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Potential coaches who could fill out Jim Harbaugh’s staff with the Chargers

Harbaugh has a wealth of connections in the football world, which means he’ll have plenty of coaches to pick from to fill out his staff.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers and Jim Harbaugh finally put pen to paper on Wednesday afternoon as the two sides agreed on a five-year deal to make the former Michigan head coach the new leader of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Now with the head coach search out of the way, it’s time to start filling out his staff. While Harbaugh has succeeded just about everywhere he’s been, it’s not for a lack of a strong and cohesive coaching staff. Many of his former coaches have gone on to find success without him, which goes to show he has one of the best eyes for talent in that regard.

Below, I touched on a handful of coaches who have immediate connections to Harbaugh and/or are already in a good spot to be retained by the new head coach.

Offensive Coordinators

David Shaw

Shaw’s relationship with Harbaugh goes all the way back to their time together at the University of San Diego in 2006. When Harbaugh moved on to Stanford, Shaw followed and spent four seasons coaching wide receivers and the 2010 season calling the offense. When Harbaugh jumped to the 49ers, Shaw took over as head coach from 2011-2022.

In those 12 years, Shaw recorded five seasons with double-digit wins and two others with nine. However, he couldn’t surpass four wins in his final four years with the program which led to his resignation following the 3-9 2022 campaign.

Before Stanford’s trajectory took a downturn, Shaw was at the helm of one of the best offenses in the country, albeit a throwback system that utilized the run game to open up the play-action which featured a plethora of NFL-bound tights ends. Running back Christian McCaffrey and quarterback Andrew Luck are the headliners from his time with the Cardinal, but tight ends such as Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener, Levine Toilolo, and Dalton Shultz all were developed under Shaw.

While it wasn’t his side of the ball, the Cardinal featured a very intimidating defense in the early 2010s that earned the nickname “Party In The Backfield” due to their ability to consistently wreak havoc behind the line of scrimmage.

Greg Roman

Roman made his name in the NFL by turning Colin Kaepernick into one of the league’s most-successful quarterbacks during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Despite only starting seven games during the 2012 season, Roman developed an offensive system that maximized Kaepernick’s dual-threat ability that helped him go 5-2 with 15 total touchdowns to three interceptions. That momentum carried the 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl where they ultimately lost to John Harbaugh’s Ravens.

That run to the championship game included the big win over the Packers where Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns, on top of 181 rushing yards and two more scores. That rushing total broke the single-game rushing record for a quarterback, previously held by Michael Vick.

Several years after Harbaugh went back to college to coach Michigan, Roman wound up with the Ravens where he turned Lamar Jackson into the NFL MVP during his second professional season. In a league that wanted to pass, pass, and pass, Roman found a way to keep the Ravens winning while utilizing a power run game.

That offense slowly began to be “figured out” by the rest of the league and went on to resign from his position following the 2022 season.

Kellen Moore

Moore was requested to interview for the Bears’ offensive coordinator job earlier this month but the Chargers blocked it while they continued to search for their next head coach.

Now that they know who their coach is, it remains to be seen if Moore will truly return to the Chargers. That’s not the most ideal thing in the world as Herbert would then be faced with having his fourth coordinator in five seasons, but that negative is slightly lessened knowing who his next head coach is and the resume that follows him.

As of Thursday morning, both the Browns and Eagles have shown interest in Moore and it doesn’t look like the Chargers will continue to block him from interviews.

In Moore’s lone season with the Chargers, we never got to see just how high their potential was due to a litany of injuries, including season-enders to wideout Mike Williams and center Corey Linsley. Still, Keenan Allen enjoyed a career year, but on the flip-side, Austin Ekeler looked like a shell of his former self.

I have no doubt Moore is a talented play-caller, but he had to endure quite a few lumps in 2023 with the Chargers which I believe stopped us from really seeing Moore’s vision come to fruition.

Defensive Coordinators

Jesse Minter

Minter is the biggest name right now when it comes to current Michigan coaches who could follow Harbaugh to the NFL. In two seasons with the Wolverines, Minter had the defense humming like you’ve never seen.

By the end of their incredible 15-0 run to the national championship, they allowed an average of 10.1 points per game, per Sports-Reference.com. That included the nation’s second-best pass defense (157.0 passing yards allowed per game) and the sixth-ranked rushing defense (90.0).

Just like the past few seasons, the Wolverines will have plenty of good to great defensive prospects in this year’s draft. Will the Harbaugh make a point to go get one of his guys? Only time will tell, but regardless, Minter is seemingly set to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor ie Macdonald who just led the Ravens defense to becoming the top unit in professional football in 2023.

Mike Macdonald

This one is likely a stretch as it’d be hard to see Macdonald leave such a dominant team to go join one that’s about to start their own version of a rebuild, but the connection is there nonetheless. Macdonald was the defensive coordinator for Michigan prior to joining the Ravens two seasons ago. If Minter does not want to leave Michigan, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Harbaugh make a pitch to Macdonald.

Special Teams Coordinators

Ryan Ficken

After the Chargers blocked Ficken from interviewing with other teams, it seem all but a foregone conclusion that the franchise would like to keep the man who single-handedly fixed one of the worst special teams units over the past five seasons. I’m certain that Ficken also had a say in landing wideout/return man Derius Davis who wound up being named a Second-Team All-Pro at punt returner by the Associated Press on top of being named to the NFLPA’s Players All-Pro Team, also as a punt returner.

If there’s anyone at all from the previous coaching staff that truly deserves to keep his job with the team next season, it’s Ficken.

Jay Harbaugh

Jay, the son of new head coach Jim Harbaugh, has been with his father at Michigan since he was hired back in 2015. Over those nine seasons, Jay was shuffled around the staff, coaching special teams, tight ends, running backs, and safeties at one point or another.

I think it would be the surprise move for Jay to replace Ficken, in all honesty. If anything, I foresee Jay coming to fill the assistant special teams coordinator role behind Ficken to learn from one of the best in the league as he acclimates to his first job in the pros.