Thursday, February 22, 2024

Chargers win Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes; Bucks hire Doc Rivers

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⚡ Good morning to everyone but especially …


Jim Harbaugh is back in the NFL, and the Chargers — who have found every way imaginable to lose — have a guy who wins everywhere he goes. Los Angeles signed Harbaugh to a five-year contract, ending a will-he-won’t-he NFL sweepstakes/saga that spanned several years.

There are lots of ramifications, but let’s begin here: This is a huge win for the Chargers. Harbaugh isn’t for everyone, and his schtick can wear thin, but the results speak for themselves.

  • 2015-23 with Michigan: 89-25, three College Football Playoff appearances, 2023 national champion
  • 2011-14 with 49ers: 44-19-1, three playoff appearances, one Super Bowl appearance; second-best winning percentage (min. 50 games) since the 1970 merger
  • 2007-10 with Stanford: 29-21, inherited a 1-11 team, but led the Cardinal to a school-record 12 wins in fourth and final year
  • 2004-06 with San Diego: 29-6, two Pioneer League titles

The Chargers, meanwhile, went 0-7 in one-score games this season and are 30-32 with Justin Herbert as their starting quarterback. Over the last four years since drafting him, they rank 28th in both defensive expected points added and special teams expected points added. They’ve made “Chargering” a verb. Doug Clawson explains why Harbaugh could put an end to that.

Harbaugh flirted with the NFL each of the last two offseasons — with the Vikings in 2022 and the Broncos in 2023 — and had a bevy of interested parties this time around, including the Falcons and Panthers. Instead, he’ll head west again, replacing Brandon Staley, who was fired in mid-December.

Harbaugh’s final season at Michigan resulted in a title, but he was also embroiled in a pair of scandals that caused him to miss six games. And he barely made it to that final season, surviving the hot seat multiple times. Will Backus detailed Harbaugh’s wild, magical ride in Ann Arbor. Here’s how Michigan leadership said farewell.

The Chargers have an expensive, aging roster that has largely underperformed but also have the one invaluable piece every coach needs: a franchise quarterback. Los Angeles owns the No. 5 overall draft pick, with which it could go in almost any direction. In his latest mock draft, Chris Trapasso has the Chargers taking Georgia star tight end Brock Bowers. Harbaugh and whoever his GM ends up being have a big choice.

Harbaugh is expected to bring Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter with him, another strong move. The Wolverines stifled opponents last year, leading the nation in total defense and yards per attempt allowed and ranking second in interception rate.

It won’t be easy, but the Chargers can turn things around quickly. They finally have the right coach to do it.

👍 Honorable mentions

  • The Harbaugh brothers will face off next season.
  • The Warriors honored late assistant coach Dejan Milojevic.
  • The Bengals hired Dan Pitcher as offensive coordinator.
  • The top-10 road upsets continue in college basketball. Alabama topped No. 8 Auburn, 79-75, in Tuscaloosa, and Northwestern beat No. 10 Illinois, 96-91 in overtime, in Evanston. This Northwestern graduate is very thankful for Boo Buie (29 points). (We’re up to 30 top-10 road losses this season, the most ever before February, according to CBS Sports researcher Andrew Tulin. Madness doesn’t wait for March!)
  • Five-star 2024 wide receiver Ryan Williams re-committed to Alabama.
  • There’s plenty of mutual respect between Dawn Staley and Kim Mulkey ahead of No. 1 South Carolina‘s visit to No. 9 LSU tonight.

🐬 And not such a good morning for …


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After another one-and-done playoff exit, the Dolphins had a lot of questions to answer. Wednesday, they added another. Miami and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio mutually parted ways.

The surface-level numbers don’t come close to doing Fangio justice. Miami finished 10th in total defense and 22nd in scoring defense despite a rash of injuries to top players. Jalen Ramsey didn’t debut until Week 8. Xavien Howard was in and out of the lineup. Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb both suffered season-ending injuries. In the four weeks Ramsey and Phillips shared the field, Miami’s defense led the league in expected points added and success rate.

