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5 Takeaways: Why Joe Hortiz is Fired Up to Partner With Jim Harbaugh


Joe Hortiz was officially introduced as the Chargers General Manager on Tuesday.

Here are five takeaways from Hortiz's introductory press conference:

1. The Harbaugh connection

Joe Hortiz made one thing perfectly clear on Tuesday morning.

"I'm not wearing tights," Hortiz said to loud laughter at Hoag Performance Center.

The quip from Hortiz was a reference to Jim Harbaugh's introductory press conference from Thursday when the Chargers Head Coach said he envisions the pair trading off Batman and Robin roles depending on the football calendar.

"We talked about Batman and Robin. Certainly, that's the way we're going to operate," Hortiz said.

All jokes aside, Hortiz also made it quite apparent that Harbaugh was a key reason why he decided to leave the Ravens after 26 seasons and become the Chargers GM.

"It's going to be a partnership," Hortiz said. "There's a time for the GM to lead and then, certainly, when we kick it off, that's when the head coach leads. I'm going to do everything that I can to support him and give him everything he needs to win."

Hortiz later added: "He's always been at the top of my list as a guy I wanted to work with."

Hortiz and Harbaugh's relationship goes all the way back to 1998 when Baltimore signed Harbaugh and Hortiz was in his very first season with the Ravens.

Hortiz on Tuesday recalled a funny story when Harbaugh invited him to go play racquetball more than 25 years ago.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, this is so cool.' I was 22 years old, I'm a kid. It's the coolest thing in the world, I'm getting ready to go play with a starting NFL quarterback," Hortiz said. "I'm going to show them that I can hang. I swear to you, I'm so blessed to be here today that I got out of that room.

"I was getting thrown around," Hortiz continued. "I'm getting ready to hit a ball off of the wall, Jim comes in and just chucks me into the middle of the court.

"I realized that I was there just to give them a break in a game of 'Cutthroat', as they call it," Hortiz added. "I've known him. I knew him then, loved watching him play. I saw his fiery nature then — his competitiveness, his desire to win."

Harbaugh said Thursday that he wants to bring "multiple championships" to the Chargers.

Hortiz, who has two Super Bowl rings with the Ravens, echoed his coach's thoughts.

"As Jim mentioned, it's team, team, team. I believe in that philosophy," Hortiz said. "That's what we're going to do here. We're going to get those multiple championships."

2. All about the process

Hortiz comes to the Chargers after a stellar 26-year run with Baltimore that saw the Ravens evolve into one of the league's most stable and successful franchises.

During Hortiz's time in Baltimore, the Ravens tied for fourth with 246 total regular-season wins. The Ravens also rank second with 17 playoff wins in that timespan.

What's the secret ingredient there?

"Honestly, the connection between the head coach and the general manager," Hortiz said. "That just permeates down through both staffs. There's always a conversation. There's always a commitment to one another."

Hortiz said he plans on bringing that same approach to the Bolts as he often highlighted "a process" that he learned over the years from Ravens Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome and Ravens Executive Vice President & General Manager Eric DeCosta.

"You don't make snap judgments, you don't make snap decisions," Hortiz said. "The draft process, the free agency process, signing players during the season, everything is a process. It's a discussion.

"The best decisions come through discussions. I think that's what they both have done greatly in Baltimore," Hortiz added. "That's what we're going to try to do here. It's just trust the process. Believe in the process. Use everybody's information to help us make the best decision."

Baltimore has also gained a reputation for being among the most cutting edge teams in the league when it comes to using data and analytics. 

Hortiz said he's already had discussions inside the Chargers facility about how the Bolts can further enhance those tools.

"I think it's valuable. I've seen the output and I've seen how it helped us in Baltimore," Hortiz said. "We're going to try to build that here. They've already been doing it, I've had a chance to talk to some of our analysts already. I'm really excited to work with them. We'll continue to grow that.

"Again, it's on the field and it's off of the field," Hortiz continued. "It's the business side, it's the personnel side, and, certainly, it's the game management and playing side — sports performance.

"There are so many ways that you can use the data to get better and we're going to do it because it helps you improve, it helps cover your blind spots," Hortiz added. "In scouting, you can have your favorites, as a player — this guy fits what I like — and you have the analytics behind you saying, 'Yeah, I don't think that you like this guy as much, Joe.' You definitely use it and it is very helpful."

Get a behind-the-scenes look as Joe Hortiz is formally introduced as the general manager of the Los Angeles Chargers on February 6th, 2024

3. A look at the salary cap

Perhaps the most pressing short-term challenge for Hortiz in getting salary cap compliant by the time the NFL's 2024 League Year begins on March 13.

The Bolts are currently projected to be $46 million over the cap, according to Over the Cap. Hortiz said Thursday that he'll draw inspiration from Andy Dufresne in 'The Shawshank Redemption' as the main character managed to escape from jail.

