Bolts GM echoes Harbaugh’s multiple titles vow

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz doubled down on coach Jim Harbaugh’s “multiple championships” declaration, promising to deliver owner Dean Spanos at least two more rings, in Tuesday’s introductory news conference.

“We’re going to build a consistent winner here,” Hortiz said. “We’re going to bring you a trophy. Dean, we are going to get it done. I got four boys, I got two rings. We’re getting the other two at least and we’re going to keep trying to build.”

Hortiz, 48, was with the Ravens for the past 26 years, serving as director of player personnel since 2019 and helping general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh, Jim’s brother. Hortiz won two Super Bowls in Baltimore, including one over Jim Harbaugh when he coached the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.

The Chargers offered Hortiz the job a day after the Ravens’ loss to the Kansas Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Hortiz described the Chargers as a “dream job,” pointing to quarterback Justin Herbert, Harbaugh and Spanos.

“In personnel, if you ask any scout, ‘What are the three things you want?’ You want great ownership, check. You want a great head coach, check. And you want a great quarterback, check,” Hortiz said. “Any scout that walks into a GM role, if you say I got those three things, you got a chance, you got a chance to be really good. So, we got a chance here to be really good.”

Hortiz spoke confidently about his hopes for turning this Chargers team, which finished 5-12 this season, into a contender. He dismissed the idea of a rebuild and emphasized toughness throughout when speaking about the players he hopes to add.

“We want people to walk into SoFi [Stadium], teams to walk in and know what they’re in for,” he said. “That’s what teams knew when they were playing Baltimore, and that’s what we’re going to try to create here.”

Perhaps the most obvious hurdle standing in the way of the Chargers becoming contenders next season is the team’s salary cap. The Chargers are projected to be $54.2 million over the cap, according to the Roster Management System, meaning they may have to depart from some of their best players. Outside linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen have cap hits upward of $30 million next season.

“In personnel, if you ask any scout, ‘What are the three things you want? You want great ownership, check. You want a great head coach, check. And you want a great quarterback, check … So, we got a chance here to be really good.”

Chargers GM Joe Hortiz

Hortiz has experience managing tense contract decisions, most recently in Baltimore. The Ravens went through a public struggle with quarterback Lamar Jackson — who requested a trade — before signing a record deal. Hortiz called navigating the salary cap “not a fun part” of the business but said he will have discussions in earnest about the Chargers’ roster in the coming weeks when they finalize the coaching staff.

“You don’t want to hold on to players, ever,” Hortiz said, “as a personnel guy, that is on a decline or have passed the point of decline.”

A focus of Hortiz and Harbaugh seems to be the Chargers’ rushing game. The Chargers had one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL, finishing 25th in rushing yards per game (96.6), 27th in yards per rush (3.8) and 30th in rushes of 10 plus yards (33). In San Francisco, Harbaugh’s rushing offense ranked in the top five in his final three seasons after finishing eighth in his first year. The Chargers haven’t ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards per game since 2007.

“You build a great run game and a great offensive line, you protect your quarterback,” Hortiz said when asked about building around Herbert. “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.”

Team president John Spanos said that during their search for a coach and GM, finding two people who fit was crucial, noting that they didn’t want an “arranged marriage.”

Hortiz and Harbaugh appear to be the opposite of a forced marriage. They have known each other since Hortiz’s first year with the Ravens in 1998 when Harbaugh was the Ravens’ starting quarterback and Hortiz was a lower-level staffer of Ravens’ personnel department.

That year, Harbaugh invited Hortiz to a game of racquetball with Eric Zeier, another Ravens quarterback. It was Hortiz’s introduction to Harbaugh’s competitiveness.

“I swear to you, I’m so blessed to be here today because I got out of that room,” Hortiz said with a smile. “I was getting thrown around. I’m getting ready to hit a ball off the wall; Jim comes in and just chucks me into the middle of the court, so I realized I was there to just give them a break. … I saw his fiery nature then, his competitiveness. His desire to win.”

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