Jim Harbaugh leaves Michigan for Chargers head coaching job
Weeks after winning a national title with Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is headed to the NFL where he will occupy the open head coaching job for the Los Angeles Chargers.
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Is Jim Harbaugh a Los Angeles guy?
“I think so. And I aspire to be,” Harbaugh said during his introductory news conference.
The 60-year-old Midwesterner is on the right track, drawing inspiration from Hollywood shows and movies to illustrate how he’ll tackle his new job as the LA Chargers’ head coach.
To describe his feelings about the role, Harbaugh used an iconic A-lister in his analogy.
“If I could describe it to you, it would be like Morgan Freeman in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’,” Harbaugh said. “I’m so excited I can’t sit still or hold a thought in my head, what a free man would feel before a long journey. I just want to make it across the border and shake my friend’s hand. That’s how I feel.”
Winners and losers: of Jim Harbaugh’s decision to return to NFL as coach of Chargers
Harbaugh referenced when Freeman’s character “Red” was released from prison in the film. It’s particularly interesting because Harbaugh decided to leave Michigan amid an ongoing NCAA investigation for alleged recruiting violations during the COVID-19 dead period. He also had two separate three-game suspensions during the 2023 season for recruiting infractions and his involvement in a sign-stealing scandal.
Whether he meant it or not, Harbaugh’s analogy felt like a subtle parting jab at the NCAA.
Harbaugh then revealed the drama series ‘Rockford Files’ was his favorite show growing up, a detective fiction series that aired in the 1970s that appropriately took place in Southern California.
‘Rockford Files’ still remains at the top of his TV viewing list, but it’s now tied with the sports comedy-drama ‘Ted Lasso.’
“There are some things that I’ve copied from Ted Lasso. I try to emulate Ted Lasso in a lot of ways. That TV show, that is one of the best,” Harbaugh said. “I think that there’s a life lesson in every one of those episodes.”
Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso character once said, “the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
As a coach, Harbaugh guided Stanford from college football purgatory to a then-Pac-10 power. He led the 49ers to a 44-19-1 record during four regular seasons and made one Super Bowl appearance. Then he turned Michigan’s football program around and helped the Wolverines win the 2023 national championship.
“His resume is pretty incredible. To win wherever you’ve gone and be successful. He’s well respected everywhere at every level,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said. “That says a lot.”
Spanos was part of a Chargers contingent that interviewed 15 head coaching candidates after the club fired coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco in December following a blowout 63-21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Staley finished 24-24 through 48 regular-season games and had no playoff wins with the Chargers.
Harbaugh and recently-hired general manager Joe Hortiz are tasked with creating a winning culture for an organization that’s never won a Super Bowl and hasn’t claimed an AFC West title since 2009.
“We believe this is a very important step to getting there with the hiring of this coach and this GM,”Chargers president of football operations John Spanos said.
Harbaugh isn’t a novice when it comes to Hollywood movies and TV shows, but it is his football acumen that made him the Chargers’ head coach. He’s created a winner at all of his stops. And those expectations are coming with him as he returns to the NFL.
Los Angeles is a championship and star-driven city. It is a saturated market. The best way to gain traction and garner attention is to win.
The Lakers have LeBron James and 17 total NBA Championships, the Dodgers recently acquired Shohei Ohtani and have 7 World Series titles in their history, the Kings have two Stanley Cups and Aaron Donald and the Rams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
So is Harbaugh an LA guy? We’ll see.