"There's some work to do, but it's not unattainable. Andy got out, we'll get out," Hortiz said. "We just have to keep crawling and digging, right? It's going to take some work, but, again, we have smart guys in those roles.

"[Executive Vice President of Football Administration/Player Finance] Ed [McGuire] is a wizard. I know that," Hortiz added. "His reputation preceded him with me walking into the building, so I'll rely heavily on him with that."

The main focus will be on a quartet of players — Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack — who all have sizable cap hits in 2024.

Hortiz said he'll simply crunch the numbers, hold internal conversations and figure out the best decisions for the Bolts.

"You sit there and you weigh them," Hortiz said. "You don't want to hold on to players, ever, as a personnel guy, that are on a decline or have passed the point of decline. But I think that the players that we have had those discussions about, what's the current value that they bring to the organization and their future value and you discuss it. You weigh those things.

"That's the reality of this business, you have to weigh the value that they have, the value that they are going to bring and the cost associated with it," Hortiz continued. "That's the nature of it. It's not a fun part."

He later added: "We have a [salary] cap. That's the reality of it. You have to adjust and manage around the cap."

A big point of emphasis for Hortiz on Thursday was something that Harbaugh also drove home, which is that they don't plan on having some sort of rebuild with the Chargers.

"Our goal is to build a winner every year," Hortiz said. "We want to compete to win a championship every year, OK? That's going to be starting now.

"That's not going to be, 'Let's gut it and start over.' Those are the decisions," Hortiz added. "What balance of players give us the best opportunity to go out there and compete this year? I know who we're trying to be, we know who we're trying to be, and we're gunning, we're going that direction. We're not mailing in a season, no way."

The Chargers are also scheduled to have 27 players become possible free agents on March 13.

Hortiz said he'll begin to dive into the Bolts roster soon but did reveal a key nugget in what he believes in a major piece of team-building success.

"I'm a big fan of [compensatory] comp picks. No. 1, let's create that chain," Hortiz said. "Let's create that cycle of comp picks.

"How do you do that? You gain as many picks as you can early and then you draft, develop and then make smart decisions on who you re-sign," Hortiz added. "Obviously, you want to extend your core players, but there are some players that you're not going to be able to because of the cap, but you want to create that cycle of comp picks. You have to manage your signings in free agency to do that."

Los Angeles Chargers agree to terms with Joe Hortiz as General Manager

4. The draw of Justin Herbert

Hortiz mentioned three key characteristics that any general manager would want when taking on a new role.

The first was solid ownership followed by a proven head coach. The Bolts check both of those boxes.

The third piece of criteria was having a star quarterback, which the Chargers also have in Justin Herbert.

Hortiz gushed about the draw of having an established quarterback already on the roster (and signed to a multi-year extension), meaning he doesn't have to worry about finding a face of the franchise anytime soon.

"In personnel, you [can] ask any scout, 'What are the three things you want? You want great ownership. Check," Hortiz said. "You want a great head coach. Check. You want a great quarterback. Check. Any scout that walks into a GM role, if you say I have those three things, you have a chance.

"You have a chance to be really good. We have a chance, here, to be really good. Having that, it's awesome. This is a dream job," Hortiz added. "If you heard the friend of mine out there on the road and in the profession, the excitement they have for what we're going to create here and do here, it's awesome."

And, much like Harbaugh said Thursday, Hortiz said the Chargers will work diligently to ensure that Herbert is the focal point of the squad.

"I think Jim mentioned it last week, we want to be strong, physical, tough," Hortiz said. "We want to develop a really good run game. You build a great run game and a great offensive line, you protect your quarterback.

"I've seen it done year-in and year-out where I came from. You help him by supporting him with players that help the entire offense," Hortiz added. "Certainly, we have some skilled receivers that are already here and good players that are already here, but we just want to create a competitive environment in all the positions around him so that we're at our best at all times."

5. A family man

Hortiz's family flew into town Monday and were in attendance Tuesday.

The new Chargers GM spoke about how important that his wife, Jennifer, be present along with their four boys (Joey, Jackie, Jamie and Julian).

"They mean the world to me. That's my inspiration, right there," Hortiz said. "My wife, Jennifer, I couldn't be here without her. My four boys, that's who I love and they inspire me. Thank you guys for coming out here."

Hortiz also mentioned his parents and siblings, as well as those he is close with back on the East Coast.

He then stuck with the family theme by noting he's been lucky to be a part of two great families so far in his life in his personal family and then the one with the Ravens.

But he also joined a new family last week by linking up with the Spanos family and the Chargers.

"I've had three families in my life," Hortiz said. "I talked about the one that raised me. I talked about the one that I've been with for 26 years.

"And, looking out at all of you, I mean, this is awesome. This is a family organization," Hortiz continued about the Bolts. "I felt it on the interview. I felt it when I walked into this building on the second interview. I've been feeling it for the last five days when I've been walking around the building.

"You guys are committed to winning," Hortiz added. "We're going to build a consistent winner here."

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