The Ravens are obviously thrilled with the job that Harbaugh has done, not just winning, but leaving his mark on a locker room that was fractured following the departure of Billick and the decision not to hire the beloved Ryan.
Like Garrett, Harbaugh was from an impressive football family and had the backing of some of the game's most successful coaches, like his boss at the time, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick who called Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to recommend Harbaugh.
Still, he was viewed as a less conventional candidate because he had never been a head coach or an offensive or defensive coordinator. He did spend nearly a decade on Reid's staff, first as a special teams coordinator and then as a secondary coach. He also hadn't interviewed for an NFL head coaching position, though he was a finalist for the UCLA job that went to former Ravens assistant Rick Neuheisel.
However, Harbaugh made an immediate impression on Bisciotti and the Ravens' front office, which loved his passion, drive and attention to detail. Some reports at the time indicated that a few key decision makers wanted Harbaugh over Garrett, but it was Garrett who got the first offer.
In a column on the Ravens' website following the Harbaugh hire, team president Dick Cass wrote that Garrett told owner Steve Bisciotti that he wanted to be the team's new head coach, and "after several hours of discussion, thought we had an agreement on compensation. However, Jason decided later that night that he wanted to stay in Dallas as offensive coordinator."
It was speculated that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones matched the Ravens' monetary offer and guaranteed Garrett the eventual head coaching job. There has also been some talk that Garrett was concerned that the Ravens lacked a franchise quarterback, while the Cowboys had Tony Romo, a rising star at the time. Three months after hiring their new coach, the Ravens drafted quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice with their first two picks of the 2008 draft.
Garrett inherited a 1-7 team from Phillips, who was fired midway through the 2010 season. The Cowboys finished 5-3 in the second half and went 8-8 last year, failing to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Harbaugh has won from the very beginning, albeit in a completely different situation and environment.
"One of the things that you've seen with [Harbaugh] is the consistency every year, not the ups and downs," said Charley Casserly, a long-time NFL general manager who now works for the NFL Network. "He's a guy that puts the team first, puts his ego aside and he's a smart guy. His personality is such where he's not going to get the publicity that some other coaches get, but the success that he's had is outstanding."
Casserly, who believes Garrett will be successful as the Dallas coach, also credited Harbaugh for his adept handling of the potentially volatile situation that he inherited with so many veterans used to the laidback Billick, and wanting Ryan, who stayed on as the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach under Harbaugh.
Asked if Harbaugh's personality made him a better fit for the Ravens, Casserly said, "It's a good question, but I can't answer that. To me, you have to judge it by, 'Here's what John Harbaugh has done in that situation and he's an A-plus. I have to leave it at that.'"