RENTON – New Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates showed an ability to be coached at a young age
He worked his first two-a-day practice with his father, longtime NFL defensive coordinator Jim Bates, then at Texas Tech, as a 5-year-old, but was given specific instructions.
Bates’ father had one rule: his son wasn’t allowed to talk, just hand his dad the ball as he worked his players through their paces at practice.
More than 25 years later, Bates finds himself still following in his father’s footsteps, an offensive coordinator in the NFL at 33 years old.
During a conversation with reporters Tuesday, Bates said Seattle’s offense will closely resemble the offense of his last NFL stop, the Denver Broncos, from his time spent learning the West Coast offense under Mike Shanahan during his three years in Denver.
Bates said he learned plenty while being groomed under Shanahan’s business-like approach, and appreciated Shanahan giving him his first opportunity to call plays.
However, another disciple of the West Coast offense, Jon Gruden, gave Bates his first opportunity to coach in the NFL, after he finished his playing career as an option quarterback at Rice, joining the Bucs as an offensive quality control coach in 2002.
Bates said he learned the strong work ethic it took to become a successful head coach under Gruden, where Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl in Gruden’s first year there.
“He let me get into the door, and once I got my foot in the door, he just taught me how to grind,” Bates said about his mentor. “I was up really early in the morning and working late at night learning every play known to man in football. It was special. The one thing I take from Jon is passion. You’ve got to have the passion. It’s just too hard of a job if you’re not in love with it. And he loved it. It was a fun three years.”
Bates also knows a thing or two about dealing with adversity. He suffered through two anterior cruciate ligament surgeries – one in high school and one in college -during his playing career.
“I still ski,” Bates quipped.
At Rice, he played both football and baseball – quarterback in Ken Hatfield’s triple-option offense and second base for legendary Owls baseball coach Wayne Graham.
Hatfield was the freshman coach at Tennessee when Bates’ father played linebacker. He said even then Bates had a knack for the cerebral part of the game.
“He was an extremely intelligent player,” Hatfield said of his former QB. “He had a great mind for football. And he was a great competitor. He wanted to win every drill, every play. He just had a great love for the game.”
Bates said he knew after his sophomore year in high school when he suffered his first knee injury that he wanted to be a coach. He asked the doctor if he was going to grow, and the doctor said no.
“I said, ‘OK, there’s not many 5-8 quarterbacks,’ ” Bates said.
Even at 33, Bates has plenty of NFL experience, coaching seven seasons in the league, including three seasons in Tampa Bay, two as an offensive quality control coach and one as assistant quarterbacks coach. A season followed with Herm Edwards’ New York Jets as their quarterback coach and three seasons in Denver, coaching the offensive line, receivers and quarterbacks.
After Josh McDaniels took over the Broncos last year, Bates landed a job as the assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach for USC, where he learned the Trojans’ offensive system instead of installing his own.
And now, Bates spurned an opportunity to reunite with Jay Cutler as the offensive coordinator in Chicago to continue to work with new Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Bates said Seattle has the foundation for a successful offense. With zone blocking guru Alex Gibbs in the fold, the Seahawks will continue with the zone blocking scheme installed last season, fully committing to that run philosophy.
Bates said he believes running backs Julius Jones and Justin Forsett fit the scheme. And he said personnel changes will be made on offense, but provided few details.
On the subject of veteran offensive tackle Walter Jones and the recent announcement of his pending retirement, Bates did not speak specifically to the issue, but praised Jones as one of the best to ever play the game, and talked about the importance of having a talented player at that position.
“We need someone we feel great about in protecting Matt’s blindside,” Bates said. “I think left tackle is an important position, just like a lot of other ones.”
Bates said he’s excited to have quarterback Matt Hasselbeck already on the team, and that the change to Denver’s West Coast system should help because of the familiarity in terms of the way he calls formations, which is similar to Mike Holmgren’s system.
“We’re very fortunate to walk into an organization with Matt Hasselbeck being a leader,” Bates said.
“He’s been to the Super Bowl. He’s been in every situation. Part of being a quarterback is about experience.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437