After a year on the Atlanta Falcons' coaching staff, Hamdan is back as the Huskies' new offensive coordinator.
Bush Hamdan hesitated. Some 14 months ago, when the opportunity came to coach in the NFL, to join an Atlanta Falcons team coming off a Super Bowl run, to be the position coach for MVP Matt Ryan, Hamdan says he wasn’t immediately sold on the job.
He wasn’t sure he should leave the University of Washington and his mentor, Chris Petersen.
“It was so hard to leave here,” Hamdan said Monday. “Any time you have to leave Chris Petersen, you think like seven times about it.”
Hamdan, who played QB for Petersen at Boise State, had been on Petersen’s staff in 2015 and 2016, first as a quality-control assistant and then as the wide receivers coach during the Huskies’ breakthrough season two years ago. In early 2017, Hamdan eventually agreed to join the Atlanta staff as the quarterbacks coach, continuing his vagabond career.
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In Atlanta, Hamdan worked for Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator, and alongside former Washington coach Steve Sarksian, who in 2017 took over as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator.
“I learned a lot. Dan Quinn and Steve Sarkisian were unbelievable to me,” Hamdan said. “Sark’s a really, really sharp guy. He’s been calling plays for so long that sometimes it’s just really natural to him. It always comes back to preparation. Seeing what their preparation is like — what’s different, what’s the same? That’s always left a lasting impression on me with all good coordinators, the time they put in before the games.”
Hamdan, now 32, returned this winter to be the Huskies’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He replaces Jonathan Smith, the new head coach at Oregon State.
Given the chance to return to UW, Hamdan didn’t hesitate. While it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Atlanta — because NFL coaches don’t have to recruit, they have more free time than college assistants — Hamdan was it was a “no-brainer” to come back to Petersen.
“I’m where I am today because of Chris Petersen,” he said.
During his first UW tenure, Hamdan was one of the team’s most popular coaches. He grew close with receivers John Ross III and Dante Pettis, and remained in touch with many of the current players last season.
“Bush is one of my favorite coaches on the offense inside and outside of football,” junior receiver Aaron Fuller said.
“Bush just has an amazing energy about him,” said tight ends coach Jordan Paopao, who has asked Hamdan to be a groomsman in his wedding this summer. “He brings an unbelievable competitive spirit, and any time you get to work with one of your really good friends it’s a cool deal.”
This is Hamdan’s 10th different coaching position in 10 years. He was the co-offensive coordinator at Arkansas State in 2013, and the offensive coordinator and play-caller at Davidson in 2014.
Back at UW, Hamdan isn’t going to overhaul Petersen’s offense. But he does have the freedom to implement his own ideas.
“We like our offense,” Petersen said. “We’re always into making it better and tweaking it and what do you do well and how do you play to your talents and strengths — those types of things. Bush is completely dialed into that.”
Said Hamdan: “It always starts with running the football. By nature, we are pro-style guys, if you look at it (from) 20 years ago. I want to be downhill, I want to be able to run the ball and establish things off the run, but this tempo has been really good for us as well and being able to do a lot of different things. The theme, hopefully, stays exactly the same. We’ve had some success here the last couple years, and it’s the ability to do a lot of different things — show a lot of different things — and just keep this thing going.”
Hamdan is excited about the future. One of his immediate priorities is to develop the Huskies’ young quarterbacks — including redshirt freshman Jake Haener, and true freshmen Colson Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon, not to mention junior transfer Jacob Eason — a unit Hamdan called “as good a group of young guys as there is out there.”
More pressing for Hamdan is pushing established starter Jake Browning. There is no competition for the starting job — that, without a doubt, is Browning’s — but Hamdan is trying to make the senior standout uncomfortable in a positive way.
“Make no mistake: We’re here to challenge Jake Browning every single day, and I want him kind of feeling a little bit of pressure as well,” he said.