Grades for 2024 NFL head coaching hires: Chargers get ‘A’ for Jim Harbaugh swing, Panthers bank on upside

The NFL playoffs are fast approaching their anticipated finale, with Super Bowl LVIII just around the corner. In the meantime, the 2024 coaching cycle is in full swing, with close to a half-dozen teams already naming new head coaches and several still in search of a top candidate. In the end, more than 20% of the league will enter the new season with fresh leaders on the sideline.

It’s impossible to know which of this year’s hires will actually pan out. Some years, the least-celebrated promotion ultimately has the last laugh. Just as in free agency, big names don’t always translate to big results. This is a team game, remember, and that means coaches, like quarterbacks, are often affected by the staff and supporting cast around them.

But how do the hires register right now? Here’s our best attempt to grade each of the head coaching additions:

Jim Harbaugh
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We’ve seen big-name hires from the college ranks flounder before (see: Urban Meyer, Matt Rhule, Chip Kelly), but the difference is, Harbaugh’s been an undisputed winner everywhere he’s coached, and that includes the NFL. One win away from a Super Bowl title with the 49ers back in 2012, now he’s back on the West Coast with a franchise quarterback and playoff-caliber roster already in place, guiding the team he once played for in the ’90s. It’s a perfect match, pairing a talented but sometimes-sheepish contender with a rugged program-builder who knows how to dial up splashy offense. The AFC West is interesting again.

Grade: A

Dave Canales
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