His father and uncle both played college football, with dad, Jim, having made it to the NFL after starring at Michigan. His grandpa was a renowned coach and mentor with deep ties to UM. Football is in his blood. He has the last name, the lineage and the experience — so don’t be surprised if Jay Harbaugh ends up being mentioned in the near future for DI coaching vacancies.

Since arriving in 2015 with his father, Jay Harbaugh has coached just about everything at Michigan: Running backs, tight ends and special teams. Prior to uniting with his father in Ann Arbor, he coached under his uncle John with the Baltimore Ravens, serving as what can be described as a data analyst. He was an expert at scouting reports and great at breaking down defensive footage.

Before getting on-board with the Ravens, he was a student assistant at Oregon State from 2008-2011, learning under Mike Riley. Years ago, Riley had a couple tours at Oregon State split by a term in Nebraska. So throw Riley in the mix of teachers from whom Jay Harbaugh has gained knowledge.

Eye for talent. Football IQ. Mentored by major names in the game. At age 32, Jay Harbaugh has enough experience and knowledge to run his own show.


He’s pretty subdued during media appearances. In 2016, he reluctantly participated in an interview on Facebook Live (mine, for the record). He’s not one who particularly wants the spotlight. Really, he’d much rather talk about his players and team-wide issues, instead of focusing the conversation on himself.

To be a head coach, you have to embrace the spotlight — so that’s probably the one knock against him for assuming duties as a head coach … right now, anyway.

He’s not going to drop quotable gems like his father or uncle, but Jay Harbaugh will talk football with anyone who has legitimate questions.

Despite not being a giddy media participant, he is actually very relatable and respected by players. Again, he’s only 32. He’s been at Michigan for 7 years. Players literally spend their formative years being coached and mentored by a guy who just went through the same stage a few years earlier.

That, in itself, is an invaluable trait. Lots of people know the Xs and Os of the game. Lots of people have knowledge when it comes to the game. There are hundreds of coaches at the Division I level. But the separator, often times, between climbing the ladder and staying put is personality and ability to relate.

You can know everything about the game, but if you aren’t liked and admired, you probably won’t succeed as a head coach.


Right now, 247Sports ranks Harbaugh as the No. 82 recruiter in college football. In 2016, he nearly cracked the top 100, coming in at No. 108. He’s among the most recognized, due to being ranked, and he’s had a hand in landing a handful of 4- and 5-star recruits. Most recently, and perhaps most notably, Harbaugh was the one credited for landing RB Donovan Edwards, a true freshman who could end up having a star-studded career at Michigan.

Michigan has had great recruiters over the years, but Jay has an advantage being young, informed and well-connected. That’s a superior combination.

Knows the game

Some say the only differences between the NFL and college are size and speed. Well, those two major differences, and knowing how to coach players to adjust means everything. Michigan has routinely turned out NFL players during the Jim Harbaugh era, and Jay has coached almost all of them in some capacity over the years.

Remember, he’s coached special teams — which has a mixture of several position groups — along with tight ends and running backs. That’s volume. That’s having a part in at least half of the team’s development, at some point, in some shape or form.

While in Baltimore, Jay worked with one of the best defenses in the NFL for 2 years. Those lessons can’t be bought, or taught — they just happen if you’re in the right place at the right time.

Is Jay Harbaugh thinking about having his own program one day? Who knows? He’s never really been asked about it. But he has the resume to do so, when and if he chooses.