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Chargers HC Jim Harbaugh on return to the NFL: 'I want another shot to be simply known as world champions'

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Thursday marked the official beginning of the Jim Harbaugh era in Los Angeles, and speaking to the media for the first time since his hiring was announced last week, Harbaugh wasted no time in making it clear why he came back to the NFL, and what he came to the Chargers to do.

"I said this the other day, but I've only got so many sands left in the hourglass, and I want another shot," Harbaugh said in his introductory news conference at the YouTube Theater next to SoFi Stadium. "I want another shot to be simply known as world champions. The Lombardi Trophy. That's my mission."

Harbaugh spent the last nine seasons in the college football sphere coaching for his Alma mater, Michigan. He found great success in this role, and was on top of the college football world after leading the Wolverines to a College Football Playoff National Championship last month.

He had dipped his toes in the NFL coaching carousel the last few offseasons before returning to Ann Arbor, but this time around when the big leagues came knocking, Harbaugh decided the Chargers' HC gig was the right opportunity to go for another chance at winning his first Super Bowl.

"The opportunity presented. I felt that the Spanos family, the Chargers organization, they made it clear they liked what I did and how I did it. That's all you could ever want from somebody that's employing you," he told reporters. "Got love of Michigan. Love of the NFL. This opportunity, my dad would say 'Who's got it better than us?'"

Harbaugh comes into town with the task of turning things around for an organization that has struggled to find consistent success in recent years, culminating in a dismal 5-12 finish in 2023. And while his mission to win multiple championships and his level of enthusiasm ("unknown to mankind," per his own words) will be inspiring for Chargers fans, the reality of the situation is that he'll have significant work to do to right the ship.

The squad is filled with talent on both sides of the ball, though, starting with franchise quarterback Justin Herbert, who has filled up the stat sheet in his first four years but has just one playoff appearance and no wins to show for it.

Harbaugh, who said earlier this week that he was “starstruck” when meeting Herbert for the first time, declared that he wants to do right by his franchise quarterback, and will be putting all his effort into building a team and staff that can help bring out the potential of the young star.

"The thing that's jumping out is just his enormous talent. I'm waking up like real early in the morning these days going, 'I've got to bring my A game.' " Harbaugh said on Thursday. "I want to get a coaching staff put together and hired that is really gonna be worthy of coaching not only Justin, but also Derwin (James) and all the guys. I really think this is a talented group that's been assembled here. That's what's going to motivate me."

"I'm really thinking about my accountability and just making sure that I'm ready. … I'm excited about the challenge. Let's see if I'm man enough, a good enough coach so that all his hard work can be realized. I want to work really hard so that his hard work is gonna be realized. Justin and every player on our football team."

The Chargers have not yet hired any assistant coaches or coordinators, but once those pieces are in place the staff will have to have some big conversations about what it will take to get this team back on a winning track.

Around Herbert, there are still roster questions. A few key players are set to enter free agency, including Austin Ekeler, and the team's lack of cap space (the Chargers are predicted to be $45 million over the cap for 2024, per Over the Cap) could lead to hard decisions on keeping high-value players.

But Harbaugh does have a history of turning teams around in quick order. With Michigan, he took a 5-7 team and went 10-3 in his first year, compiling a total record of 89-25 with the Wolverines. And before that he brought the 49ers to their first winning record in eight seasons, leading San Francisco to a 13-3 record and NFC Championship Game appearance in his opening season as HC in 2011.

With all this in mind, when asked what kind of expectations he has for his first season in L.A, Harbaugh didn't mince words, reiterating his high expectations for his first year at the helm in Los Angeles, and his belief that the Chargers have what it takes to be at the top.

"It's going to start with humble and hungry. Right there. That's where we are right now. Humble and hungry," Harbaugh said. "And we're gonna respect all our opponents and we're gonna earn their respect. We're gonna earn our winning. Tough team, resilient team, relentless team, physical team is what we're going to aspire to be.

"Don't let the powder blues fool you. That's what we're going to aspire to do."

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