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One less NFL coach opening as Chargers reportedly hire Harbaugh

Jan 24, 2024, 4:21 PM

NFL coach Michigan Jim Harbaugh...

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh holds the Big Ten Championship trophy on Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh will be the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, leaving Michigan after capping his ninth season as coach of college football’s winningest program with the school’s first national championship since 1997, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

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The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t made the announcement.

Harbaugh made the highly anticipated decision Wednesday to go back to the NFL after a second interview and resume his chase for a Super Bowl that eluded him as a quarterback and coach.

He will be the first former Chargers player to return to the team as head coach. He played for the Bolts in 1999-2000 before retiring following the 2001 season.

Los Angeles was looking for a new coach and general manager after Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco were fired on Dec. 15, a day after a 63-21 loss in Las Vegas to the Raiders.

Harbaugh first met with the Chargers on Jan. 15. He was the eighth of 15 coaching candidates to interview with the Spanos family. He was the only one to get a second interview.

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The Atlanta Falcons also talked to Harbaugh on Jan. 16 and had booked a second interview before he decided to accept the Chargers job.

Harbaugh was 86-25 at Michigan and restored college football’s winningest program to relevance after it slipped over several seasons under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez following the retirement of national-championship winning coach Lloyd Carr.

The rival Ohio State Buckeyes had an eight-game winning streak against the Wolverines until Harbaugh helped them snap the streak in 2021, leading to their first of three straight Big Ten titles and College Football Playoff appearances.

Following two straight losses in the semifinals, extending Harbaugh’s winless streak in bowl games to six, Michigan outlasted Alabama at the Rose Bowl and pulled away from Washington to win the national championship with a school-record 15-0 mark.

Michigan tried to keep Harbaugh, offering him a new six-year contract for $11.5 million per season, according to a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share details of the deal.

Harbaugh’s alma mater could not offer the one thing he desperately wants — a Super Bowl title.

The Chargers have one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Justin Herbert, but finished 5-12 this season and lost eight of their last nine, including the last five. Herbert will be playing for his fourth head coach and possibly fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons.

This is the first time since 2007, when Norv Turner succeeded Marty Schottenheimer, that the Chargers have opted to go with someone with previous head coaching experience. Turner directed the team to three straight postseason appearances, including the AFC championship game during the 2007 season.

The Chargers have not won a division title since 2009, which was also under Turner.

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One less NFL coach opening as Chargers reportedly hire Harbaugh