Fangio has produced a top-10 scoring defense in seven of his last nine seasons as a defensive coordinator. We have several candidates for his successor in South Beach, but he leaves enormous shoes to fill.

Miami’s loss, it seems, will be Philadelphia’s gain. The Eagles are reportedly the frontrunners for Fangio’s services after they fired Sean Desai. Fangio served as a consultant for Philadelphia ahead of last year’s Super Bowl, and he’s a Pennsylvania native. Philadelphia finished 30th in scoring defense in 2023.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 Sherrone Moore leads list of potential Harbaugh replacements at Michigan



Just over two months ago, then-interim coach Sherrone Moore delivered a teary tribute to Harbaugh after a win over Penn State. Now, he’s likely going to replace his old boss.

Moore served as acting head coach for four games in 2023, and while Michigan can’t make anything official for seven days, Moore is the clear favorite, writes Dennis Dodd.

  • Dodd: “The year couldn’t have gone better for the 37-year-old from Derby, Kansas. (At least if you forget that Moore was suspended by Michigan for one game amid his role in the ongoing investigation regarding alleged recruiting violations.) Let’s face it, most everyone has forgotten that dalliance. … He was the strategist behind a punishing running game that produced a school-record 56 career rushing touchdowns by Blake Corum. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy developed into a top NFL Draft choice. And the fourth-and-2 call against Alabama in the Rose Bowl should be worthy of a painting. The only downside is Moore has no experience running a behemoth, but he’s earned his shot. Moore has made calls in recent weeks to fill his staff in preparation for Harbaugh’s departure, according to CBS Sports senior NFL Insider Jonathan Jones.”

🏀 Bucks to hire Doc Rivers to replace Adrian Griffin


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Hours following the firing of a first-time head coach after 43 games, the Bucks swung to the exact other side of the pendulum, and are going to bring aboard one of the most experienced coaches in NBA history. Doc Rivers is replacing Adrian Griffin in Milwaukee.

Griffin went 30-13 as head coach, but a series of incidents showed just how tenuous his standing was. Jack Maloney did a terrific job on this list, which includes …

  • Maloney: “The Bucks did not have a good start to 2024. A loss to the Pacers on New Year’s Day, in which they gave up a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, kicked off a 1-4 skid. The third of those losses came in Houston, where the Rockets blitzed the Bucks in the first half, prompting Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s harshest words yet. … ‘We have to be better. We have to play better. We have to defend better. We have to trust one another better. We have to be coached better … We have four months to get better, so let’s see.'”

Bucks GM Jon Horst addressed the firing Wednesday. So did Antetokounmpo, who said, “It caught me by surprise.”

I don’t know if Rivers is the answer. In case you missed it, Bill Reiter certainly doesn’t think he is, and I am leaning towards agreeing with him. Rivers has lots of wins (1,097, ninth in NBA history), experience with stars and a 2008 title with Boston. And Rivers apparently even had served as an informal consultant for the Bucks at some point during his brief tenure at ESPN.

But for a team chasing championships, Rivers’ recent history doesn’t inspire confidence. He’s blown three 3-1 series leads. He’s 17-33 in close-out games and 6-10 in Game 7s. He has not made it past the second round since 2012.

Maybe things change. The Bucks are now 31-13 after beating the Cavaliers126-116, last night under interim coach Joe Prunty. It would not surprise me if we’re talking about the world-champion Bucks in five months. It also wouldn’t surprise me if we’re talking about the playoff-flameout Bucks well before then. Rivers is getting another shot, and Milwaukee is betting big on him.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday

🏀 Celtics at Heat, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 1 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU (W), 8 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 San Francisco at Gonzaga (M), 9 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Kings at Warriors, 10 p.m. on TNT

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