Jim Harbaugh has firmly emerged as Chargers fans' preferred head coach candidate this offseason. Harbaugh is reportedly going to interview with the team during the week and in a perfect world, the Bolts would make the flashy hire that the fanbase has been waiting for.
At the end of the day, though, Harbaugh still controls his own destiny and even if the Chargers offer a sizeable contract he can make the decision to return to Michigan. Hiring Harbaugh is far from a guarantee and the Chargers need to make sure they have backup plans in place in the case that it falls through.
The best backup plan is Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. Johnson has turned that Detroit offense around in quick order and the things he could do with Justin Herbert are beyond imagination. Johnson is not the only backup plan, though, as he is going to be directly competing with another candidate that may be strongly considered for the Chargers head coaching job.
Raheem Morris and Ben Johnson are going head-to-head while the Chargers watch closely
The biggest subplot of the Rams-Lions Wild Card Round game is the ties between Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Sean McVay. But a fun side subplot of the game is two head coaching candidates going at it on the biggest stage.
The Chargers are not the only team that is interested in either Johnson or Morris so there are going to be a lot of executives tuning in to this game to see how the respective coordinators perform. It is very rare that two strong head coaching candidates square off directly with each other on a stage like this in the playoffs.
While neither candidate is Harbaugh, there are positives of both Johnson and Morris. Johnson has been instrumental in creating a top-tier offense in Detroit and getting the most out of what he has. Jared Goff has looked even better than he looked in Los Angeles. Johnson has also gotten the most out of a fourth-round receiver (Amon-Ra St. Brown) as well as rookies Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta.
It is really hard to get one rookie to contribute at an elite level in their first season. Johnson has two such rookies doing that. St. Brown is undoubtedly talented and deserves most of the credit but he didn't truly "arrive" in the NFL until Johnson took over play-calling duties late in 2021.
Morris, on the other hand, is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the league. Chargers fans are scarred by Rams defensive coordinators and for good reason but Morris is not Brandon Staley. He is not the inexperienced, sweet-talking candidate who was in Division III football eight years ago.
Morris has been in the league for well over a decade and has previous head coaching experience. Granted, his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was horrible but it was a case of someone getting a job too early. Plus, Josh Freeman was his quarterback.
Are Johnson and Morris the two favorites for the job? Not at all. Harbaugh may end up getting hired and negate this game completely. But if Harbaugh decides to return to Michigan then this game could decide who gets hired. Chargers fans must keep that in mind.