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And then there were 4! Jim Harbaugh returns to the NFL to coach Chargers

Cross another head coaching vacancy off the list.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

In very unsurprising but now official news, Jim Harbaugh is back in the NFL.

Having won that elusive national championship at his alma mater, the former Michigan Wolverines quarterback and head coach has agreed to become the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach. Harbaugh only interviewed for the Chargers and Atlanta Falcons jobs, but it’s long been speculated that Jim would go back to California, where he coached the University of San Diego, Stanford, and the San Francisco 49ers, as well as quarterbacked the Chargers toward the end of his playing career.

Harbaugh’s four seasons with the 49ers brought the team back to relevance. After no playoff appearances from 2004-2010, Harbaugh took San Francisco to three straight NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. His playoff eliminations were by a combined 12 points, including a 6-point loss to Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 season. Harbaugh was fired by the 49ers after an 8-8 season in 2014, but it’s more than fair to say a power struggle between him and then-GM Trent Baalke spurred that departure.

Post-49ers, Harbaugh coached the Wolverines with the expectation that they would be national championship contenders. That didn’t really materialize until 2021, when Michigan made its first College Football Playoff semifinal. The third time in the CFP was the charm, sending Alabama legend Nick Saban into retirement in the semis, followed by conquering Washington and prompting Kalen Deboer to go take Saban’s job. Some other stuff happened in Jim’s tenure that may have also influenced his decision to leave Michigan, but an NFL move seemed inevitable.

Harbaugh has a track record of great success everywhere he’s coached, and you know the Chargers are desperate to be legitimate contenders again. The Chargers do not have a GM yet, so presumably Harbaugh will have significant say on that front.

There are now four head coach vacancies left, including the Seahawks.

New Coaches

Las Vegas Raiders - Antonio Pierce

Tennessee Titans - Brian Callahan

New England Patriots - Jerod Mayo

Los Angeles Chargers - Jim Harbaugh

Still Vacant

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Washington Commanders

Seattle Seahawks