The Los Angeles Chargers are about to get a makeover with the hiring of new coach Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday.
Harbaugh and the club finally completed multiple days of meetings and negotiations and the result is the former Michigan, former 49ers, former Stanford coach becomes the 17th head coach in Chargers history.
And what comes next is going to be interesting.
Jim Harbaugh An Upgrade For Chargers
The first question Chargers fans are probably going to ask is whether Harbaugh is going to be an upgrade from Brandon Staley. Well, obviously, that's the plan.
Harbaugh will definitely be different in that, unlike Staley, he won't often defend his decision-making while pointing to problems with execution. That's another way of putting it all on the players.
Harbaugh puts wins and losses on himself.
"I think coaches that win, that’s a pretty good measure how good a coach somebody is,” Harbaugh once said on the Jay Nordlinger podcast for National Review. "The thing I read something about Phil Jackson that stood out the most, he said, ‘The teamwork, like love, is ephemeral.’ "
Next up is the question of how Harbaugh is going to maximize quarterback Justin Herbert.
Harbaugh, A Former QB, Must Maximize Justin Herbert
Herbert is the Chargers' franchise quarterback and greatest hope for winning a championship. In 2021, for example, he set franchise records with 5,014 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. This is a franchise, mind you, that has had Dan Fouts and Drew Brees and Philip Rivers as quarterbacks.
The problem is Herbert has not been able to do it alone. He has struggled to a 30-32 record as a starter as his production has not maintained at those '21 season levels.
Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback and may understand Herbert's situation better than Staley, a former defensive coordinator. He understands Herbert has had three difference offensive coordinators with different systems in his four seasons and is about to get his fourth new guy.
And Harbaugh is going to try to further develop Herbert and show him he understands his situation.
"The quarterback ... gets too much credit or gets too much blame," Harbaugh has said. "I know they get a lot of blame, the quarterback, and probably not enough credit when the team does win. Coaching – you’re an advice giver, you’re an organizer. You’re a planner on all contingencies. I think just up close, coach is always around, always."
Harbaugh Brings Reputation For Being Demanding
Expect Harbaugh to be demanding. That's a big one because there have been past whispers around the NFL that he was too demanding for some of his coaches, personnel people and players and that turned some of them off near the end of his tenure with the 49ers.
But that was nearly a decade ago. And Harbaugh has more lately talked about meeting people, specifically his players, where they are mentally and emotionally.
"They don’t get motivated the same way," Harbaugh told San Diego Family years ago. "They don’t respond to the same kind of things. They’re not going to respond to what I respond to. So you just have to find what motivates each one and challenges each one to try to get the most out of them."
Harbaugh is expected to bring a significant number of his assistants, his people, into the Chargers organization. At least part of the negotiations that happened over the past few days covered that topic.
Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter and Harbaugh's son, special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh, are expected to follow Harbaugh to the Chargers.
The offensive coordinator job has no definite direction, but Harbaugh may target Greg Roman, who worked for him as the 49ers offensive coordinator, has been the offensive coordinator for the Ravens the year Lamar Jackson won his MVP award, and for the Bills before that.
Chargers Fans About To See All Sides Of Harbaugh
While the expectation is the Chargers coach will unleash his star roster's potential, there is little doubt he will also let everyone know his stance on off-field issues such as faith and abortion.
Harbaugh, for example, took his Michigan team to Italy in 2017 and that included a trip to Vatican City during which the coach met the Pope.
"The role that (faith) plays in my life is in the priorities that I have," he said during that trip, "faith, then family, then football."
The Detroit Free Press reported Harbaugh has put works behind that faith. He has taken annual trips to Peru for mission work and worked with the Legal Services Corporation, which seeks to "promote equal access to justice in our Nation and to provide high quality civil legal assistance to low-income persons."
Last season, as Michigan was driving toward its championship, Harbaugh often gave credit to God and Jesus Christ for the journey.
"Thanks to God, first. He's had His hand on this team the entire year. Been a spiritual journey for us, so all thanks to God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," Harbaugh told ESPN before the college football playoffs began. " I want to say this, you talk about some of the — it's a galvanized team. Some may think it's galvanized by adversity, it's not. It's galvanized by choice. Choice to play for each other."
Chargers Getting Unashamed Pro-Life Coach
Harbaugh also has not shied away from the pro-life cause. He attended the Baltimore Ravens playoff game against the Houston Texans on Sunday to support his brother John Harbaugh, the Ravens coach. But a couple of days prior he was in neighboring Washington, D.C. championing the right to life at the annual March for Life.
Harbaugh spoke at the rally, telling tens of thousands gathered at the National Mall that their commitment to turn out was a "testimony for the sanctity of life."
Harbaugh then introduced former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson to the crowd. The introduction spoke to some of the values Harbaugh admires.
"It's my pleasure to introduce somebody who speaks truth, clarity, and grace," Harbaugh said of Watson. "Who combines bold conviction with kindness. Fearless, humble and courageous. Proud father of the Watson seven, and a helpful warrior for the sanctity of life."
So, yes, greater Los Angeles is about to get a man with convictions. And the hope is he makes the Chargers get a whole lot better.