Chargers face big decisions after subpar 5-12 season

The Sporting Tribune's Fernando Ramirez explains why Dean Spanos' Chargers and Jim Harbaugh seem like a perfect fit.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Chargers season finished with a 13-12 loss after a Harrison Butker 41-yard field goal with 49 seconds left.

It sunk the Chargers to 5-12 and gave them the fifth pick in the draft.

This was not the season that Chargers ownership envisioned after making the wild card round last year, even though it was a rough finish.

They had season-ending injuries to quarterback Justin Herbert, receiver Mike Williams, and center Corey Linsley.

Seven of their losses were by three points or less. 

The offense showed flashes, but the run game was nonexistent, the defense was inconsistent, and special teams were the only exceptional area.

The 2023-2024 season is now over.

Ownership must now focus on the most crucial head coaching hire since Alex Spanos bought the club in 1984. They must get this right.

The hot rumor is that the team is pursuing Jim Harbaugh, whose Michigan Wolverines are facing the Washington Huskies in the National Championship on Monday night.

“I will gladly talk about the future next week,” Harbaugh said last week at the National Championship preview. 

He can speak to the team after the game with no strings attached because he isn’t in the NFL and doesn’t have all the rules.

The Chargers face some competition from the Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Commanders, and likely others. He also has a significant contract extension waiting from Michigan.

They have something the other teams don’t have, which is quarterback Justin Herbert.

ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said on The Pat McAfee Show that he attended a funeral with Harbaugh in early 2023 and that all he could do was rave about Herbert. 

“We were talking about the great the young quarterback play is in the National Football League. All these great young quarterbacks, (Joe) Burrow, (Patrick) Mahomes and blah blah blah,” Greenberg said. “He spent five minutes telling me he thinks Justin Herbert is the best of all of them.

“He loves Herbert.”

Harbaugh has turned whatever team he has joined into a winner. 

He has never had a quarterback like Herbert. He was able to turn Alex Smith’s career around, then halfway through the season, mold the offense to fix the style of Colin Kaepernick.

There are also the names of Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, and others floating around.

The national media and insiders say Harbaugh is leading the race regarding the Chargers.

But will Dean Spanos pay upwards of $15 million a year? Will he give certain control to Harbaugh? Could he be the next head coach of the Chargers?

It remains to be seen, but anything can happen.

Should it? As Stone Cold Steve Austin would say, “Hell Yeah.” 

The Chargers need a change. Something different. 

They have gone through Mike McCoy, Anthony Lynn, and Brandon Staley. Each had two winning seasons, followed by a mediocre third season.

Staley didn’t even make it to the end of his third season. His team was blown out 63-21 against the Raiders in week 15 of his third season, leading to his firing. Not to mention the blown 27-0 to the Jaguars in the wild card round a year before.

Spanos needs to turn things around and needs a head coach who will turn around the fortunes of his franchise. 

It seems like Harbaugh could be that guy. Similar to what he did with San Francisco almost a decade or so ago. He brought the best out of a team that was spiraling after a lackluster tenure with Mike Singletary.

Harbaugh also has unfinished business in the NFL. 

He has yet to win a championship after being so close in 2013 when losing Super Bowl 47 to the Baltimore Ravens and his brother John.

The next few weeks will be interesting in Costa Mesa. After exit interviews on Monday, the Chargers will begin their interview process for a general manager and head coach.

If Harbaugh decides it is time to return to the NFL after Monday night, then Dean Spanos must do everything to make sure he makes this happen.

In a division with Andy Reid and Sean Payton — they need Harbaugh.

In a city with the Lakers, Dodgers, and Rams — they need Harbaugh.

Justin Herbert having two head coaches and three offensive coordinators in his first four NFL seasons — they need Harbaugh.

It seems like a no-brainer — they need Harbaugh.