When Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson looks back on his career, he realizes he owes a lot of his success to the Harbaugh brothers, so he’s enjoying seeing the success both of them are having. Older brother John is about to lead Johnson and his teammates in the AFC championship game, while Jim collected a national championship with the University of Michigan and just got hired as the L.A. Chargers head coach Wednesday.
Johnson’s relationship with Jim goes back to 2004, when he was in Jim’s first recruiting class at the University of San Diego. By his sophomore year, Johnson was Jim’s star quarterback. During that time, Jim was one of the first to give Johnson hope he could make a career out of football.
“He actually kind of inspired me that I could make it,” Johnson said.
Since then, Johnson has built a career as an NFL backup and even had the opportunity to play for Jim again when he was the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Johnson has played for 14 NFL teams, and, on his eighth, he met up with Jim’s older brother, John. He was in Baltimore for only a matter of months in 2016 but returned this year as the team’s third quarterback.
Johnson’s return gave him a chance to reconnect with Jim again when he visited his brother for the Ravens’ divisional-round playoff game.
“I was surprised to see that he’d be there,” Johnson said. “It was good to see him. ... A lot of my football career is what those guys have helped me become.”
Former Michigan linebacker Josh Ross greeted his old coach with a giant hug when he saw him in the Ravens’ locker room Saturday. He told Jim he loved him and congratulated him on the national championship. Jim told Ross, who left Michigan after his fifth year in 2022, that Ross helped build the team that won.
Ross is part of the small family of players who have been coached by both Harbaugh brothers. Jim has also coached both of the Ross brothers (Josh’s brother James was on the team from 2012-15).
Ross said Jim, who was an NFL coach before he was at Michigan, elevated the level of competition so that it was like the Michigan players were competing in the NFL at every practice. Now, he expects Jim to elevate the competition in Los Angeles.
“I expect him to have a huge impact,” Ross said. “I feel he’s grown a lot as a coach. He was a great coach from the beginning, but now he’s an even better coach.”
If Ross and Johnson stick around another year, they’ll get to see Jim’s impact on the Chargers in person when the Ravens play them in their 13th game of the 2024 season.
“That’s a good team,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to go in there and do what he does. Who knows what happens? They have a great quarterback and a lot of good players, so I think that’s probably why he went there. ... I just know he’ll bring the right energy, the right presence, the right focus on football there.”
That game was the first thing John mentioned when he spoke about his brother’s new job Thursday.
“My thoughts are, ‘We play them next year,’” John said. “We’re looking forward to all of it. I’m just very happy for him, proud of him, excited for him.”
John said Jim’s kids had their bags packed fast for the move to Los Angeles. But, if Jim comes to the Ravens’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, they’re going to require him to wear Ravens gear, even though he’s an NFL coach now, too.
Columnist Kyle Goon contributed to this story.