Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has heard the criticism in recent days about a perceived track record of hiring unqualified coaches and how he was allegedly overruled by owner Steve Bisciotti in the process of finding new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
He fired back at his critics in an exclusive interview with WNST.net in New York on Friday afternoon where he was accepting the NFL’s Salute to Service award this weekend.
“It’s definitely insulting; it’s really stupid,” Harbaugh said. “It’s reflective of not knowing the facts. People who are putting it out there know darn well what they’re saying and they know it’s not true.”
Harbaugh didn’t shy away from the fact that he communicated regularly with Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome throughout the process as he does on a variety of matters related to the organization. Many have assumed that Bisciotti was enamored with hiring a big name such as Kubiak or longtime NFL offensive coodinator Norv Turner, but the owner wanted to be thorough enough to potentially “find the guy that nobody had ever heard of before,” according to Harbaugh.
This led the seventh-year head coach to consider a number of college names as he looked at upwards of 30 potential candidates for the job Kubiak ultimately won. After previously working under the assumption that Kubiak wouldn’t be interested in the position, Harbaugh reiterated that it was a conversation with new quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison — originally about former Washington Redskins offenive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — that prompted a call to Kubiak and set the wheels in motion for the former Houston Texans coach to be hired for the coordinator job.
Bisciotti remained in the loop and offered insight along the way but never gave the directive of who to hire, according Harbaugh.
“Of course he’s going to have a lot of insight into that,” Harbaugh said. “You’d be pretty dumb not to listen to it. Steve and I talked probably through that process more than we usually do. He knew what was going on, who we were interviewing [and was] asking me questions. ‘Have you talked to this guy? Have you talked to that guy? Why haven’t you talked to him? Are you going to talk to him?’ He wanted to know all of that.
“His biggest piece of advice was if you weren’t going to hire right away out of the gates and you didn’t know who you had, then take a thorough process on very similar to the one that [the Ravens] used when they hired me in 2008. He kind of laid out to me how that works. That was really great and very helpful in terms of how to go about doing it. That was really it. He didn’t give me any interview questions or anything like that, and he certainly didn’t say who to hire.
“Steve Bisciotti would never do something like that, and not very many coaches in this league would stand for something like that. That’s not what it’s about.”
In addition to Kubiak and Dennison, new tight ends coach Brian Pariani is coming over from the former Texans staff, but Harbaugh refuted reports that other Texans assistants would be coming to Baltimore to fill the vacant running backs coach and wide receivers coach openings.
Harbaugh said Kubiak identified Dennison and Pariani as assistants he would need to help install and teach his offensive system, but the Ravens will look at “some younger guys” for the remaining two openings instead of hiring other former Houston assistants.
In addition to shooting down reports about Bisciotti and Newsome going over his head to hire Kubiak, Harbaugh took exception to the criticism of his track record hiring assistant coaches as many have used offensive line coach Juan Castillo as a damning example and predicted that he would tab wide receivers coach Jim Hostler as the new offensive coordinator despite his unsuccessful one-year stint with San Francisco in 2007.
The 51-year-old coach reminded that he’s hired a number of former or future NFL head coaches as assistants, ranging from Rex Ryan, Cam Cameron, and Chuck Pagano to Jim Caldwell, Jim Zorn, and Steve Spagnuolo. Kubiak became the Ravens’ first external hire for a coordinator position since Cameron was selected as Harbaugh’s first offensive coordinator in 2008.
“I want to have the best coaches we possibly can,” Harbaugh said. “If you go back over the last six years all told, it’d be hard to find a better six years of coaching staffs than the Ravens have had. Criticize me the other way –- say that I need great coaches around me to be successful. But don’t say that I’m hiring bad coaches or guys that won’t speak their opinion.”
To hear Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s entire conversation with WNST.net on Radio Row in New York, click HERE.