What does Jim Harbaugh to Los Angeles Chargers mean? How do Wolverines respond?

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The national championship was just 17 days ago, and only one of the four coaches to make the College Football Playoff is still with his program. How I feel about that can be illustrated by the Los Angeles Chargers’ new profile picture on Twitter.

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Back to the NFL

Chargers win Harbaugh sweepstakes

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is officially off to the NFL as the coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. He leaves the Wolverines with an 86-25 record, ending with a perfect 15-0 season and a national championship in 2023. A few initial thoughts:

  • This isn’t shocking. Harbaugh coached nine seasons at Michigan, but he had an NFL pedigree before he returned to his alma mater. He coached the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14 and led the team to Super Bowl XLVII in his second season, where they lost to Harbaugh’s brother, John, the coach of the Baltimore Ravens. It wasn’t jarring when Harbaugh interviewed with the Chargers and Atlanta Falcons last week. He has tested the NFL waters for the past few offseasons. The difference is now he finally accomplished the one thing holding him back: winning a national championship.
  • Who joins him? As our Wolverines writer, Austin Meek, pointed out, the next question is which, if any, staffers will join Harbaugh in L.A. According to Meek, DC Jesse Minter and special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh (Jim’s son) are most likely to go. Strength coach Ben Herbert, who makes $1 million per year and is credited for a lot of Michigan’s success, is someone to watch.
  • NCAA baggage. Harbaugh may be gone, but that doesn’t erase Michigan’s drama with the NCAA (although I’m sure Harbaugh is happy to leave it in his past). The program is still at the center of two unresolved NCAA investigations: the first in which Harbaugh faces a Level I violation for allegedly providing misleading information in an investigation into recruiting infractions and the second relating to the illegal sign-stealing scheme Michigan was in the middle of in 2023. The program is likely to face additional sanctions related to these investigations this upcoming season.
  • Negotiations were happening. In a statement, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said, “We have been discussing a new contract that would make Jim the highest-paid coach in college football. In the end, he wanted to explore and ultimately pursue a return to coaching in the NFL.” In an interesting deep dive from the Detroit News, it’s reported that Harbaugh’s attorneys wanted contract language to protect Harbaugh’s job amid NCAA penalties, and it took until the 11th hour, when Harbaugh was in the final stages of discussions with the Chargers, for an agreement to be made.
  • Was it all worth it? Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan could be summarized as a play in three acts: 1. The triumphant arrival. 2. The winter of discontent. 3. The renaissance made it all worthwhile. Be sure to check out Austin’s column today on Harbaugh’s departure from Michigan.

Pros & Cons at Michigan

Wolverines starting all over?

Harbaugh’s departure creates an opening for the job at Michigan for the first time since 2014. It’s the first time a national championship team has lost its coach since Nebraska in 1997 when Tom Osborne retired. As always, The Athletic’s Chris Vannini puts together terrific job profiles on all new CFB openings. Here are a couple of thoughts from his look at Michigan that stand out:

  • Michigan is one of the best-resourced programs in the country. The Wolverines ranked 11th nationally in football expenses in 2021-22, per Sportico’s database. The program just won a national title. There’s an abundance of support for the football team in Ann Arbor.
  • Is this a rebuild? Many of the stars from the 2023-24 championship team are off to the NFL, including QB J.J. McCarthy, RB Blake Corum and WR Roman Wilson. That’s a lot for any roster to replace. But RB Donovan Edwards — who scored two TDs in the title game — TE Colston Loveland and CB Will Johnson have said they will return, so there are a few seasoned leaders on this roster. The program had the patience for Harbaugh to achieve success. Will it be able to have the same patience with its next hire?

Who Will Get the Job?

Although he already declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, Michigan OL Zak Zinter shared his thoughts on Michigan’s path forward: “No interviews needed. It’s Papa Moore’s time.”

The overwhelming vibe is that OC Sherrone Moore will take over the program. Moore served as acting head coach for four games in 2023 when Harbaugh served suspensions, including the final three games against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State. Moore is well-liked among the players and staff, and it’s hard to imagine Michigan would see the kind of roster attrition most programs (cough cough, Alabama) do after a coaching change if Moore was given the role.

Regarding the next hire, Manuel said in his statement: “We are working quickly to hire the next head coach for the program and will do everything possible to keep this current staff and team together.” Reading between the lines, that suggests an internal promotion of Moore. As for when we will know, university policy requires jobs to be posted for a minimum of seven days, but departments can request a waiver based on “legitimate business needs.”

So Who is Moore?

  • The 37-year-old is from Derby, Kan., and played two seasons of junior college football at Butler Community College before transferring to Oklahoma as a guard in 2006.
  • His first coaching job was at Louisville, where he started as a general assistant and then coached the tight ends from 2012-13. He then spent four seasons at Central Michigan where he also worked with the tight ends. Moore was hired by Michigan in 2018.

Quick Snaps

In other news …

Resident Texpert Sam Khan Jr. predicted the 2024 win-loss records for all Texas FBS teams. Only one is projected to reach double-digit wins, and I bet you can guess which it is.

What is Vanderbilt’s future in the SEC? Seth Emerson answers this and more in his SEC mailbag.

Clemson added a major defensive commitment in top-50 edge rusher Ari Watford yesterday.

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(Top photo: Nic Antaya / Getty Images)

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