The Chargers’ organization is resetting itself from the ground up, both the front office and the locker room are set to appoint new leaders after multiple failures on multiple fronts. The great coaches can guide their teams through mistakes at any other level but bad coaches are impossible to overcome no matter how well rounded the rest of the organization is. The Bolts have had a string of short term head coach appointments that have not provided any kind of success on the field and this has infected every other department. This lack of continuity has meant a failure in providing a sustainable platform for the team to grow.
The person to set the on-field vision is always the head coach, even if they may stand back from playcalling, they are the ones who sit down on day one after the Super Bowl and set the path for how they can be the ones to hoist the Lombardi trophy next time around. It really does all start with this one decision so the question is; who are the candidates the organization should, in my eyes, be looking towards to create a successful future for a team in desperate need of one?
Here are four of my favorites in no particular order!
1.) Jim Harbaugh - Michigan Wolverines’ head coach
Resume: San Francisco 49ers’ head coach (‘11–’14), Stanford’s head coach (‘07-’10)
The first name on this list is one that many of you will be aware of, the Harbaugh name is part of football’s heritage and Jim is a big part of that. He made history when he turned around the 49ers in maybe the shortest amount of time of any coach in history. He took an underachieving 6-10 team and in one season, took them to 13-3 appearing in the first of three consecutive NFC Championship games, the first head coach to achieve this feat in his first three years. Harbaugh has since been at the college level, taking the Michigan Wolverines from a 5-7 team to an absolute powerhouse appearing in the last three CFP semi finals.
His record is exemplary in fact very few coaches in the league can match his resume however he will be coveted by every team with an availability, if he does in fact decide to make the leap back to the NFL. The Chargers’ have an advantage though that Jim wore the Bolts’ logo for two years when he quarterbacked the team for 16 games in between 1999 and 2000. He has also lived in California for a large part of his life since then, can the SoCal lifestyle tempt him to come back? Harbaugh would be a big splash appointment that would not only get the fans excited but the national spotlight would certainly swing towards Costa Mesa for the start of training camp.
This is a personal favorite of some of our writing staff and I am growing more fond of the idea of this prospective appointment as the weeks go by, he may be stylistically different from what this roster is built for however he has proven that this hasn’t been an issue for him before.
2.) Frank Smith - Miami Dolphins’ offensive coordinator
Resume: Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive run game coordinator & offensive line coach (‘21), Las Vegas Raiders’ tight ends coach (‘18–’20)
Frank Smith is another familiar name that Bolts’ fans are well acquainted with, he was actually a part of Brandon Staley’s 2021 staff before jumping ship to the Miami Dolphins as part of Mike McDaniels’ offense. Frank was a well respected member of the coaching staff during his time in LA, fans and analysts alike said that he would be sorely missed when he was poached for a promotion and this premonition has become true. Not only have the Fins’ offense become one of the most explosive in the league, but even when you look at a more demonstrable element, the offensive line, you can quite clearly see the regression since Smith was replaced with Brendan Nugent.
Miami would be keen to keep Frank’s services in house however his name has been on shortlists since the start of the 2023 season and the Bolts will be hoping their familiarity can put them to the top of Smith’s preferred destination list. However, Smith would be yet another first time head coach and the Chargers’ front office, or what’s left of it, will be wary of this after the last three choices were all rookie head coaches and they have not exactly worked out.
3.) Ben Johnson - Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator
Resume: Lions’ passing game coordinator (‘21), Lions’ Tight ends coach (‘20–’21)
Even after admitting that the Chargers might be wary of first time head coaches, Ben Johnson is a prospect that the team should not ignore. The innovative offensive mind refused head coach interviews last year after propelling the Lions’ offense from 25th to 5th in points per game in his first ever season as offensive coordinator. However after he proved that this was no fluke as they currently sit 7th in the same metric this season even though he has been hamstrung by a poor defense. Johnson has been a loyal man to his teams and they have in return trusted him with more and more responsibility each year; he was a part of the Dolphins’ coaching staff for six years and was promoted four times before moving across to the Lions where he has been promoted four times in four years.
Ben Johnson is going to be a highly coveted candidate so the Chargers will have to convince him that LA is the place for him to build his own team. As someone who clearly doesn’t like paying moving costs, he will be looking at where he can see himself for the long term and not just what is attractive for now. Can the Spanos family provide that assurance? We shall see if the Bolts choose to pursue him.
4.) Bobby Slowik - Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator
Resume: San Francisco 49ers’ offensive passing game coordinator, (‘22) 49ers’ offensive pass game specialist (‘21)
The last name on my list is Bobby Slowik, a name that wasn’t very well known before this season however what he has achieved on a young Texans team cannot be ignored or dismissed lightly. Bobby has guided rookie C.J. Stroud to a historic first season league with an expert hand, if you looked at the pretty sparse offensive weapons the pair would be working with in the preseason and predicted that they would be fourth in passing yards per game, well then you need to apply for the General Manager job right now.
Slowik is yet another exciting coach to come from a Kyle Shanahans’ 49ers coaching tree that has proved fruitful to say the least, producing three head coaches with some degree of early career success in Demeco Ryans, Mike McDaniel and Robert Saleh. Can Slowik be another one of the success stories? Can he take Justin Herbert back to being an elite quarterback despite some potential salary cap limitations?