The Chargers finally get it. The Chargers finally got it.
Seven years after barging into Los Angeles amid a cacophony of catcalls, the Chargers finally figured out how to quiet the doubters, capture the buzz and take a significant bite out of the market.
They finally hired a nationally celebrated figure who will cause a commotion, raise a ruckus, and, oh yeah, win football games.
They just hired Jim Harbaugh.
Their biggest win yet.
The Chargers hired Michigan’s national championship coach Wednesday in a high-priced move that should pay huge dividends in landscape shaking and image changing.
When is the last time the Chargers hired the hottest of anything? Never. Yet they just nabbed the best coach available, a freshly minted champion whose NFL record of 44-19-1 is as impressive as his 147-52 college mark.
When is the last time the Chargers opened the vault for a big-name coach who could instantly be the face of the franchise? Never. Their previous three coaches had no full-time head coaching experience. Yet they just spent enough to lure Harbaugh away from a lifetime of luxury at Michigan and years of security elsewhere to run a five-win team that isn’t even the most popular NFL team in its town.
When is the last time the Chargers made the bold statement that they care only about winning? Never. They’ve only won two playoff games in 15 years. But they just hired an eccentric, rumpled, bespectacled 60-year-old football lifer who has done nothing but win, at every stop, from the University of San Diego to the San Francisco 49ers to a recent Monday night championship victory for the Wolverines over the University of Washington in a national championship performance applauded by millions.
Can you imagine Harbaugh’s first Chargers press conference?
Can you imagine next season’s scheduled game at SoFi Stadium between the Chargers and a Baltimore Ravens team coached by Harbaugh’s older brother, John?
Can you imagine a Los Angeles NFL column running this long without yet mentioning the Rams?
This city is still the Rams House but, believe it, the Chargers just set up shop on the front lawn.
Harbaugh is so perfect for this team, in the last month your humble correspondent already had written two columns begging the Chargers to hire him.
Now that he’s here, it will be prudent for this space to pause and take a deep breath and consider the depth of his impact.
It will be enormous!
Harbaugh is one of the sport’s great team builders. Remember how he rallied the Wolverines through last year’s distractions by creating Michigan vs. Everybody? Here’s guessing a disjointed locker room will soon become Chargers vs. The World.
Harbaugh is one of the sport’s great quarterback coaches. Remember what he did with Andrew Luck at Stanford, Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, and J.J. McCarthy at Michigan? Justin Herbert has just been given the greatest gift of his young career.
Harbaugh is one of the sport’s great culture changers. He turned a forlorn Stanford program into a national contender. He took a 6-10 49ers team to a 13-3 record and NFC championship appearance the next season. He led Michigan to its first undisputed national title in 75 years.
The Chargers have enough talent that, at this time next year, Harbaugh could have them deep in the playoffs.
Harbaugh has only one mountain he has yet to climb. In his only Super Bowl appearance with the 49ers, he lost to his brother. He is coming here to scale that final peak with a team that also lost in its only Super Bowl visit.
Harbaugh is not coming here on vacation like some veteran coaches. He is not coming here to learn like some kid coaches. He’s coming here to win a championship, period, with an unapologetically driven demeanor that the Chargers desperately need.
Now, fair warning, he doesn’t do well with authority. He left the 49ers in 2014 after four seasons because he was at odds with the front office. The Chargers, however, already solved that problem. They hired Harbaugh before filling their vacant general manager position, meaning they’re going to let him pick his boss.
He also has trouble following rules, as he was suspended for six games last season for violating NCAA recruiting laws and being in the middle of an alleged sign-stealing scandal. Well, the recruiting transgressions were meaningless because the players are now paid and, unlike with baseball’s Houston Astros, the sign-stealing scandal was overblown because teams have been monitoring the opposition’s signs in similar ways for years.
By coming to the Chargers, Harbaugh gets to shed all that silliness and coach an organization that finally is ready to understand a city, embrace its standards and bring it a championship.
When owner Dean Spanos fired both coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco late in the season, Spanos said, “Doing nothing in the name of continuity was not a risk I was willing to take.”
So for one of the rare times in this organization’s 65-year history, Spanos swung big, he swung hard, and he connected with a force that will rattle the NFL landscape.
Jim Harbaugh, welcome to the Chargers.
Chargers, welcome to Los Angeles.