Although the Chargers reside in a different city than they did during Jim Harbaugh‘s time with the team as a quarterback, he will reunite with the organization that once gave him an opportunity as his career wound down. It took a big salary and appears to have brought considerable autonomy to complete this transaction.
Harbaugh signed a five-year contract, and Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz indicates the longtime Michigan HC is likely to have final say when it comes to personnel matters. Teams are often reluctant to provide this for head coaches, but Harbaugh brought leverage — due to the interest the Falcons showed and the offers Michigan made to keep him — that allowed him to maximize his position.
The Falcons had scheduled a second interview, but Harbaugh ended up postponing it. Harbaugh may or may not have intended to make that trip, but he used it during talks with the Chargers, who had long been the frontrunners in this race.
The Bolts did not give any of their Tom Telesco-era HCs final say, with the GM running the show. The team frequently struggled to turn Telesco’s well-regarded rosters into playoff berths, however, and Dean Spanos said ownership would spend time considering how it organized its power structure. It appears Harbaugh did enough to justify an HC-centric operation. Harbaugh, 60, also used president John Spanos‘ comments pushing back on the Chargers’ perceived frugality when it comes to HC spending to his advantage in negotiations, Schultz notes, adding the Chargers’ openness in giving such power to a head coach separated them during this year’s hiring period.
This contract is worth more than the $12.5MM-per-year deal Michigan is believed to have offered, and even if it falls short of the $18MM salary range Sean Payton established last year, Harbaugh will be given more control than any of the other HCs hired this year. The nine-year Wolverines HC appears prepared to bring his most recent DC — Jesse Minter — with him to Los Angeles, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes. Other staffers are likely to follow, per Schultz. Harbaugh made it a point during Bolts talks to mention bringing analytics staffers from Ann Arbor as well.
The power the Bolts are giving Harbaugh understandably gives him a considerable say in where the team’s GM search ends. This became a sticking point for Harbaugh, per Schultz. Given how his 49ers tenure concluded, it is logical this became a priority for the accomplished HC. Harbaugh’s feud with Trent Baalke and issues with 49ers ownership led him out the door after four years, bringing a steep freefall for the team before Kyle Shanahan — given a six-year contract due to what transpired in Baalke’s final years — began to pick up the pieces.
As for where the Bolts go at GM, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson indicates Ravens exec Joe Hortiz is considered the favorite by some around the league. Hortiz, the Ravens’ director of player personnel, has extensive ties to the Harbaugh family and has been in Baltimore for nearly the franchise’s entire existence. This would stand to better prepare him for the potential challenge of working with Jim Harbaugh.
Hortiz has worked alongside John Harbaugh since the latter’s arrival in 2008 but has been with the Ravens since 1998. Prior to his 2019 promotion under GM Eric DeCosta, Hortiz spent 10 years as the team’s director of college scouting. Hortiz joins Giants assistant GM Brandon Brown as the only candidates the Chargers have brought in twice.
Unsurprisingly, Justin Herbert‘s status loomed as a Harbaugh draw. Many around the NFL pointed to Harbaugh showing interest in elevating Herbert — who supplies one of the top QB skillsets in the game today — after an inconsistent recent run, Fowler adds. Harbaugh worked wonders for Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and is coming off a run with J.J. McCarthy that ended in a convincing national championship result. Via the extension he inked last summer, Herbert is tied to the Chargers through the 2029 season. Only Patrick Mahomes‘ contract runs beyond that timeframe.
Stanford went 1-11 during its final pre-Harbaugh season; the Cardinal finished 12-1 in 2010, propelling Harbaugh to the 49ers. San Francisco had missed eight straight playoff fields prior to Harbaugh’s 2011 arrival; he moved the team to three consecutive NFC championship games. Harbaugh’s .695 win percentage is the best among NFL coaches who started their careers since the 1970 merger. While the former Chargers QB’s style may not be for everyone, the success he has achieved on the sideline convinced the Chargers to revamp their organization to bring him in.