HomeFootball DirtJim Harbaugh, Chargers' coach, holds the key to unleashing Justin Herbert's potential...

Jim Harbaugh, Chargers’ coach, holds the key to unleashing Justin Herbert’s potential as a star player.

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In many ways, Justin Herbert presents a fascinating football thought experiment. For one, Herbert is a uniquely gifted quarterback. Few people can spin the ball and process defenses the way he does. He’s a finely-tuned cyborg who seldom makes backbreaking mistakes. It’s why the Los Angeles Chargers gave him $133.7 million fully guaranteed — the fourth-most in NFL history. But beyond the gaudy numbers through four seasons (114 touchdown passes, over 17,000 passing yards), it feels like there’s something … missing. Because when you look at his resume, you think he should comfortably reside in that Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow class of quarterbacks. But he doesn’t.

Was it a stifled Los Angeles Chargers offense that often ensured Herbert wouldn’t unleash his cannon downfield? Probably. Was it the lack of (ducks) … wins? Maybe. (Sorry, folks. At a certain point, #QBWinz does come into play!) Was it the persistent “Chargers-ing” curse, destined to drag down some of the best players in professional football history because they play for a franchise the football gods enjoy smiting? Uh, no comment.

Enter Jim Harbaugh, who will now have the pleasure of answering these Herbert questions while taking his new, talented quarterback to the next level. Both men understanding what it means to let the ball fly downfield because “there’s someone down there” is a great way to build their bond.

Harbaugh left Michigan — one of the most prestigious jobs in all of football — for a dimmer spotlight. In their current standing, in a crowded Los Angeles sports market that already has another much more popular NFL team, the Chargers may as well play 17 road games in a year.

There’s no denying any of this. That’s what makes Harbaugh’s takeover of the Chargers so enticing. They are a perennially downtrodden team that most only think of in derisive terms. Harbaugh himself is one of the biggest names in football. He gives the Chargers tangible legitimacy with his presence alone. His job will be harnessing that influence to turn this second-fiddle afterthought into appointment-watching legitimate Super Bowl contenders year in and year out.

Harbaugh’s most optimal path to doing so is harnessing Herbert. It’s giving Herbert the keys to becoming an actual household name — not just a statistical darling for football-obsessed nerds. If you’re skeptical of how Harbaugh will fare coaching in the NFL after nearly a decade away, don’t be. His track record of success suggests a genuine ChargersRenaissance, with Herbert at the center, is just around the corner. As my For The Win pal Christian D’Andrea wrote — Harbaugh wins everywhere he’s gone in his coaching career. And usually, as a much-needed catalyst, his quarterbacks thrive.

Harbaugh’s tenure with the Chargers will start with a plan to maximize Herbert, one of the NFL’s more promising and exciting quarterbacks. It will end with him turning the Chargers into a powerhouse, with Herbert at the forefront.



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