Skip to main content

Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh: Super Bowl loss with 49ers 'motivates me every day'

It's been 11 years since Jim Harbaugh was one win away from Super Bowl glory, but the 60-year-old coach still can't shake that feeling of defeat.

Harbaugh's 49ers scratched and clawed their way back from a 22-point deficit in the second half of Super Bowl XLVII and had a chance at the go-ahead touchdown in the red zone with under two minutes to play. The Baltimore Ravens, led by his brother John Harbaugh, stopped San Francisco from reaching the end zone after four plays from the 7 yard-line to claim the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy.

"There's probably not a day that goes by that I don't think about that game and what we could've done down at the end, (seven) yards away from getting into the end zone," Jim Harbaugh said Friday in Las Vegas, via the Associated Press. "You leave that field and you go, there might be other days. Then you start thinking that might be the only day. Just wanted another shot at it, take another crack."

It's a major reason why Jim Harbaugh decided to return to the NFL last month after leading the Michigan Wolverines to the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship, a mission statement he declared when formally introduced as the Los Angeles Chargers' new head coach.

Please enable Javascript to view this content

With his former team now set to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, the reminder of his shortcomings at the professional level loom large. However, the happenstance of San Francisco's return to the Super Bowl hasn't been necessary for Harbaugh's ambition.

"When I say it motivates me every day, it's every day," he said. 

Harbaugh takes over a talented Chargers squad that has underachieved the past few seasons. Led by superstar quarterback Justin Herbert, the Bolts boast a playoff-ready roster in need of a philosophical change. 

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who is set to become a free agent this offseason, believes Harbaugh could be that saving grace.

"I've heard great things about him. I've heard about he's a culture-starter, which is exactly what that team needs," Ekeler said. "My message for Jim if I'm on that team or not on that team is to make sure we're holding ourselves to a high standard and the culture is about holding ourselves accountable and holding other players accountable because I think that was lacking last year."

The Chargers have just one playoff appearance since Herbert burst onto the scene in 2020. The 25-year-old sits behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in passing yards (17,223) the past four seasons and has thrown the fourth-most touchdowns (114) during that span of time. 
L.A. has also issued great defensive units in recent seasons, a squad highlighted by Derwin James, Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. But defensive failures have been the bane of the Chargers' recent existence, starting with a historic 27-point blown lead to the Jaguars in the Super Wild Card Round in 2022 and ending with the 63 points hung on them by the Raiders in Week 15, which led to the franchise immediately firing Brandon Staley.

Harbaugh preached fundamentals and toughness during his introductory press conference. He plans to cultivate a reliable rushing attack that could take some pressure off Herbert's shoulders and hopes Ekeler is part of that intention. 

However, the new Chargers coach made it clear he isn't resting on the laurels of a talented roster, a notion likely derived from the heartbreaking loss he experienced 11 years ago. 

"If things go well, it's going to be because of guys like Austin Ekeler and the players," Harbaugh said. "I like Austin Ekeler. We're going to have a huge emphasis on the run game, and we gotta block better up front. He's a tremendous back and we'd love to have him on the team next year. But yeah, things go well, it's kind of because of all the players. If it goes bad, it's because I'm a bad manager, I'm a bad coach."

Related Content