Instant analysis of Chargers hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach

The Chargers got their guy.

After months of rumors, former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh inked a contract with Los Angeles on Tuesday to become the franchise’s new head coach.

The 60-year-old Harbaugh played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1982-86, eventually spending two years with the Chargers in 1999-2000. After two seasons as the QB coach for the Raiders, Harbaugh’s coaching career began in earnest at San Diego, where he led the Toreros to a 29-6 record in three seasons before being named head coach at Stanford.

In Palo Alto, Harbaugh went 29-21, leading the Cardinal to their first bowl victory since 1996. That 2010 season sprung him into the NFL ranks, where he led the 49ers to the 2012 Super Bowl against his older brother John and the Ravens. A power struggle between him and then-general manager Trent Baalke led to his departure in 2014, and Harbaugh returned to his alma mater. That tenure culminated earlier this month as the Wolverines won their first national championship since 1997.

With a career 144-52 record in college and a 49-22-1 record in the pros, it’s impossible to deny that Harbaugh knows what it takes to win football games. He also brings the experience as a head coach that Chargers fans and reportedly the Spanos family coveted in a new head coach following the failure of Brandon Staley’s tenure. As one of the more prominent names in the coaching world, the move also gives LA publicity as they continue to jockey with the Rams for the city’s attention.

On the field, Harbaugh has largely built old-school teams built through running the football and strong defenses. Despite this, he’s shown the capacity to innovate, frequently adding coaches from outside his sphere of influence to introduce new ideas and continue to evolve with the modern flow of the game while maintaining the core values of a Harbaugh team.

While the hire will (and should) be seen as a success for the Chargers, there remain questions to be answered about the function of a Harbaugh-led squad. LA has yet to hire a general manager and likely will need someone willing to cede some personnel control to Harbaugh. There are overhauls to the nutrition, training, and analytics staff that he will demand. The Chargers roster remains in flux, making a one-year turnaround somewhat of an unrealistic expectation. His relationship with management at each of his last two jobs has worn thin, leading first to his mutual parting of ways with the 49ers and then his voluntary departure from Michigan.

Beyond all of this, there remains the matter of Harbaugh’s discipline for Michigan’s sign-stealing investigation, which is still ongoing with the NCAA. Previous reporting has indicated that the NFL will likely honor any punishment their college counterparts levy on Harbaugh, likely a multi-game suspension and fine. The Chargers, perhaps aware of their position heading into 2024, have decided that’s a pill they’re willing to swallow.

By all accounts, Los Angeles got their first choice and Harbaugh got his. Reporting has suggested that the coach is enamored with Justin Herbert’s skillset, while the Chargers are fascinated with the notion of an experienced winner at the NFL level coming available. If history is any indication, the Chargers will win many games with Harbaugh at the helm. If that results in a Super Bowl, plenty of people will be willing to accept a short tenure and/or ugly ending down the line. Such is the gambit with a coach like Harbaugh – a strong personality who knows he can get the job done his way.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire