By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
OWINGS MILLS, Md., Jan. 28 -- Rex Ryan had hoped this would be the year he became a head coach in the NFL. When it became apparent that wasn't going to happen, he decided that staying with the Baltimore Ravens -- one of the teams that bypassed him for their head-coaching job -- was his best option. Ryan will remain as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, under new head coach John Harbaugh, and was given the additional title of assistant head coach.
Ryan has not hidden his desire to become a head coach; he was a finalist with the San Diego Chargers in 2006, and this offseason he interviewed for the vacant jobs in Atlanta and Miami, as well as Baltimore. He said that he was disappointed that he didn't get any of the jobs, but he was not discouraged.
"If you take another job, sometimes that's the easy thing to do," said Ryan, who has spent the past nine seasons in Baltimore. "You go there, you start new and everything's fantastic. You're all excited about this new thing: they don't know you, the things you used as motivation 10 years ago, hey let's blow the dust off and we can use 'em again. Right here, this is the spot I need to be. This is where I want to be."
A handful of teams -- most notably the Washington Redskins -- reportedly had interest in hiring Ryan as a defensive coordinator, but the Ravens did not grant permission for any team to interview him. Ryan remained under contract with Baltimore, even after Coach Brian Billick was fired Dec. 31.
Ryan said that he was not contacted by the Redskins, but that he and Jim Fassel spoke in general terms about whether Ryan would have any interest in becoming Fassel's defensive coordinator, should Fassel get a head coaching job. But in the end, "it was more [that] I wanted to be here," Ryan said. "I think if given a choice, I'd stay here as a defensive coordinator."
In doing so, he received a raise -- the Baltimore Sun reported that his three-year contract is worth $1.3-1.5 million annually -- as well as some new responsibilities as assistant head coach.
"Every decision we make, he's going to be a part of," Harbaugh said. "You can't put a price tag on experience and you can't put a price on good judgment. I think Rex has both of those things. I'm going to lean on him heavily. I think we'll lean on each other."
Ryan's presence -- along with that of defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who has also been retained -- gives the Ravens some stability. It also gives Harbaugh, who has never been a head coach at any level, two proven coordinators to work with. Cam Cameron, who oversaw a high-scoring offense in San Diego, was hired as offensive coordinator last week. In each of Ryan's three seasons as defensive coordinator, the Ravens finished ranked among the top six in yards allowed.
Said Harbaugh, "I think you could argue we have the two best coordinators in the NFL."
Ryan and Harbaugh coached together at the University of Cincinnati in 1996, Ryan as the defensive coordinator and Harbaugh as the special teams coordinator, and they have remained friendly ever since. Harbaugh referred to Ryan as "my good friend" as he introduced him at Monday's press conference, and Ryan said that he told general manager Ozzie Newsome, "if I'm not going to be the head coach, I've seen the other guys you have on the list, I want to coach with John Harbaugh."
That long-standing relationship is one reason Harbaugh felt comfortable keeping Ryan in Baltimore. Harbaugh was asked if he had any reservations about that, considering Ryan's popularity with the current players; he responded, "not for one second."
"To me, that's why I wanted to do it more than anything," Harbaugh said. "There are guys out there that you would have some concerns. Not with Rex Ryan. We go too far back. I love the guy."