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Niners CEO Jed York: Chargers will be 'very, very successful' with Jim Harbaugh as head coach

Jim Harbaugh's latest endorsement came via a face from his past.

Niners chief executive office Jed York, who a decade ago nearly reached the NFL mountaintop with Harbaugh before the relationship came to an abrupt end, recently expressed optimism for the Chargers' future with their new head coach.

"I think Jim is a hell of a coach," York told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on The TK Show. "I think it's a great spot for him. I'm excited for the Chargers. I think they'll be very, very successful."

Harbaugh's first head-coaching stint in the league, a four-year run with the 49ers, could be described much the same way.

When Harbaugh made the jump from Stanford to San Francisco in 2011, the 49ers hadn't had a winning season or sniffed the playoffs in eight years. He immediately flipped them from a 6-10 team with little identity to a 13-3 squad highlighted by a bruising defense and a capable offensive attack.

Just as the current iteration of the 49ers has, Harbaugh led San Francisco to three straight NFC Conference Championships, with two defeats and one triumph.

He would lose that lone Super Bowl trip to his brother John and the Ravens, but he went a remarkable 36-11-1 during his first three seasons in charge of the Niners.

Then in 2014 they went 8-8 amid a year of apparent in-fighting, and San Francisco and Harbaugh parted ways after just four seasons, seemingly leaving so much on the table.

He went back to the college ranks to coach his alma mater, Michigan, which after nine seasons under Harbaugh won the College Football Playoff National Championship to cap an undefeated 2023 season.

Rather than flirt with as return to the NFL as he has before, Harbaugh committed, coming back to the west coast to oversee another reclamation project.

The roster has some pieces, led by stars on both sides in quarterback Justin Herbert and safety Derwin James, but has made the postseason on just two occasions during Harbaugh's nine years away and is coming off a 5-12 season.

"I think it's a team that had talent, that didn't sort of achieve what they hoped to," York said. "I don't want to speak too much about somebody else's team, but it's certainly a talented team. I think he has a chance to do really, really well with the Chargers."

It's little wonder York believes Harbaugh will succeed with Los Angeles.

It's what the 60-year-old head coach has done everywhere he's been. Before the 49ers turnaround, Harbaugh led Stanford to its first 12-win season in school history. After the breakup in San Francisco, he delivered Michigan its first undisputed national championship since 1948.

Perhaps a bigger surprise is York's vocal support given how things ended. With time, though, proper perspective trumps any previous animosity.

"I think with anything, people mature, time passes and you tend to remember a lot more of the good things than maybe the not-so-good things," York said. "I'm happy for him. Again, he's a heck of a coach. He'll do a heck of a job."

For now, especially speaking a week out from his 49ers playing in the Super Bowl, York is comfortable appreciating whatever Harbaugh accomplishes from afar.

The 49ers and Chargers are not slated to meet during the 2024 season -- unless, of course, the two teams reach Super Bowl LIX.

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