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Eric Smith | LA Chargers Sr. Writer

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The Truth Network Radio
January 30, 2024 6:06 am

Eric Smith | LA Chargers Sr. Writer

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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January 30, 2024 6:06 am

Senior Writer for Chargers.com Eric Smith joins the show to assess the hiring of Jim Harbaugh.

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Offer valid for a limited time, $10 minimum per order. Additional terms apply. We're pleased to welcome Eric Smith, who is the Chargers' senior writer. Well, let's dive right in, Eric. From what you've seen so far, the hype video, his interview on CBS, what you've heard. What is your reaction to Jim taking over as the Chargers' head coach? I'm fired up. People in the building are fired up. I think Jim Harbaugh is fired up. His energy that you could tell from that little pregame interview he did Sunday before the Ravens' Chiefs game. You could just feel it on the set and on TV. He's ready to go. You mentioned the hype video. I had a chance to see that beforehand.

Even knowing it was coming, you're still looking for a brick wall to run through. Everyone is so amped up. I can't even describe the energy in the building. Fans are excited. I think everyone won Harbaugh from the beginning. Once we got him in the early returns, it's just been incredible.

Why is it a good fit with him? The Chargers kind of needed to make a splash a little bit this way. For a long time, as we all know, they've always been right there. Whether it's talent on the field, the Spano family has certainly invested in everything they can do to try to win. I think it's just time for the organization overall to take that next step.

Why not do it with Harbaugh, who's been a proven winner everywhere he's been? His message might be a little different than other coaches. He's a little quirky. He demands a lot. You can get that vibe from him right away. I think he's used the term, our work ethic is going to be something unknown to mankind. He's used that phrase numerous times.

I don't know what that is, but I'll take it. It's just a really big breath of fresh air for the Chargers. I think they're just looking to turn that corner overall. He was in San Francisco. He had success there, but there was some friction with the front office. He ends up going to Michigan, where he ultimately wins the title, and now back to the NFL. He establishes a track record of winning. It may take him longer, but he does win wherever he goes.

He does, yeah. I think that's kind of what people are hoping and expecting around here, too. I'm not going to say he's going to have a quick turnaround as he did in San Francisco. They were a six-win team before he got there, and then they won 13 games. We're making deep playoff runs. Let's pump the brakes on that a little bit. The Chargers have a lot of offseason roster decisions and salary cap moves they've got to make.

But I think long-term, the next two to five years, yeah, I think the window is wide open. Harbaugh is not going to settle for anything less than the standard that he's set everywhere he's been. Like you said, he's won everywhere he's been, even going back to San Diego, Stanford, the Niners, Michigan.

He's won everywhere, and he's not going to settle for anything less than that here in LA. We're really excited to spend a few minutes with Eric Smith, who is a Chargers senior writer just back from paternity. So congratulations to him and his wife on their brand-new baby girl.

It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. Eric, there's also movement with the general manager. What do we know about the name that appears to be their choice, Joe Ortiz? He's one of two finalists. The Chargers haven't officially made an announcement on that. So there's really two people who are finalists.

It's Joe Ortiz, who's with the Ravens, and then there's Brandon Brown, who's with the Giants. So both guys came back for second interviews. You assume a decision is coming shortly on that. It just kind of depends on what direction the Banner family wants to take. Brandon and Joe have ties to Jim Harbaugh, so I think that's something to note. They hired Jim Harbaugh first, and then Jim will probably have some good input on who the next Jim will be. Obviously, he knows Joe Ortiz really well.

Obviously, he's worked with his brother, John, in Baltimore for, I think, the last 16 years. No official word there, but I think both candidates are going to do a pretty good job. What do we know, if anything, about how the power structure will work with these two guys, as in who has the final say? That's a big question.

I think that's kind of what we still need to find out answers to. We probably will do that Thursday when Jim Harbaugh has his introductory press conference. Perhaps we've announced a GM by then, and maybe we've even talked to a new GM by then. Maybe we'll have answers even before Thursday. Obviously, there was that vibe going around that Harbaugh was going to want full control and all this other stuff.

I'm not really sure that's the case. He wants to coach, and he's going to have his hand in the personnel department anyway. I mean, every head coach does. It's not like any head coach out there just sits there and coaches and doesn't give his input on what he wants for players and free agents and all that. Given that both those candidates I mentioned for GM know Harbaugh and have experience with him or his family, it'll probably be a team effort, and that's probably what Harbaugh wants.

More like a collaborative effort, but certainly he's going to have a noteworthy say in what the Chargers do. How would you summarize the tenure of Brandon Staley as head coach? Yeah, it's tough. It's tough. Obviously, it was not successful because he would let go, not in the middle of the year but towards the end of the year. It's just unfortunate because I think all the pieces were there.

It just couldn't really click. Whether that was on defense where, like I said, the Spanish family gave Staley and Tom Celeste everything that they asked for. They traded for Khalil Mack, they signed J.C. Jackson, a bunch of other free agents. It was all set up for the defense to have success, and it just never really clicked. It's frustrating because Brandon was great to me personally and professionally. I don't have anything bad to say about Brandon as a coach or a person at all. It's a results-driven business, and it wasn't working, and it was time for a change. Eric Smith is with us from Los Angeles where he covers the Chargers, their senior rider.

