The Chargers made one of the most notable additions in their franchise’s 65-year history Wednesdayby agreeing to terms with Jim Harbaugh to be their coach, the team announced.
Having won a collegiate national title at Michigan this month, Harbaugh now takes over a team fronted by quarterback Justin Herbert but dogged by the organization’s history of coming up short.
The Chargers have won only two playoff games over the last 15 years and have advanced to the postseason just once since losing in the divisional round in 2018.
The franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance resulted in a 49-26 loss to San Francisco following the 1994 season.
Harbaugh, 60, makes his return to the NFL after spending the last nine years at Michigan, his alma mater and the place where he first rose to prominence as a quarterback.
From 2011 to 2014, Harbaugh led San Francisco to a 44-19-1 record and three consecutive NFC championship games. His 49ers made one Super Bowl — after the 2012 season — losing to a Baltimore team coached by Harbaugh’s brother, John.
Harbaugh has a track record of turning programs around and establishing winners, having done so during college stops at the University of San Diego and Stanford before jumping to the NFL.
At Michigan, he inherited a 5-7 team and then won 10 games each in his first two seasons. Harbaugh’s Wolverines went 89-25 and made the playoffs each of the last three years.
But he also is known for clashing with his superiors, something that led to his parting with San Francisco and reportedly resulted in strained relations with some people at Michigan.
Possessing a quirky personality and, at times, an over-the-top perspective, Harbaugh’s background is that of a coach beloved by his players but belittled by his critics.
Suspended twice last season because of alleged recruiting violations and a sign-stealing scandal, Harbaugh still is facing further potential NCAA sanctions as investigations continue.
The NFL Network reported in October that the league could enforce whatever penalties the NCAA imposes on Harbaugh if he does take a job with one of its teams.
The Chargers are expecting Harbaugh to turn their fortunes, coming off a 5-12 finish that cost coach Brandon Staley his job. With Herbert signed to a long-term extension, one big piece already is in place.
But this is a top-heavy roster that sits more than $40 million over the projected salary cap — according to Overthecap.com — meaning some significant changes could be coming.
Going with Harbaugh marked a departure from the Chargers’ most recent strategy. Their previous three coaches — Staley, Anthony Lynn and Mike McCoy — had no full-time head coaching experience.
Staley was fired Dec. 15 after his teams finished 24-24 in nearly three seasons. He and general manager Tom Telesco were dismissed the morning after a 63-21 loss at Las Vegas. Telesco was hired Tuesday for the same role with Las Vegas.
Longtime Chargers assistant Giff Smith served as the interim coach over the final three games, losing each.
Harbaugh finished his playing career with the Chargers, appearing in a combined 21 games in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
A first-round draft pick — No. 26 overall — of Chicago in 1987, he spent seven seasons with the Bears, four with Indianapolis and one with Baltimore.
Harbaugh’s best year came in 1995, when he made the Pro Bowl and finished fourth — behind Brett Favre, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith — in most-valuable-player voting.
That season the Colts won a pair of playoff games to reach the AFC championship, where they lost 20-16 to Pittsburgh.