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  • Writer's pictureAndres Escandon

Candidates Ranking: Chargers Head Coach

Poll at the end of the article: Several names have been mentioned over the past few days, including Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick.

Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, and Ben Johnson have all been mentioned as potential Chargers Head Coaches

Since the Chargers fired Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco, their only goal is to find their replacements for next season. During the last three weeks, the media and team sources have rumored who could take over the position of head coach, considering factors such as experience, offensive/defensive priority, and perhaps the most important issue for an NFL owner, salary.

Chargers insider Daniel Popper, from The Athletic, segmented the candidates into two lists: 1) the ideal candidates and 2) those at a second level. According to Popper, the Chargers would be willing to pay for Jim Harbaugh (HC, Michigan), Bill Belichick (HC, Patriots), Dan Quinn (DC, Dallas) and Ben Johnson (OC, Lions).

This time, we fans feel the owners have no margin for error. The first years of our franchise quarterback, Justin Herbert, were wasted with an unprepared head coach. On the other hand, being the Chargers head coach sounds attractive with Justin Herbert and a handful of star players.

In my opinion, what Mr. Spanos and his partners should take into account, in order of importance, is: 1) winning experience, 2) offensive background and 3) salary. The phrase defense wins championships has become less popular in the NFL, as offenses have become more creative. Also, the quarterback is the heart of the team and it is easier to develop with an offensive-minded head coach. I don't want to waste Mr. Spanos' money, but we have already experienced (since the Mike McCoy era) that cheapness creates expensive consequences long-term, and it is not enough to have elite players without the right head coach.

Given the conditions listed, and the names that have been mentioned recently, here is my ranking of the 5 best Head Coach candidates, from least to most preferred:

5. Frank Smith (Offensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins)

Mike McDaniel & Frank Smith have revolutionized the Dolphins' offense.

It's impressive what Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense have accomplished since Mike McDaniel took the reins of team. After taking over Brian Flores, McDaniel has turned the Dolphins into a fun team to watch. These last two years, and despite Tagovailoa's injuries, Miami is in the top 5 in total yards on offense, and it is #1 this year. No team scores more points per game this season than the South Florida team.

Part of McDaniel's success is his offensive coordinator, Frank Smith. Smith has 20 years of NFL experience. He was the Raiders' Tight Ends Coach, where Darren Waller became an elite player. Perhaps most interestingly, Smith was part of the 2021 Chargers, where he served as offensive line and running game coordinator. Although the offensive line improved noticeably, the running game stagnated, ending in #21 on yards per game.

He is a solid Head Coach candidate. However, as he is not the play caller with Miami, and didn't have much success as a coach with Los Angeles, we cannot put it higher (or lower in this case) in the ranking.

4. Dan Quinn (Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys)

Dan Quinn could come to the Chargers to fix the defense.

Although he will always be remembered for blowing a 27-3 lead with the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Dan Quinn has done a good job as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. Since arriving in 2021, the defense has improved year after year both in yards and points allowed. In 2020, Dallas was one of the worst defenses, being the #23 in yards and #28 in points allowed. In addition, he was the Seahawks defensive coordinator when "Legion of Boom" reached two Super Bowls in a row. He becomes an option for the Chargers to fix the defense.

Quinn knows what it's like to get the best out of a quarterback. Although with the help of Kyle Shanahan, he boosted Matt Ryan's talent when named MVP in 2017. He also had a positive balance as Falcons Head Coach. In five and a half years, had a record of 46-44, in addition to taking them to Super Bowl LI. However, he ended up being fired mid-season in 2020 after poor team's performance.

Despite his defensive success, and having reached a Super Bowl, I got Quinn in #4. He is not the Chargers preferred profile. In addition to not finishing his time in Atlanta successfully, Chargers fans have nightmares about giving up leads in important games. Although our defense is a disaster, Mr.Spanos should prioritize an offensive coach to get the best out of Herbert.

3. Ben Johnson (Offensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions)

Just as McDaniel and Smith have improved Miami's offense, Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson have had the same effect. Jared Goff arrived in the 2021 Matthew Stafford trade, and it seemed that it favored Los Angeles infinitely more. Even though the Rams won Super Bowl LVI, Goff also became one of the best quarterbacks. He led Detroit to consecutive winning seasons and winning its division after a 30-year drought.

Ben Johnson is the cause of much of the success. The Lions have become arguably the NFL's best offense since he arrived. Both in 2022 and 2023, Detroit ranks third place in yards and 5th in points per game. On the other hand, and this catches our attention as Chargers fans, he's also been able to establish a solid running attack with David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs.

Johnson would bring a fresh and innovative mind. Paired with a legitimate defensive coordinator, we would have a staff capable of taking the Chargers to the next level. However, he has not had experience as a Head Coach, and we need someone who brings stability and experience.

2. Bill Belichick (Head Coach, New England Patriots)

Bill Belichick could leave the Patriots at the end of the season.

Whoever says that Bill Belichick is not the best Head Coach of all time is like the one who says that Brady is not the best NFL player or that Messi is not the best soccer player ever. Having won 6 Super Bowls and reached other 3, Belichick not only formed a dynasty with Brady, but has left his mark. According to Pro Football Reference, the Patriots have been top 10 in points allowed 18 times during his 24-year-tenure, finishing as number 1 on three occasions. They have also ranked eleven times in the top 10 for yards allowed.

Belichick would bring defensive discipline from day 1. Although failing to develop Mac Jones, Chargers fans dream of pairing Belichick with an elite quarterback like Justin Herbert, given the twenty years' success with Brady. And, although he is already 71 years old, he has enough time and energy to take our leader and team to the promised land.

Belichick (in addition to his high salary) could ask for the staff's & football operations full control, just as he has done in New England. Recent years have shown that he should not have absolute power. Draft and free agency busts, and controversial appointments as offensive and defensive coordinators are examples of his mismanagement as general manager. Ideally, ownership would pair him with a capable manager with a say over the staff and roster.

1. Jim Harbaugh (Head Coach, University of Michigan)

Jim Harbaugh just hired an NFL-linked agent

Not having any recency bias after Jim Harbaugh defeated Nick Saban in the Rose Bowl, I believe he should be the No. 1 option for the Chargers Head Coach vacancy.

Though he would ask for a generous salary (and Michigan offers him a competitive salary), Harbaugh has the two most important characteristics that our team should look for: winning experience and offensive background, plus he has transformed losing teams into contenders (sound familiar?). Interestingly enough, he just hired an agent linked to the NFL, so rumors of his NFL return are heating up.

There is no better proof than his tenure with the 49ers from 2011-2014. Despite being a historically winning franchise, the 49ers had gone 8 years without a winning record or postseason appearance. Harbaugh took them to the NFC Championship game in his first season, and they reached the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick in 2012. Finally, he also changed the University of Michigan's culture. Not only has he led them to the playoffs the last three seasons, but he has finished among the best 25 NCAA teams in 7 of the 8 years in charge of the Wolverines (the 2020 season did not end due to Covid-19).

All the aforementioned are skilled enough to become the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, but in my opinion, Jim Harbaugh represents the best option. To you, which of the candidates in the ranking is the best option?

Who do you think is the best option?

  • Jim Harbaugh

  • Bill Belichick

  • Ben Johnson

  • Dan Quinn


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