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A Conversation With: Michigan Football Reporter Aaron McMann

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Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's introductory press conference is Thursday at 1 p.m. (PT).

The details on how to watch it can be found here.

But what's it like to cover Harbaugh on a daily basis?

Chargers.com chatted with Aaron McMann, the Michigan football beat writer for The Ann Arbor News, to get an inside look at Harbaugh.

Aaron, we appreciate your time and insight on Jim Harbaugh. Off the jump here, what was your initial reaction to Harbaugh going to the Chargers?

Aaron McMann: "Well, I wasn't surprised. I do think this is kind of been a long time coming for him. He interviewed with the Vikings back in early 2022 and he had conversations with couple of teams last year, so was obvious that he wanted to go back to the NFL. I think the only variable was actually getting an offer. So, I wasn't surprised. I figured if an NFL franchise that he was comfortable with and familiar with offered him a deal, he would take it. So, it wasn't a shock to me."

Why do you think the time was now for Harbaugh to return to the NFL?

AM: "I think a couple of things that come to my mind when you ask that. One, what else can he accomplish at the college level? He came back to Michigan to obviously coach his alma mater and come back to Ann Arbor but ultimately, at the end of the day, he's a competitor. He wants to win and he wants to win at the highest level. And he did that in college, right? He took the Wolverines to three straight Big Ten titles, won a national championship. So, from a college perspective, there's not much else he could do. It makes sense that, at the pinnacle of his time in Michigan, is there is any higher they could go? It's almost like the perfect send off for him."

What was it like to cover Harbaugh on a daily basis?

AM: "He's an interesting guy. You can tell that maybe the media isn't his No. 1 priority but you can make that case for a lot of coaches across the professional level and coaches in general. He kind of does things how he wants to do them. He tries to insulate the program as much as possible. He tries to prevent leaks, he tries to prevent any outside noise becoming distractions. At the end of the day, he wants to avoid distractions. He made that apparent as soon as he got to Michigan.

"He tries to generate as much buzz for his program as possible without getting in the way. He's just an interesting dude. I covered the NBA for a couple of years, covered baseball and other professional sports, I can't think of another coach that is even equitable to him in terms of just his personality and his demeanor. A lot of folks gravitate toward him, some folks are turned off by the persona and everything else. But there's no doubt that Jim is a competitor and he ultimately wants to win. Xs and Os and wins and losses are a priority for him and everything else is kind of secondary."

The Los Angeles Chargers Wednesday agreed to terms with Jim Harbaugh as head coach

Can you pick one word that describes the hallmark of a Jim Harbaugh football team?

AM: "Tough. If you go back to his days in San Francisco and Stanford, even his first coaching gig in San Diego, he's always tried to make his teams tough. That's kind of always been his calling card. I think he looks at football as a test of strength and will between men. I wouldn't be surprised if that's something he brings up at some point during a press conference or conversation. He's football first and basically football only. I mean, I don't know what else he would do. I joke about that, but I think it's true. He lives and breathes football, it's always on his mind. He wants his team to be as tough as possible because I think at the day he realizes tough teams have had a shot to win nine times out of 10."

Chargers fans are so fired up for the Harbaugh hire. And they've zeroed in on a phrase he's used a few times already where he wants to bring "an enthusiasm unknown to mankind." Can you give us some background on that and why it fits his approach?

AM: "That's one of his favorite phrases. He'll bring it up a lot. He brought it up pretty regularly in Ann Arbor. And when I say regularly, I mean weekly or every other week. It's a phrase I believe was first uttered by his father, Jack. He tends to equate it to his dad, Jack. I don't how Jack came about it or where he got it from, but it's something he says pretty regularly. It's kind of become his calling card, it's something he's used all the time. So you'll probably hear it again. I think it maybe plays better to a ravenous fanbase like Michigan or in college but I'm sure it'll come up at some point in Los Angeles, too."

Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback and has seemingly elevated every quarterback he's been around, whether that's Andrew Luck or Alex Smith. What is his vibe with quarterbacks and how do you think he'll work with Justin Herbert?

AM: "He knows it very well, he played the position. There's no position more in football that he knows, it would make sense that he has that success with the quarterbacks at different levels. His offenses have always been kind of built around the quarterback position and what their strengths are and what they do well. When I thought of potential NFL landing spots for him, it made sense he would go to a spot that has kind of quarterback there and positioned well. I think those two will work well together. I think Jim respects good quarterbacks, likes good quarterbacks, he knows good quarterbacks when he sees them. I think he sees that in Justin. I think he mentioned it the other day in his interview with CBS. I'm eager to see how it works out because Justin is considered one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Jim has done a good job in mentoring quarterbacks and developing them. He's in another position to do that with Herbert."

Final question for you. What are you most intrigued about to watch from Harbaugh takes over the Chargers?

AM: "How quickly he wins. That's the one thing Jim has done everywhere he's gone, whether it was lower-level college or the NFL level or even at Michigan, the guy wins. He's got a career win percentage of like 75 percent. He wins more games than he loses. He often has a lot of success, championships often follow him, so it's just a matter of how quickly that happens. Whether it's one year or two, I do think it'll happen. He's very good about putting people around him that know football, are good at football and respect the game. I think he'll do that in Los Angeles. Even the things he's maybe not gung ho about, he'll find people that are very good at the job. He did it that Michigan, he did that with the 49ers. He knows how to build football teams and I'll trust he'll do it with the Chargers."

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