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Jim Harbaugh singles out Super Bowl quest as key factor in decision to leave Michigan for Chargers job

Jim Harbaugh accomplished his goal of leading Michigan to a College Football Playoff National Championship win in 2023, but a Super Bowl title remains the elusive goal for the 60-year-old Harbaugh, who left his alma mater last week for a return to the NFL as Los Angeles Chargers coach. 

Harbaugh, making his first public comments since his departure from Michigan, told CBS Sports on Sunday that the Lombardi Trophy pursuit was a driving factor in the decision to leave Ann Arbor, Michigan, after nine seasons at the helm. 

“It was tough,” Harbaugh said during CBS Sports’ pregame coverage of the AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens. “I was torn. My wife and kids (were too). I love Michigan. But I love the NFL, too, and there’s no Lombardi Trophy in college football. I’ve got so many sands left in the hour glass, and I want to take a crack at that. There’s no better place to do it than with the Los Angeles Chargers.”

Harbaugh had a previous — and successful — stint coaching in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14, but he fell short of winning it all. He guided San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance during the 2012 season, but the 49ers lost to a Baltimore Ravens team that was and still is coached by Harbaugh’s older brother, John Harbaugh. The elder Harbaugh will look to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since then on Sunday when the Ravens host the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

As for Jim, he takes over a Los Angeles franchise that has never won a Super Bowl and has only reached the playoffs twice within the past decade. The team just won five games in 2023, giving Harbaugh the chance to orchestrate what would be yet another turnaround in a coaching career that has featured plenty of them.  

“We work together, we win together, and it’s worth it — the hard work, the sacrifice, the pressure, all of it,” Harbaugh said of the message he intends to give in his first team meeting. “Why would somebody put themselves through that? Because the rewards are just so darn good. You can see that today (with the AFC Championship).” 

Harbaugh’s Chargers tenure will mark the fourth head coaching run of his career within the state of California. He also had stops coaching Stanford and San Diego at the collegiate level in addition to his past NFL stint with the 49ers. 

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