On New Year’s Eve of 2018, the Atlanta Falcons fired offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
It was just a normal Monday in the NFL, but Wayne County’s Wade Harman and his family became collateral damage.
However, it did not take Harman long to find a new home.
For five years, he had served as tight ends coach in Atlanta, helping to draft Austin Hooper and Drake graduate Eric Saubert.
“I really enjoyed the players I had,” Harman said. “The roster changes a lot every year, but I had a real special group of guys. We had a lot of fun.
“We brought Logan Paulsen in as a veteran free agent, and he was outstanding to work with. He was a great mentor for the younger players. It was neat to watch the relationship those guys developed.”
Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post writes:
Harman was a coach on two Super Bowl winning teams while on the Ravens’ staff and coached Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, among others.
For the Falcons in 2018, tight end Austin Hooper was second on the team with 71 catches.
Harman joins a Broncos tight end group that was decimated by injuries. In order, Troy Fumagalli (groin), Jake Butt (torn ACL) and starter Jeff Heuerman (ribs/lung) were all lost before or during the season. Heuerman will be a free agent in March.
This is a position of need for the Broncos in the 2019 NFL draft. One source projects Denver picking Chariton native T.J. Hockenson in the second round. Another scout projects the former Iowa Hawkeye as going eighth overall to the Detroit Lions—Denver owns the 10th pick overall.
“It’s going to be a good draft for tight ends this year,” Harman said.
Last year, the Broncos chose an unheralded linebacker from Iowa, Josey Jewell, who turned out to be a steal.
This transition has happened before.
Though he coached for 15 years for Baltimore, which is almost unheard of for an assistant coach in the modern era of football—and two years for the Minnesota Vikings before that—the fallout from the firing of the Ravens’ offensive coordinator sent Harman south.
“Being in this league, I know what the expectations were for the organization,” Harman said of the Falcons. “I’ve been in this business long enough to know there’re always changes, and they don’t always coincide with what you think needs to be done, but that’s the way it is.
“You see where any kind of movement might be. So, anyone that had head coach openings, you try to chase the candidates being interviewed for those jobs. You try to anticipate who’ll get the jobs—you stay in touch with people you know. You go from there.”
As Harman has travelled across the country for his profession, his children have spread out along the way.
His daughter went to a school specifically for children with dyslexia in Maryland and went on to graduate from Kennesaw State.
“She’s really done well,” Harman said.
His oldest daughter graduated from the University of Maryland and is now attending nursing school.
The transition will be easier this time, as his son has graduated from high school and is in his second semester at Georgia State.
Another important factor in the move is the fact Harman’s younger brother Greg works as a dentist and lives in a suburb of Denver.
“He was excited,” Harman said. “My brother and his wife Becky are already out looking for houses for me. Any time I got a chance to come out there, he wanted me to come out there to work. I haven’t had family this close since I’ve been coaching.
“This will be a real treat. I also enjoy the climate in the west when I played for Utah State.”
In college, before Drake dropped its scholarship football program and he transferred to Utah State, Harman helped the Bulldogs defeat Iowa State in Ames. This season, Drake almost pulled off the upset again.
“They hung in there. Someone shared the website for The Des Moines Register. They had a photo from when we played them in 1985. That was kind of cool.”
“I was fortunate. I’m lucky to know a lot of people in the business. And people know the quality of work I do.”
In Denver, Harman will be working under general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. On a side note, Elway once spent a night recruiting Harman’s former teammate with the Wayne Falcons, Tork Hook, to play wide receiver at Stanford out of high school.
When Elway and the Broncos hired new head coach Vic Fangio on Jan. 10, it was another fortunate bounce for Harman.
Fangio was hired after leading the Chicago Bears to its best defensive performance since the mid-1980s. According to Chad Jensen of 247Sports:
After being hired as the Denver Broncos’ 17th head coach in franchise history, Fangio wasted little time pursuing his ideal coaching staff… [hiring] three coordinators.
Harman is one of those ideal staff members.
“We were together in Baltimore for a while,” Harman said. “He reached out to me.”
Before accepting the hire, Harman traveled to Mile High Stadium to visit with staff and check out the facilities.
“They’re a class organization. They do things right.”
Denver hired him on Jan. 17. Harman flew out on Jan. 22 to begin his duties for the Broncos.
“They’ve been to the Super Bowl recently and won,” Harman said. “They’ve got a good nucleus of players. I really like the coaching staff Vic’s put together. They’re in a good division, obviously, with Kansas City and the Chargers. I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I really have a sense of peace about it. I had a couple other offers, and you want to make the right decision for you and your family. This is the right spot.”