3 Things Chargers Fans Need to Know About New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh is the new Los Angeles Chargers head coach, and it's time for fans to get familiar with him.
Jan 9, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh during College Football
Jan 9, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh during College Football / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers head coaching search saw them interview plenty of candidates, but the whole thing seemed to be pointing in one direction. And in this case it wasn't smoke and mirrors, but rather smoke foretelling fire.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport announced on Wednesday that the Chargers are officially set to hire Jim Harbaugh as the new head coach.

Harbaugh's name has been thrown around a lot lately, but it's been a while since he's coached at the NFL level. The last time he did, the Chargers were still in San Diego. Here are three things Chargers fans should know to familiarize themselves with their new head coach.

1. Harbaugh Can Absolutely Cut it at the NFL Level

Time and time again we see elite college coaches fail to make it as an NFL head coach. Leading a team of grown men is a lot different than working with a roster of early 20-somethings. Just ask Nick Saban, who went 15-17 as an NFL head coach.

But Harbaugh has done it at both levels.

The Michigan Wolverines went 5-7 in 2014, the year before Harbaugh took over. He led them to double-digit wins in three of his first four seasons, with a lifetime 89-25 record, capping off with an undefeated season and National Championship win this year.

And in the NFL? The San Francisco 49ers were an embarrassment in the early-2000s. Their 8-8 season in 2009 was the best record they posted from 2003 through 2010. Then Harbaugh took over in 2011.

He immediately led them to a 13-3 season, and he led the team to the NFC Championship in three straight years. It wasn't like he suddenly got an influx of talent to work with either — that first appearance was with Alex Smith at the helm, before which Smith was 19-31 as a starter.

Harbaugh is the real deal at both levels.

2. Harbaugh Has Some Old School to Him, But He's No Dinosaur

Harbaugh brings an old-school, no-nonsense approach. He can be confrontational, he gets heated on the sidelines, and in recent years his teams were incredibly well-disciplined (Michigan committed an NCAA-low 3.0 penalties per game last season).

But that doesn't mean we're going to see an offense stuck in the past and a coach who refuses to adapt to the ever-evolving trends of the game.

Harbaugh got the most out of Colin Kaepernick even back when "rushing quarterback" was a backhanded compliment.

Kaep ranked fourth among quarterbacks with 63 rushing attempts in his first year as a full-time starter, and that number jumped to 92 attempts in 2013 and 104 attempts (No. 2 among quarterbacks) in 2014.

I'm not suggesting he will turn Justin Herbert into Mike Vick, but rather highlighting how he was ahead of his time featuring a dual-threat quarterback in a way that showcased his whole game. He wasn't stuck in the past trying to force his offense into being led by a pocket passer.

3. Harbaugh Has Some Chargers History

Harbaugh's 49ers only faced the Chargers once (a thrilling 38-35 overtime win for the Chargers, thank you very much). But he had a major connection with the Chargers before that.

Harbaugh spent 14 years as an NFL quarterback, making 140 starts and appearing in 177 total games.

The final 17 starts of his career, in 1999 and 2000, came with the Chargers.

Those were, admittedly, not starts to write home about. He went just 5-11, throwing for 4,177 yards with 18 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. And in 2000 he went 0-5.

So now's his chance to redeem himself. We've seen Harbaugh is a whole lot better as a coach than a player, and now's his chance to bring up that lifetime Chargers win-loss record too.

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