Summer 2024

Jim Harbaugh returns to NFL to coach L.A. Chargers, rests in 'counsel from God'

Head coach Jim Harbaugh is headed back to the NFL.

Less than three weeks after leading the Michigan Wolverines to the program’s first national championship since 1997, Harbaugh is leaving his alma mater to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. The team went 5-12 this past season.

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“Jim Harbaugh is football personified, and I can think of no one better to lead the Chargers forward,” Chargers Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos said, according to the team’s official site.

This is the second time Harbaugh has jumped from coaching college to professional football. He left Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers in January 2011, four days after winning the Orange Bowl with the Cardinal. In his four seasons in San Fran, he led the 49ers to three straight seasons with at least 11 wins and to Super Bowl XLVII (where he lost to his brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens).

Following an 8-8 season with the 49ers in 2014, the sides parted ways and Harbaugh answered the call to be the head coach at Michigan, the place it all began for him as a quarterback from 1982-86.

Harbaugh found success in Michigan, like he has at every other stop along the way. He restored the Wolverines to the top of the college football world during his nine-season tenure there, which culminated in his team’s national championship on Jan. 8. Despite a 15-0 record, Harbaugh’s final season in Ann Arbor was perhaps the most tumultuous; he was twice suspended for three games each, but he returned for the postseason and Michigan’s memorable run to the title.

During the award ceremony that night, Harbaugh mentioned God.

“It was a journey — a spiritual journey,” Harbaugh told ESPN’s Rece Davis. “I just took counsel from God, the Holy Spirit. This team, everybody, unanimous support for each other.”

He also mentioned leaning on the counsel of God during his postgame press conference later that night, and also during the March for Life on Jan. 19, when he was asked by Jon Root about what keeps him grounded amid interviews for potential NFL jobs.

Harbaugh also told Root that an astonishing 70 of his players on the national-championship team were baptized during the 2023 season, which is more than half of Michigan’s roster. Numerous Wolverine players were outspoken about their faith in Christ and talked about the spiritual unity in the locker room.

Harbaugh, who has taken multiple trips to Peru for mission work, was asked about his faith in the days leading up to Michigan’s College Football Playoff semifinal win against Alabama.

“I have a feeling that if Jesus would have come back now in this era, I suppose that many of the Biblical analogies and teachings would be about sports, as well as agriculture, maybe a combination of the two,” Harbaugh said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Solomon would have been a great coach, too. I have that feeling.

“Jesus would have been a five-star. He would have been a five-star player, no doubt about it. He would have been a Hall of Fame coach.”

Now that his days at Michigan are over, Harbaugh is ready to write his next chapter with the Chargers, the franchise with which he spent the 1999 and 2000 seasons as a player. Yet even in the uncertainties of a new chapter, Harbaugh knows the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever, and His counsel is always sure.

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