John Harbaugh has to make the most of this opportunity

  • Gary Kubiak and John Harbaugh are pictured at Monday's news conference announcing Kubiak's hiring as the Ravens' offensive coordinator.
Gary Kubiak and John Harbaugh are pictured at Monday's… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
January 27, 2014|Mike Preston

The Ravens already have a theme for the 2014 season. It's called "One Chance," produced by Steve Bisciotti, written by Ozzie Newsome and starring John Harbaugh.

In a one-on-one interview after the annual "State of the Ravens" news conference earlier this month, Bisciotti warned that he wouldn't stand for failure.

"I'll be more apt to get my way next year if their solutions don't change the problems," Bisciotti said. "That's fair, that's where I am as owner.

"They know they've failed, they know they need to change, and to make improvements. If it's not the way I think it should be and then it fails again, then obviously it comes down to owner-head coach relationship."

That could have come into play Monday when Harbaugh announced that Gary Kubiak was his offensive coordinator instead of wide receivers coach Jim Hostler.

Everyone at The Castle knew that Harbaugh wanted Hostler and the Ravens were within a breath and a news release of making that happen.

But the suspicion here is that Newsome probably whispered into Harbaugh's ear Saturday or Sunday night.

It probably went something like this:

"John, you have to aim higher. Hostler, huh? What exactly has he done? Remember, John, you've got one chance to get this right. If you don't, you could lose the right to name future coaches and eventually your job. I have strongly recommended Kubiak to the owner and he said, 'Go get him.' The owner is on board with Kubiak and we've got the green light. Now, would you prefer to go down with Hoss or Kubs?"

Game over.

It was Kubiak. Throughout his news conference Monday, Harbaugh denied having his arm twisted by the front office and even said Kubiak was involved during the two-week-long process, even though Kubiak admitted he became a candidate only in the past couple of days.

The spin was about as sloppy as the offensive communication on the field last season. Harbaugh also looked uncomfortable sitting on the stage like a young boy with an unwanted new daddy (Kubiak) and uncle (quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison).

It's been a big adjustment for Harbaugh. A year ago, he earned capital by winning a Super Bowl ,which allowed him to part ways with some veteran players like Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard.

Now, some of his power has been taken away. If he'd had any juice, he wouldn't have let the front office dictate terms to him.

But they were. Very few coordinators come in with the demands of Kubiak, who is getting his own staff. Longtime Ravens assistants like tight end coach Wade Harman (15 years) were let go, and all Harman ever did was coach players like Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta and help design the running game that led the Ravens to the 2000-01 Super Bowl title.

Swoosh. Gone.

They had to go because Harbaugh is facing a critical moment. He came close to getting blind-sided by this hire. Newsome brought in most of Harbaugh's original staff, but Harbaugh brought in assistants like Jim Zorn and Juan Castillo.

They weren't successful. Hostler probably wouldn't have been either.

When you compared Hostler with the other candidates like Kubiak, Scott Linehan or even Kyle Shanahan, it shouldn't have been even close.

Linehan had been a head coach with the St. Louis Rams and had turned the Detroit Lions' offense into a Top 10 unit the past couple of years. Shanahan had reasonable recent success running the Washington Redskins' offense despite working with a young quarterback in Robert Griffin III.

Kubiak has coached two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, John Elway, and Steve Young, and won three Super Bowl titles.


He was the San Francisco 49ers' coordinator for one year, in 2007, when they finished last in yards and points. His greatest achievement here has been the development of Torrey Smith and helping devise the Ravens' passing game.

Newsome and Bisciotti kept Harbaugh from possibly hurting this team for years. One chance would have become no chance.

The Ravens now have a highly respected coordinator. He'll have his own staff, but he won't be a dictator like Cam Cameron, and he won't have several assistants pulling in different directions like Jim Caldwell.

Kubiak has always been efficient and organized, one of the most respected offensive minds in the game. His offenses have always been balanced but featured a strong running game.

He'll have a major rebuilding job with the Ravens. They don't have a running back like a Terrell Davis or Arian Foster and their offensive line has major problems, especially in the middle. The Ravens have speed on the outside in Smith and a reliable tight end in Pitta, but no big receiver like Andre Johnson.

But that's down the road. Kubiak reportedly turned down other job offers as a coordinator because he wanted to work for a strong and respected organization.

As for Harbaugh, it seems he has lost some credibility in the front office and in the locker room. Plus, he might be looking over his shoulder for a while until he can trust Kubiak. That could come within months or years, or never.

A few years ago, Bisciotti said Cameron was under fire. Now, it's Harbaugh.

He still has his one chance, and it's much better now than it would have been with Hostler. Instead of a year or two, he might remain head coach for three or four with Kubiak.

The Ravens saved Harbaugh from himself.

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