Seattle special teams coach Jay Harbaugh is expecting the unexpected on kickoffs

Seahawks special teams coach Jay Harbaugh was going to have an adjustment to the NFL after spending the past nine seasons at
the University of Michigan. The good news is: The rest of the NFL’s special teams coordinators also have a big adjustment.

The NFL overhauled its kickoff rules this offseason, which should make for more excitement in the return game.

“It’s totally new for everybody, and it’s just cool to see the different ideas people have and being able to take what we know from the old world of kickoff and kick return, and see what’s still true and what’s not true,” Harbaugh said Monday, via a team transcript. “It’s just a fun process as you go, just trying different things and realizing, ‘Hey, this might not be what we thought.’ It’s organized trial and error.”

Some experimentation will take place in the preseason, but it seems likely that the trail and error will continue into the regular season. Harbaugh expects special teams coaches to study each other. It is, after all, a copy-cat league.

“What works; what doesn’t work,” Harbaugh said. “So, I think you’ll see probably for five, six, seven eight weeks, pretty rapid changes. And anyone that has an advantage early will probably be able to keep that advantage for a little while until people catch up.”

Harbaugh expects to use two returners, because of the difficulty of one returner covering the entire landing zone.

There are a lot of differences from the traditional kickoff, but not everything is different.

“One of the things we’ve talked about in this building is, instead of focusing on what’s different, let’s focus on what’s stayed the same,” Harbaugh said. “The block destruction, the awareness of how far am I from the ball, what decisions should I make as a coverage guy? The same fundamentals in the return game of great feet, great hand placement, great eyes, leverage, all those things are still true. So it’s easy to get carried away with what’s different, but we think you’ll be able to make a lot of hay just understanding and banking on the things that have stayed the same.”

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