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5 Takeaways: Why the Chargers Coordinators Can't Wait to Work With Jim Harbaugh


The trio of Chargers coordinators — Greg Roman, Jesse Minter and Ryan Ficken — met with beat reporters Thursday afternoon.

Here are five takeaways from their media sessions:

1. All in with Harbaugh

There was a crystal clear message from each of the three coordinators on Thursday.

They all have an immense amount of respect for Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Roman and Minter are more familiar with him, of course, having worked with him at previous places.

Ficken said he didn't know Harbaugh but quickly got on board after one phone call.

Roman, who was with Harbaugh at Stanford and with the 49ers, outlined what it's like to work with Harbaugh.

"Very good coach, very good person … somebody that comes to work every day and you have a lot of respect for," Roman said. "Keeps it about winning, keeps it about football, not a lot of other stuff you need to concern yourself with, which is how I like it.

"Just a winning culture, there's a lot of trust there," Roman added.

Minter was recently with Harbaugh as Michigan's defensive coordinator.

"I think he's one of the most elite leaders in all of sports," Minter said. "His ability to bring people together, his ability to get people to buy in to the team concept, while also still maintaining their personality and individualism."

Ficken, meanwhile, is just starting to build his relationship with Harbaugh, whom he said "has a beautiful football mind."

And while the two will work closely together going forward, Ficken said he's always respected Harbaugh from afar.

"He's obviously had the most success you've seen at all levels, so that's exciting for me, to be able to learn from someone who's done it at a high level and at all different levels because I know I can always improve and do better with my craft," Ficken said.

He later added: "The way he thinks, he's all football. Whatever we can do to help this team win games, that's what he's about."

2. Minter's 50/50 rule

We're a long way away from Minter's Chargers defense seeing the field in Week 1.

But he gave a little insight Thursday to what he wants his unit to look and feel like as they begin a journey together over the next few months.

"I think about it like this: defensive football is 50 percent of what you play and 50 percent of how you play," Minter said. "The 'how you play' is rooted in the things you spend time on and get the guys to understand how important it is to play winning football and winning defense.

"What you do scheme-wise is always evolving," Minter added.

Minter brings a strong recent track record as Michigan had college football's No. 1 defense in 2023 as the Wolverines went a perfect 15-0 on the way to a national title.

Minter said Thursday he's still in the process of evaluating the roster but noted that safety Derwin James, Jr. will surely have a key role in his defense.

The trick, Minter noted, is to not ask James to do too much.

"I think there's a fine line there because he's so versatile and you wish you had more than one of him," Minter said. "When you move him around, it's like you're trying to duplicate Derwin in all these different positions, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad."

Minter later explained how James' role could shift for any given game.

"I think when you really try to look at it that way and understand it, 'Hey maybe this week we can move you down here so we could do a little bit more here'. Maybe there's a matchup problem here that we want you to be able to handle," Minter said. "We want him to be a matchup piece and we want to allow him to do the things he does really well.

"I think when you watch him, the closer he is to the action, the better he is. He's a dynamic blitzer, he's dynamic in man coverage. I think he can shut down a lot of the tight ends, backs, all those types of matchup problems that other teams present," Minter added. "We're super excited to work with him, but we want to make sure that we're utilizing him the best place possible. Don't know where that's at yet, but really looking forward to working with him. I think he's going to be a dynamic player."

Take a look back at the best photos of the Chargers celebrating their time in the endzone during the 2023 season

3. Ficken fired up to be back

Ficken is among a handful of Chargers coaches who are back with the organization in 2023.

He expressed support from ownership on down for wanting to keep him on staff after the turnover last season.

"It was great to be able to have that support and know that they fully believe in us and we're not just considered a holdover, it's more that we are his hires as well. Looking forward to working with Coach Harbaugh and this staff," Ficken said.

Ficken said the chance to keep working with the Chargers specialists was also a draw, too.

Long snapper Josh Harris, punter JK Scott and returner Derius Davis are all under contract for next season.

Kicker Cameron Dicker is an exclusive rights free agent and could very well be back, too.

"Where you got four guys you believe can play at a high level, that's very exciting to be around," Ficken said. "A lot of coordinators you'll hear [they are] always chasing to [get] two or three at one time."

And Ficken gave an early look for the 2024 season and said the bar has been raised in terms of special teams expectations.

"How can we fine tune it? How can we continue to get better because we're not there where we want to be yet," Ficken said. "There's a lot of things we need to improve on and you continue to turn out the bottom of the roster, the core guys and continue to build on that and build depth."

The Los Angeles Chargers on Wednesday announced Ryan Ficken will return as the Special Teams Coordinator.

4. Roman's vision for Justin Herbert

Greg Roman, meet Justin Herbert.

The two have actually already connected at the team facility, with Roman noting Herbert's strong stature right away.

The Bolts OC — who has worked with the likes of Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson — gave a brief scouting report on No. 10.

"I'm not going to compare him to anybody because he's his own guy," Roman said. "But he's got all the physical tools you need to be a great player in this league.

"We want to have an offense that supports that talent and there's a lot of different ways to do that," Roman added. "The quarterback can't do everything on his own."

One way to do that?

Build a diverse and successful rushing attack, something Roman has done at every stop he's been at.

"It doesn't just happen. It's not like, 'Hey, we're going to have a good running game'. Then all of a sudden we have a good running game," Roman said. "We have to work really hard at it, we have to develop it and it should improve, improve, improve as we go.

"You can't just cash out. You got to work at it, you got to work hard, you got have the mentality," Roman added. "It all starts with the mentality."

5. A team mentality

Speaking of…

Harbaugh is going to bring a new mentality to the Bolts, and it will be up to Roman, Minter and Ficken to help relay that to players throughout the offseason.

Offensively, Roman said that starts with having a physical and aggressive approach on offense.

"It's really a mentality of how you approach the game of football: running, passing, everything. It's that overall mentality you try to create. Then you got to follow up and do it," Roman said.

He later added: "I think you have to give the players an opportunity to express their physicality. It really begins with the mentality of how you're going to approach things. Then we as coaches have to teach the players the techniques that allow them to achieve that. A lot of different ways people get taught, we're going to teach it a certain way and go with it."

Minter's echoed those thoughts, noting that Harbaugh and Chargers General Manager Joe Hortiz will make sure the roster is filled with hard-nosed players.

"There's a mentality that Coach Harbaugh looks for, that we look for, that Joe Hortiz looks for, that we want to build this thing with a level of toughness, level of commitment to each other, level of trust," Minter said. "Really just looking for those things that when you find that guy that has all the traits and he's also your best players, hardest workers and the guys that are willing to put in the preparation, time all that, that's when you became elite at this level.

"There's a lot of guys like that on our roster and looking forward to anybody that we try to add to have some of those values," Minter added.

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