It's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. When you look back over the last couple years of Justin Herbert, now his rookie year was the one where he kind of took over because of an injury, he's thrust into duty, and boom, this great revelation. People are talking about how he could have one of the greatest careers of a quarterback in NFL history.

I mean, we got that kind of hyperbole. He certainly has the potential. There's always the flashes of brilliance, and yet the team itself has not really taken those major steps forward. Where is he now in terms of his play and growth?

Yeah, it's a fair question for sure. If you ask me, I'd still put him up there, honestly, within the top five quarterbacks in the league. Kind of what I just said about not clicking with the Chargers overall in the last three to four years, I think Herbert would kind of fall under that same umbrella, too, in the sense that he's had to take on so much, and he's had to kind of go out there and play Superman every week, and it's just tough to do. You need some help at some point, and it hasn't really been there for him team-wide. There's not any specific player that's let him down or anything.

It's just team-wide. There hasn't been a ton of supporting help for him. If we go back to Harbaugh, I think that's really – I mentioned the energy in the building. There shouldn't be many more people fired up, I think, than Justin Herbert, that Jim Harbaugh is here, just because Harbaugh has kind of elevated every quarterback that he's worked with. If we go back to Andrew Luck at Stanford, he goes to San Francisco, and Alex Smith was kind of an afterthought.

He turned his career around, and they made deep playoff runs there. I think that Harbaugh will get the best out of Herbert, and that's something you kind of alluded to, kind of waiting to see that top-tier level. He's shown flashes of that for sure, but a consistent 17-game season of elite, elite play with Herbert, and I think Harbaugh will have a big hand in that.

And it was fun to hear Jim say he was starstruck when he met Justin Herbert, because I'm sure the effect goes the other way, too, where Herbert is really excited about having this guy as his coach. Except I just have to push back a little bit, Eric, because the Chargers do have a roster that's full of guys who are pro bowlers, even all pros, and on the offensive side of the ball, I know the tenure with Austin Eckler has been a little bit rocky, and he's had some injuries. I mean, he's a guy who can make all kinds of plays.

Other guys they have in terms of receivers, like Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, I mean, they can make incredible plays as well. What's missing? Why didn't the pieces fit together?

Yeah, no, it's a good question. It's the old cliché, but specifically with Herbert, injuries have played a factor, and it's kind of been a fluke-y thing. He got fractured rib cartilage last season that he played through. He fractured a finger on each hand this year.

Kind of been a weird coincidence, weird circumstances. Mike Williams played two and a half games this year, so he wasn't really out there at all. Keenan was banged up.

He missed the last month. So just overall, yes, you're right. The pieces should fit. There's talent, and on paper, just like most years we say, the Chargers should be right there. But the last couple of years, like I said, it has clicked.

That's why they made changes. A head coach, a general manager, it's just time for a fresh start. And Herbert's not going to go anywhere. He signed that extension. He's the fate of the franchise.

Like I said, you ask me or most people around the league, he's still a bona fide top-tier quarterback. It's just something overall was missing, and I think that's why they went and got hard-balled to try to find that it factor. To try to push, I guess, Herbert and the entire team, I think, a little bit over the top. Alright, you mentioned that they have some questions in terms of personnel, so free agency type things. What are the major questions they need to address about the roster? Yeah, there's really four guys that we're going to be keeping our eye on as free agency hits and all that. Two guys we just talked about, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, they both have pretty large cap hits for next year. And then on the defensive side, Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, their cap hits are both, I think, $30-plus million. So there's a lot of money tied up to those four guys. And it's an unknown right now what path the Chargers will take with that kind of quartet of guys. Are they going to run it back and find a way to bring everyone back, kind of move some money around? Do they keep two guys and let two guys go?

I don't know. That's not my decision to make. I cover the team, and whatever decision they will make will certainly be fascinating, because each of those guys certainly has a case to stay, but the dollars only go so far, and there's only a certain amount of those dollars, so there's going to be some tough decisions to make for sure. You work in the AFC West. You get to see the Chiefs up close and personal, for better or for worse, with the Chargers. What's your reaction to how they're playing so far and back into another Super Bowl, Eric?

Not happy about it. Certainly respect the Chiefs for sure. Am I surprised they've made another deep run? No, because I think as long as they have my home, they're always going to be right there, even if it was an up-and-down season by their standards. Maybe that's why the Chargers went and got Harbaugh, too, because we've heard for the last couple of years, OK, it'll be the Chargers and the Chiefs.

The Chargers are going to be right there to challenge KC for the West, and they haven't really in the last couple of years. I think just an entire culture shift was needed, and Harbaugh will certainly bring that. He'll have stuff he's focused on, the roster and culture and all that stuff, but I'm sure somewhere on that list, knocking off the Chiefs will be somewhere on there. He's probably not going to talk about it right away. There's more pressing matters to attend to.

It's late January, but once we get closer to the season, I'm sure that'll be something on his mind. A little bit like Michigan beating Ohio State? There you go.

Just like that. We've got the big press conference, maybe general manager as well coming up on Thursday, but we will hear from Jim Harbaugh then, so you want to find Eric on Twitter at Eric underscore L underscore Smith. Chargers senior writer just back from his paternity and being away from work, so a good time with the family. Congratulations again, and thank you so much for a couple of minutes. OK, thank you, Amy.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-11 05:50:10 / 2024-02-11 05:57:14 / 7

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