddle to the Rams, who they also share SoFi Stadium with.

Harbaugh will have time to make the Chargers into a true contender, and if he does, maybe he can join Carroll as a coach who won a college national championship and then won a Super Bowl in his second stint in the NFL.

 

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