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Jim Harbaugh is leaving Michigan after accepting the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Chargers, who announced the move Wednesday night.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the two sides have agreed to terms on a five-year deal.
Chargers are giving former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh a five-year deal, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 25, 2024
With that, Harbaugh returns to the NFL sidelines, where he spent four years as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh brings a winning culture, posting a 144-52 record as a collegiate head coach and a 49-22-1 record as an NFL head coach. He led the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games in four years, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII.
As ESPN.com's Kris Rhim reported, Harbaugh was among the Chargers' most desirable candidates in this coaching cycle because of his success at every level. There's also Harbaugh's connection to the team: He played for the Chargers for two seasons (1999-2000).
Rhim reminded readers that when Harbaugh took over the 49ers, he was rebuilding a team that had fallen from the NFL's elite and missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons.
The turnaround was immediate.
The 49ers went 6-10 in 2010, the year before Harbaugh was hired away from Stanford, and San Francisco saw a seven-win improvement in Harbaugh's first season in the Bay Area, a campaign that saw the Niners make the first of their three straight NFC title games.
He will have a similar challenge with the Chargers, who finished 5-12 this season and have three playoff wins since 2008.
The most immediate issue for Harbaugh will be deciding the construction of the Chargers' roster, as the team is projected to be $27.5 million over the league salary cap. But with Justin Herbert as his franchise quarterback (and playing under a five-year deal signed last July), the most critical position on the field is covered.
As USA Today's Cory Woodroof suggested, Herbert has never had a coach like Harbaugh, a former quarterback known for crafting explosive offenses and working with signal callers. Indeed, The Athletic's David Lombardi notes Harbaugh has gotten the best out of many quarterbacks, including Josh Johnson (at the University of San Diego), Andrew Luck (at Stanford), Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick (with the 49ers), and J.J. McCarthy (Michigan).
Per The Sporting News, Smith had a 64.3-percent completion percentage in two seasons under Harbaugh, with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had a 57.1-percent completion percentage with 51 touchdowns and 53 interceptions before Harbaugh's arrival. Kaepernick emerged as a star for Harbaugh from 2012-14 as a dual-threat quarterback.
Herbert has averaged 4,306 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 10.5 interceptions over the past four years with the Chargers. He's the most talented quarterback Harbaugh has had since he coached Andrew Luck at Stanford.
He's also 30-32 as a starter and is yet to win a playoff game.
Lombardi added: "Seeing [Harbaugh] work with Herbert, given all that contextual background, will be fascinating."
For the record, Harbaugh's teams in San Francisco ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense all four seasons and the top three from 2011-13. The 49ers averaged 17.4 points per game allowed over those four seasons. The offense averaged 23.2 ppg in that same stretch with a run-heavy philosophy.
San Francisco ranked at least eighth in rushing yards under Harbaugh.
With Austin Ekeler an unrestricted free agent, the team's moves at running back will merit our attention.
As Footballguy Jason Wood put it, "This could be an absolute SMASH spot for a rookie tailback."
Video Reaction from Footballguys
Our Jagger May has additional thoughts on how this hire impacts Herbert and the Chargers on our YouTube channel.