Jim Harbaugh is the talk of the NFL as a splash hire as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The AFC West, which is home to Andy Reid and Sean Payton, now welcomes another sexagenarian in Harbaugh. The three best coaches are all in their 60s, while the Las Vegas Raiders promoted interim head coach Antonio Pierce, who’s 45. Harbaugh and Paton are both 60 years old, while Reid, arguably the best coach in the NFL today, is 65.

And while age is important, clearly the game hasn’t passed the Chiefs head man by. They’re competing in a shocking sixth straight AFC Championship Game this weekend.

But what about Harbaugh?

Jim Harbaugh is National Champion, but hasn’t coached in NFL since 2014

He just led the Michigan Wolverines to their first National Championship since 1997, even amid the sign-stealing scandal that hung over the season like a dark cloud. Despite being suspended for six games this year, he coached Michigan into a second straight College Football Playoff appearance and, ultimately, to victory.

It’s a somewhat ironic time for Harbaugh to jump back to the NFL from the college level, too, right after winning the title.

But he’s been itching to get back to the big leagues for years. Remember last year at this time when the Denver Broncos were searching for their next coach? He was not only among the top four, he was the top name.

Ultimately, he decided to stay at Michigan for another year and the Broncos went with Payton.

Now, as the Chargers came calling, it’s time for Harbaugh to return to the league.

Many are celebrating the huge hire as a home run. USA TODAY’s Mike Freeman, one of the best people covering the league today, argues it’s only a matter of time before he brings the Chargers a Super Bowl win.

Those are big words considering Harbaugh never won a Super Bowl in his four-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers. He was a winning head coach, sure; they went a stellar 44-19 in the regular season and lost a Super Bowl to his brother Jim and the Baltimore Ravens.

But that was, again, more than a decade ago.

Besides that, the Chargers are one of the worst teams in the league.

OK, sure, they have Justin Herbert and that’s a huge plus. Many believe Harbaugh will help elevate Herbert to elite level, just as he got the most out of guys like Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick with the Niners. That part seems likely.

But when it comes to the rest of the roster, there are some aging playmakers, but not enough talent to truly compete. And, they’re in big trouble in terms of the salary cap, where LA is $48.5M over the cap currently.

Chargers get their head coach but are in salary cap hell

As I wrote a few days ago, the Broncos are in the hole in terms of the salary cap. They’re $24M over the cap currently, and luckily it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Denver has some relatively easy options to get under the cap for 2024, including offset language in Russell Wilson’s contract if or when he’s signed by a new team. Besides that, though, Denver can cut or trade players like Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and DJ Jones. Plus, they can ask others, like Mike McGlinchey and Courtland Sutton, to restructure their deals.

But the Chargers are in twice as much trouble as the Broncos, at $48.5 million over the cap.

LA is paying Herbert an insane salary, but that’s just life in the NFL with a top-tier QB. And he only counts as $19M against the cap currently, which is workable.

However, they also have four, aging stars that are $30-plus million cap hits this year.

Khalil Mack ($38.5M) and Joey Bosa ($36.6M) along the defensive front, and wideouts Keenan Allen ($34.7M) and Mike Williams ($32.4M) top their roster currently. That’s a crazy 58% of the Chargers total cap ($242M) spent on just four players.

There’s no way LA can compete with those four lead balloons pulling them down. Keep in mind, they can cut any or all of the four to save major money, or ask them to restructure, too.

But, as Freeman argued, the Chargers won’t win a Super Bowl in Harbaugh’s first year. The great writer thinks the coach will lead them to one in two–three years, though.

Unless Reid is retiring sometime soon, Harbaugh and the Chargers will have to get through the walrus and the current Super Bowl champion Chiefs, first.

And, considering the Broncos nice little turnaround this year, LA will have to battle with Denver to get out of the West, too.

From the Broncos’ perspective, the Chargers adding Harbaugh is a new hurdle to try and get over, with the Chiefs being at the top of the AFC West mountain.

But for now, no one knows for sure how good Harbaugh will be in LA. We’ll start to see later this year if the game has passed him by, or if he’s still a great coach at the NFL level.