After a hugely successful season with the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh will return to the NFL

After a hugely successful season with the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh will return to the NFL
After a hugely successful season with the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh will return to the NFL

The Los Angeles Chargers today agreed to terms with Jim Harbaugh as head coach. A former quarterback for the Chargers during the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Harbaugh spent the past nine years at his alma mater as head football coach for the University of Michigan. Harbaugh rejoins the Chargers after having led Michigan to three consecutive Big Ten Championships, three straight appearances in the College Football Playoff and a perfect 15-0 record this past season that saw the Wolverines crowned 2023 National Champions.

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“Jim Harbaugh is football personified, and I can think of no one better to lead the Chargers forward,” said Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. “The son of a coach, brother of a coach and father of a coach who himself was coached by names like Schembechler and Ditka, for the past two decades Jim has led hundreds of men to success everywhere he’s been — as their coach. And today, Jim Harbaugh returns to the Chargers, this time as our coach. Who has it better than us?”

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“You don’t build a resume like Jim’s by accident, and you don’t do it by yourself,” said President of Football Operations John Spanos. “You need a team. And nobody has built a team more successfully, and repeatedly, in recent history than Jim Harbaugh. His former players swear by him, and his opponents swear at him. Jim is one of one, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him back in the Chargers organization as our head coach.”

Harbaugh brings with him a winning culture, posting a 144-52 record as a collegiate head coach and a 49-22-1 record as an NFL head coach. In four years, he led the San Francisco 49ers to three-straight NFC Championship Games, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII.

With a keen eye for talent and an ability to develop players, Harbaugh coached nine eventual first-round selections over his nine-season tenure at Michigan (2015-23). Over the course of his four seasons (2011-14) with San Francisco, Harbaugh coached 17 players to a combined 30 Pro Bowl selections — the second-most Pro Bowlers in the NFL in that time. Eight of those players were also recognized as first-team All-Pro selections from The Associated Press, including linebackers Patrick Willis (twice) and NaVorro Bowman (three times).

“My love for Michigan, playing there and coming back to coach there, leaves a lasting impact. I’ll always be a loyal Wolverine,” said Harbaugh. “I’m remarkably fortunate to have been afforded the privilege of coaching at places where life’s journey has created strong personal connections for me. From working as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky alongside my father, Jack, and time as an assistant with the Raiders, to being a head coach at USD, Stanford, the 49ers and Michigan — each of those opportunities carried significance, each felt personal. When I played for the Chargers, the Spanos family could not have been more gracious or more welcoming. Being back here feels like home, and it’s great to see that those things haven’t changed.

“The only job you start at the top is digging a hole, so we know we’ve got to earn our way. Be better today than yesterday. Be better tomorrow than today. My priorities are faith, family and football, and we are going to attack each with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. This organization is putting in the work — investing capital, building infrastructure and doing everything within its power to win. Great effort equals great results, and we’re just getting started.”

One of the most accomplished coaches in football, Harbaugh led Michigan to an 86-25 record in his nine seasons as head coach. His teams topped 10 wins six times and made three consecutive CFP appearances from 2021-23, winning the national title this past season and setting a school record with 15 wins. Since taking over as head coach for the Wolverines in 2015, Harbaugh coached the top defense in the nation, allowing just 291.0 yards per game in that span. Michigan had a top-five defense in the country five times over those nine seasons, including twice as the top-ranked defense in the nation.

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Harbaugh was named 2011 NFL Coach of the Year by The Associated Press after his first season with San Francisco when he led the 49ers to an NFC West division crown with a 13-3 record. That season, the defense led the NFL with 38 takeaways and ranked No. 1 in rushing defense, allowing just 77.3 yards per game on the ground. The team made a deep playoff run to its first of three-straight NFC Championship Game appearances, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII in 2012. In Harbaugh’s four years with San Francisco, the 49ers led the NFL in rushing defense (92.0 yards per game), while ranking No. 2 in scoring defense (17.4 points per game), third in total defense (310.2) and fourth with 122 takeaways.

Prior to being a head coach in the NFL, Harbaugh spent four years at the helm at Stanford University (2007-10) and three at the University of San Diego (2004-06). He turned around a Stanford program that went 1-11 in 2006 and led the Cardinal to 29 wins over his four seasons in Palo Alto, Calif., including a 12-win season that culminated in an Orange Bowl victory in 2010. Harbaugh broke into the head coaching ranks at San Diego, leading the Toreros to a 29-6 record in three years.

Harbaugh began his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders from 2002-03. In his first season with Oakland, the Raiders went to Super Bowl XXXVII, while quarterback Rich Gannon earned MVP honors and was named a Pro Bowler and an AP first-team All-Pro.

In 15 years as an NFL quarterback (1987-2001), Harbaugh played for five organizations, including with the Chargers from 1999-2000. He got his start in coaching while he was still playing in the NFL, working as an unpaid assistant at Western Kentucky from 1994-2001, where his father, Jack, was the head coach. Harbaugh was selected with the 25th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft by Chicago and went on to start 140-of-177 career games played, throwing for 26,288 yards and 129 touchdowns. He led the NFL in passer rating in 1995, earning Comeback Player of the Year recognition and a Pro Bowl selection after leading the Colts to an AFC Championship Game appearance. Harbaugh eventually went to the Chargers for two seasons and is one of four Bolts quarterbacks to throw for 400 yards in a single game.

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Harbaugh played quarterback at the University of Michigan, finishing his career as one of the most efficient passers in college football history. He posted a 21-3-1 record as a starter for the Wolverines, earning first-team All-American honors and finishing third in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1986. Harbaugh paced the nation in 1985 in passing efficiency rating, while his career passing efficiency rating ranked as the best in NCAA history for more than 12 years following his time at Michigan.

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