Harbaugh steps up

Eagles assistant interviews for five hours, downplays lack of work as coordinator

Ravens Coaching Search

January 09, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach John Harbaugh became the sixth candidate to interview for the Ravens' head coaching job, but he was the first who was neither a coordinator nor an assistant head coach.

Harbaugh, though, came away from the nearly five-hour visit with team officials expressing confidence that he can lead the Ravens.

"I don't think there's any one way to prepare to be a head coach," Harbaugh said. "[Eagles coach] Andy Reid was never a coordinator before he became a head coach, and he's one of the best in the league."

While Marty Schottenheimer appears be the most experienced option and Jason Garrett seems to be the hottest name, Harbaugh could be the dark horse candidate in the Ravens' coaching hunt.

One high-ranking Ravens official predicted last year that Harbaugh would be an excellent head coach if a team took a chance on him.

While fans might know him only as the brother of the former Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh has built a reputation around the league as an intense teacher who gets the most out of his players.

But teams usually don't promote special teams coaches to the top spot.

Harbaugh, who joined the Eagles in 1998 and was the team's special teams coordinator for nine years before becoming the secondary coach this season, has pointed out in the past that some of the great NFL head coaches -- Bill Cowher, Marv Levy, Mike Ditka and Dick Vermeil -- were primarily special teams coaches in the NFL before they became head coaches.

He also mentioned that, like a head coach, the special teams coordinator deals with the entire team on a daily basis.

Before joining Philadelphia's staff, Harbaugh spent 13 years coaching nearly everything in college from defensive backs to running backs to tight ends to special teams to strength and conditioning.

But Harbaugh's energetic and self-assured style might have made a stronger impression on the Ravens' search committee than his resume.

"I've enjoyed every minute of it," Harbaugh said of the interview process. "From Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] and Steve [Bisciotti, owner], everybody in the organization has been first-class all the way. It's been challenging, but it's been fun."

Harbaugh was a finalist for the UCLA job last month (that eventually went to Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel) and interviewed for Boston College's opening last season.

If the Ravens hire Harbaugh, he likely would name Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur as his offensive coordinator.

"I can tell you one thing: It's a great organization -- up, down, sideways -- from the very top," Harbaugh said while standing in front of the Ravens' $31 million headquarters. "It's a very impressive place to visit. I knew the Ravens have a great operation, and now I see why."

It was originally believed the Ravens would next interview Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as early as today. But a league source said the Ravens haven't officially requested permission to talk to Schwartz, a graduate of Mount St. Joseph who worked as a defensive assistant coach with the Ravens from 1996 to 1998.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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