Jay Harbaugh stepping out of family circle for first time with Seahawks

Seattle Times staff reporter If Jay Harbaugh’s last name gives him a hefty family legacy to live up to, his new position with the Seahawks also gives him some big shoes to fill. The son of new Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh and a nephew of longtime Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Jay Harbaugh was introduced this past week as the new special-teams coordinator for the Seahawks. It marks the first time he will work in a full-time coaching role for a team not coached by Jim or John.

And in stepping out of the family cocoon, he steps into overseeing one phase of the team that, in general, there was not much to complain about the past few years. Even as the Seahawks staggered enough to compel the organization to fire Pete Carroll, the special teams under the supervision of Larry Izzo had been considered among the best in the NFL the past few years. The Seahawks ranked sixth or better each of the past four years — and second twice — in a rating devised by longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin, who takes 22 special-teams categories and assigns points for each team in each category.

If that puts some pressure on Harbaugh to uphold that standard, it also gives him a shot at immediate success as he becomes a special-teams coordinator at the NFL level for the first time. Also appealing about coming to Seattle, was the presence of new Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald. Macdonald also coached under one of the Harbaughs since 2014, when he was first hired by the Ravens as a defensive-coaching intern.

Also on the staff was Jay Harbaugh, then completing a three-year run as offensive quality control coach. “We’re similar in age and both guys that are into football but have some other interests as well,’’ Jay Harbaugh said of Macdonald. “He’s just a great person, really easy to get along with and a guy that I kind of gravitated toward when I was in Baltimore with him.

” Jay Harbaugh left for Michigan the following year when Jim Harbaugh got the head-coaching job. That started a nine-year run helping run special teams as either the assistant or the coordinator — including the 2021 season when Macdonald took a one-year detour from Baltimore to work as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator. Jay Harbaugh’s lineage seemed to make it a given he would follow his father to the Chargers when he took that job after leading Michigan to a win over Washington in the college football national-title game.

He could have stayed at Michigan, where longtime assistant Sherrone Moore took over. But Macdonald and the lure of something new helped persuade him to head to Seattle instead. “Working with my dad at Michigan was probably the best nine years of my life and that was something that was really special to me and an opportunity that not everybody gets that chance to do what they love with a mom or a dad or an uncle or whatever it might be,’’ he said.

“That’s really special, and I’m really thankful for that chance that I had. “It was kind of the thing where I would have never have wanted to go my own way unless it really made sense, and all of the ways I kind of talked about earlier with this franchise, the direction I know that Mike is going to take it, all of the fantastic people in the front office being so proven and excellent at what they do. It just kind of made sense.

’’ What he’s walking into with the Seahawks also can’t hurt. Among their high special-teams rankings this year was finishing first in average drive start (26. 5-yard line), third in net punting and averaging 3.

8 yards better than their opponent on punt returns, and 4. 0 yards per kickoff. Punter Michael Dickson set a team record with a 50.

0-yard average per punt and at 48. 0 per punt ranks second in NFL history. While kicker Jason Myers was more erratic in 2023 than the year before (35 of 42 on field goals compared to 34 of 37), he’s made the Pro Bowl twice since 2018.

Myers, Dickson and snapper Chris Stoll are all under contract for at least two more years, meaning Harbaugh comes to Seattle mostly in a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’’ mode rather than needing to rebuild. Being a coach’s son has taught him that the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. But speaking of plans, Jay Harbaugh says despite his lineage — which includes his grandfather, Jack, a longtime high-school and college coach highlighted by a long stint as the head coach at Western Kentucky — going into coaching was not a foregone conclusion.

“I’m really thankful to have not been forced to coach, or wasn’t like, ‘Hey you’re going to coach,'” he said. “My parents gave me space to be able to explore whatever I might be into. And then I got to a certain point toward the end of high school, and as kids are going certain directions, the math guys are talking about doing engineering and guys who like English are talking about journalism, I was just kind of like, ‘I like football.

’ “Seeing my dad and my grandpa and how rich their lives were, just relationship-wise, that was something that I realized, ‘Hey, I really want that. ’ That looks like a great way to live and was able to get a great start with coach [Mike] Riley at Oregon State [from 2008-11], and then Baltimore after that. It’s been great.

But having that space to be able to come to it on my own is something I’m very thankful for. ” While he’s Jim’s son, his coaching path more closely mirrors that of his uncle, John. While Jim played quarterback in the NFL and worked as an offensive assistant before becoming a head coach, John did not play football past college and made his way as a special-teams coach, working as a college or NFL special-teams coach from 1988-2006 before becoming head coach of the Ravens in 2008.

“The cool thing about special teams and one of the things that I suppose would answer the question is that it’s just football, and it’s all of those things all in one,’’ he said of what he’s learned from John Harbaugh. “It’s offense, it’s defense, it’s all of those things you love about the game wrapped up into one phase. It’s just a lot of fun, and all of the things that would make you good at any other aspect of coaching in terms of the discipline, the love, the accountability, the teaching, the fundamentals, all of those things carry over.

’’ Seahawks reportedly add London to coach QBs The Seahawks took another step toward filling out their assistant coaching staff Saturday, agreeing to bring on Charles London as quarterbacks coach. Multiple reports stated that London will get the job, which makes 12 assistants known to have been hired by Macdonald. London, 48, was the pass-game coordinator and QB coach for the Tennessee Titans last season, helping guide Will Levis during his rookie season.

He also was the QB coach for Atlanta in 2021-22 and has experience overseeing running backs during a coaching career in the NFL and major college level that dates to 2006. London played running back at Duke from 1994-96, earning an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s in humanities. .

By Bob Condotta
Filed 02.18.2024

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