Ex-Vikings Coach Will Be a Part of Jim Harbaugh’s Staff in LA

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The Minnesota Vikings nearly hired Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan two years ago — they were really, really close — and now a former Vikings coach will (re)join Harbaugh on his new team, the Los Angeles Chargers, in 2024.

Ex-Vikings Coach Will Be a Part of Jim Harbaugh’s Staff in LA

He’s Ryan Ficken, who was employed by the Vikings for 14 years before taking the plunge with Los Angeles last year. Ficken served as the Chargers’ special teams coach in 2023, and even with Harbaugh in the saddle — new head coaches traditionally bring in fresh coaches — Ficken will remain as Los Angeles special teams coordinator.

Part of Jim
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NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted last weekend, “The Chargers are retaining special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken, per source. No surprise after L.A. blocked him from interviewing elsewhere. So Jim Harbaugh’s coordinators are now set: OC Greg Roman, DC Jesse Minter and Ficken, who had Rick Gosselin’s 5th-ranked unit in 2023.”

The Chargers’ special teams ranked second leaguewide in 2023 per special teams DVOA, up four spots from a sixth overall ranking in 2022. Among other contributors, rookie kicker Cameron Dicker was a revelation for Los Angeles, and Ficken’s tutelage with the rest of the special teamers evidently did the trick.

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Of course, the Chargers missed out on the postseason and fired head coach Brandon Staley correspondingly. The Harbaugh Era in Tinseltown begins now, and in seven months with the start of the regular season, most NFL experts expect Los Angeles to be in the hunt for a playoff berth.

Here’s Ficken career resume to date:

UCLA (2004–2006)
Graduate assistant

Minnesota Vikings
Assistant running backs coach (2007-2008)
Assistant wide receivers coach (2009-2012)
Assistant special teams coach (2013-2020)
Special teams coordinator (2021)

Los Angeles Chargers (2022–present)
Special teams coordinator

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The Vikings cleaned house after an unsuccessful 2021 campaign, terminating the contract of general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer. Soon after, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell came aboard, and Ficken was not a priority to retain in Minnesota. Matt Daniels later took over as the Vikings special teams coach and remains in the position.

Some speculated after Staley’s termination that Ficken could be in the mix as head coach. Last Word on Sports’ Nate Gosney wrote about Ficken in December, “The best unit for the last two years on the Los Angeles Chargers has been the special teams, all thanks to Ficken. Ryan Ficken has shown the ability to take anyone from the streets of the NFL and turn them into good special teamers. His ability to coach, develop, and strengthen a unit with smart personnel decisions is unmatched. Why can’t Ficken become a head coach? The Chargers have a cheap, experienced, in-house option that has coached all three phases of the game and has been successful in doing so.”

Ficken will turn 44 next week.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.