June 21, 2024

A season that ended with such resounding certainty — five consecutive losses, last place in the AFC West — now will be followed by great uncertainty for the Chargers.

The franchise needs a new head coach and general manager to oversee a roster that will require potentially significant overhaul in the coming months.

“It’s hard to put a hand on anything that’s going to happen,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said Sunday after a 13-12 loss to Kansas City at SoFi Stadium. “Just gotta let things happen as they may.”

Harrison Butker’s 41-yard field goal with 49 seconds left was the difference on a day when all the Chargers’ points came on field goals by Cameron Dicker.

The loss was the eighth in nine games for the 5-12 Chargers and dropped interim head coach Giff Smith to 0-3. They finished 0-7 in games decided by three or fewer points.

“I’ve been very blessed in my life,” Smith said. “This was a great opportunity to give back to these young men. I’m extremely grateful for that.”

In early November, the Chargers were 4-4 and still in position to compete for everything an NFL season offers. Then they lost at home to Detroit, and the slide into oblivion was underway.

Missing injured stars on offense — quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and center Corey Linsley — the Chargers struggled to generate much of anything.

Behind Herbert’s backup, Easton Stick, the offense failed to score a touchdown over its final 10 quarters. The Chargers’ last 33 points of the season came on 11 Dicker field goals.

“The word that comes to mind is grateful,” Stick said. “Just really grateful to the Spanos family, this organization, a couple coaching staffs that stuck with me and ultimately gave me an opportunity to go out there and compete.”

The Week 18 results left the Chargers with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2024 draft. Over the last 19 years, the only time this franchise selected higher was in 2016 when the Chargers took Joey Bosa at No. 3.

As for what’s immediately next, the Chargers will gather Monday morning at their Costa Mesa training facility for exit physicals and a final team meeting.

Herbert is scheduled to speak to the media for the first time since undergoing season-ending surgery on his fractured right index finger in mid-December.

Linsley also is expected to speak. The veteran center has not publicly addressed his situation or his future since he was sidelined because of a heart issue after Week 3.

“When you’re in this profession, these situations arise,” Smith said. “They’re difficult because they’re difficult not just for the individual but the family. There’s uncertainty, but that’s in any profession. … Everybody will rally, and it will work out.”

With the season concluded, the searches for a head coach and general manager become the Chargers’ main focus. The team is looking to replace Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco, who were fired Dec. 15.

In recent weeks, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, 60, has emerged as the leading candidate for NFL teams searching for a new coach. If the Wolverines win the national championship Monday, he could leave his alma mater on top.

From 2011-14, Harbaugh took San Francisco to three consecutive NFC title games and one Super Bowl — where he lost to a Baltimore team coached by his brother, John — following the 2012 season.

The Chargers moved rather quickly in their two most recent coaching searches, hiring Staley on Jan. 17, 2021, and Anthony Lynn on Jan. 13, 2017. The process could be prolonged this time.

New NFL rules prohibit teams from interviewing in-person coaching candidates employed by other franchises before the end of the divisional round of the playoffs, which conclude Jan. 21.

For a college coach, however, the rules don’t apply, meaning the Chargers or any other team interested in meeting with Harbaugh face-to-face can do so at any time.

Teams still are required to adhere to the Rooney Rule in regards to interviewing minority candidates for coach and general manager positions.

The Chargers’ head coaching job is widely considered to be the most attractive available, based mostly on Herbert, who is under contract through 2029.

A former quarterback for the Chargers, Harbaugh began his head coaching career at the University of San Diego in 2004. He also coached at Stanford, his college teams going 146-52 in 16 seasons.

With the 49ers, he went 44-19-1 but left the organization because of friction with management, something that has been an issue for Harbaugh throughout his coaching career.

Suspended twice this season because of alleged recruiting violations and a sign-stealing scandal, Harbaugh is still facing further potential NCAA sanctions as investigations continue.

The NFL Network reported in October that the league could enforce whatever penalties the NCAA imposes on Harbaugh if he does take a job with one of its teams.

If the Chargers decide to hire someone with head-coaching experience, another candidate could be Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also interviewed with the Chargers before they hired Staley.

Bill Belichick, who could part ways with New England in the coming days, has been linked to the Chargers by various recent reports.

Among the other potential candidates for the Chargers’ coaching job are NFL offensive coordinators Frank Smith (Miami), Ben Johnson (Detroit) and Bobby Slowik (Houston).

As he wrapped up his first experience as an interim head coach, Smith, 55, received praise from his players.

“Giff did an awesome job,” Mack said. “I know somebody’s gonna want him to be in some type of role because he’s a great dude and a great coach.”

56
40
93
59
00
25
56
55
62
18
34
92
64
11
23
65
23
87
71
23
08
45
70
45
57
16
21
43
78
97
88
50
90
62
52
61
46
90
46
87
55
72
50
18
32
72
15
05
65
02
63
53
66
97
92
42
34
43
62
81
10
29
70
97
46
90
92
41
01
71
38
59
31
56
07
77
56
87
88
16
08
61
45
05
73
42
84
28
19
71
35
89
40
72
54
14
91
46
95
94
96
96
69
33
11
39
64
90
40
27
33
68
38
01
96
52
16
28
93
19
84
64
31
01
09
96
45
66
80
15
32
87
51
58
45
84
68
27
10
47
88
00
83
59
79
10
94
63
09
32
88
96
56
75
93
50
93
58
26
93
58
90
43
21
91
74
42
76
26
88
94
05
89
47
90
54
52
66
85
80
02
86
52
60
64
43
05
85
59
36
07
73
85
92
89
85
47
35
22
12
24
58
61
49
19
39
06
81
15
95
47
49
25
18
44
40
33
20
18
53
91
02
92
20
40
02
77
75
05
72
32
68
65
27
10
96
09
49
59
71
33
16
97
77
88
32
80
07
41
22
21
65
18
03
50
45
18
16
85
35
56
98
73
48
32
10
62
17
31
65
12
98
88
37
61
86
10
47
86
80
06
55
88
58
28
91
71
84
34
64
36
19
84
33
54
56
00
81
01
92
22
66
69
67
80
56
32
95
45
12
18
59
95
46
93
63
14
56
24
03
06
54
32
83
08
72
57
18
63
47
65
55
25
52
15
38
72
10
37
21
34
67
96
13
78
91
75
74
46
23
26
07
80
38
46
34
88
41
85
58
24
19
99
80
50
86
92
92
70
96
67
03
93
37
72
21
72
34
62
56
79
06
49
05
50
66
84
56
22
95
45
56
35
88
65
95
36
28
47
55
37
26
85
82
28
50
28
34
39
94
46
56
91
97
73
62
88
87
88
75
37
00
70
48
98
43
23
28
27
74
82
56
52
48
01
66
45
39
24
10
55
00
66
56
47
70
90
20
47
95
08
53
52
63
16
47
94
25
18
65
03
53
97
85
88
66
56
42
98
07
00
19
02
87
24
79
12
76
93
46
98
10
84
91
36
72
96
14
23
00
69
28
18
34
19
80
30
53
03
63
25
55
82
24
69
96
95
94
56
40
19
12
23
48
94
14
19
20
81
51
02
53
35
30
77
54
44
05
33
36
84
97
83
88
78
86
19
85
89
19
99
23
33
01
18
64
59
05
51
88
36
93
30
55
89
45
95
65
71
14
20
15
33
09
18
15
33
95
76
83
84
08
05
40
19
43
27
73
41
99
84
15
11
06
04
78

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *