How Jim Harbaugh and Joe Hortiz can transform the Los Angeles Chargers

With Brandon Staley and former GM Tom Telesco out the door, a new tandem looks to ignite Chargers nation.
Los Angeles Chargers Introduce Jim Harbaugh as Head Coach
Los Angeles Chargers Introduce Jim Harbaugh as Head Coach / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
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The Chargers fanbase has been in a world of hurt over the last decade. Since 2013, the Chargers have won 10 or more games only twice. In that span, they've hired and fired three different head coaches, as well as one general manager. In recent weeks, the Los Angeles Chargers have made two massive acquisitions, filling the head coach and general manager voids with Jim Harbaugh and Joe Hortiz. While it's known that Hortiz worked with Jim's brother, John, in Baltimore since his hiring in 2008, their connection is even more deeply rooted than that.

In 1998, Jim Harbaugh was traded from the Indianapolis Colts to the Baltimore Ravens. That same offseason, Hortiz was hired by Baltimore as a personnel assistant. Harbaugh would spend the 1998-1999 season with Baltimore before signing with, who other than, the San Diego Chargers. While it's unknown the type of rapport Hortiz and Harbaugh generated during the '98-'99 season in Baltimore, it can't be for nothing.

Harbaugh joins the Chargers fresh off of a NCAA National Championship run with the University of Michigan. An accomplishment that overshadows any prior achievement throughout his coaching career, which says a lot. From 2011-2014, Harbaugh accumulated a 44-19-1 record as the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. In that stretch, he led the 49ers to the playoffs in three of four seasons, including a Super Bowl loss in 2012 to his brother John and the Baltimore Ravens.

Harbaugh enters a similar situation in Los Angeles to what he did when he joined San Francisco in 2011; an underperforming football team with a talented roster on both sides of the ball that has been struggling for years. With the help of Joe Hortiz in the front office, Harbaugh and the Los Angeles Chargers are eager to play meaningful football once again.

Los Angeles has been fairly unsuccessful in the NFL draft over the last few years. Of the last seven draft classes, the Chargers have compiled only five total Pro Bowl selections amongst just three players (Derwin James (3), Justin Herbert and Rashawn Slater). This makes the front office addition of Hortiz that much more noteworthy.

In the same timeframe, the Baltimore Ravens have produced nineteen total Pro Bowl selections amongst nine players. As the director of scouting until his promotion to director of player personnel in 2019, there is no doubt that Hortiz had a tremendous hand in the Ravens recent draft success. The Chargers are hoping this type of success in the draft can carry over with Hortiz and help propel their future.

The Chargers finished the 2023 season with a 5-12 record, securing the fifth overall pick in this years draft. Despite the ugly record, it's not as easy as it seems to pinpoint LA's off-season needs. For a team with just five wins, one would think there's a gaping hole on their roster. Instead of glaring weaknesses at certain positions, the problem with the Chargers is that they're average just about everywhere.

Aside from their obvious few stars, nobody really burst onto the scene. With running back Austin Ekeler and tight end Gerald Everett hitting the free agent market, the Chargers are going to have to make a strong effort fill those positions, whether it be in the draft or via free agency. Here are three ways Harbaugh and Hortiz can rejuvenate the Chargers organization.