June 21, 2024

The Chargers are expected to meet with Jim Harbaugh this coming week as their search for a head coach continues, according to someone with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Harbaugh is widely considered to be a leading candidate for the Chargers, his potential return to the NFL perhaps increasing after he led Michigan to college football’s national championship Monday.

The Chargers are looking to replace Brandon Staley, who, along with general manager Tom Telesco, was fired Dec. 15.

The team has interviewed two internal candidates in Giff Smith, who finished the season as the interim head coach, and Kellen Moore, the Chargers’ offensive coordinator.

Three external candidates — San Francisco defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, Baltimore offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham — also have met with the Chargers virtually.

They’re expected on Sunday to interview Leslie Frazier, a longtime NFL defensive coordinator and former Minnesota head coach.

Harbaugh, however, is the biggest name linked to the Chargers to date as they consider the option of hiring a coach who has experienced significant success in the league.

From 2011-14, Harbaugh, 60, took the 49ers 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.

Going with Harbaugh would be a marked departure from the Chargers’ most recent strategy. Their last three hires at the position — Staley, Anthony Lynn and Mike McCoy — had no head coaching experience.

When he met with reporters in the aftermath of Staley’s dismissal, John Spanos, the Chargers’ president of football operations, called it “an added bonus” if a candidate had held the position elsewhere.

“I do think there’s value in previous head-coach experience,” Spanos said. “I think we all recognize that. It helps having been through it before. I don’t think it can be the end-all, be-all in regards to not looking at anyone but experienced coaches. But, absolutely, we’ll factor in that.”

The prevailing belief from the outside is that Harbaugh would like to return and attempt to win a championship in the NFL now that he has accomplished the feat at the college level.

During nine seasons at Michigan, his teams have gone 89-25, including 40-3 over the last three seasons. The Wolverines have made three straight playoff appearances.

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, with his college teams going a combined 147-52 in 16 seasons.

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

Known for possessing a quirky personality and, at times, an over-the-top perspective, Harbaugh’s history is that of a coach beloved by his players and beguiled by his critics.

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.

Wilks, 54, was the latest candidate to interview, doing so Saturday. He’s in his first season with the 49ers and has NFL head coaching experience with Arizona and, on an interim basis, Carolina.

His Cardinals finished 3-13 in his only season — 2018 — and the Panthers were 6-6 under Wilks after he replaced Matt Rhule in 2022.

Wilks has spent 17 seasons in the NFL, including three as the Chargers’ defensive backs coach beginning in 2009.

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