Harbaugh’s hiring is risky, but wise…

January 19, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Each of the candidates had a blemish or two.

In the end, the guy who got the job had the fewest…or, the least obvious.

John Harbaugh is the new Ravens Head Coach, ending an 18-day effort that featured more twists and turns than any Hitchcock thriller.

His resume is filled with football coaching jobs, albeit none as important as the one he agreed to take this afternoon.  He’s never been a Coodinator at the NFL level, yet the Ravens are supremely confident he can handle the top job.

For their sake, they’d better be right. 

On the way to finally getting their guy, the Ravens passed on several other candidates who, by experience alone, were seemingly safer picks than Harbaugh.

They by-passed a career-winner in Marty Schottenheimer, owner of 200 regular season victories and a sure-fire-bet to come in and sweep away the festering locker room issues.  His blemish?  The players didn’t want him, for starters.  Also, he rattled the Ravens hiring committee in early January when he informed the club he wouldn’t come in to “interview” during round one, mainly because the people the Ravens were talking to were guys who had no prior head coaching experience (including his son).  Thursday, when team officials contacted his agent to discuss the coaching vacancy in Baltimore, they were alerted to another potential stumbling block…Marty wanted to have input on player personnel decisions too.  That was strike 3.  Too many blemishes, too many potential headaches. 

Harbaugh’s hiring meant the club also by-passed their own Defensive Coordinator, Rex Ryan, who, at the very least, is going to be offered the opportunity to return under the new regime.  Rex’s blemishes?  Well, unlike Marty, whom the players DIDN’T want, the Ravens players DID want Ryan.  That could have been a detriment to his chances, frankly.  Ryan’s other blemishes are probably best left unsaid now that the hiring process is over, but make no mistake about it:  the Ravens interviewed Ryan for the Head Coach position and didn’t hire him.  The big question now is…can Rex come to grips with the fact that the team passed on him and hired a guy who hasn’t even been a Defensive Coordinator in the league?  We’ll see.  I’m betting Ryan gets a raise, a promotion (Defensive Coordinator/Asst. Coach, maybe?) and he’s back in 2008 and beyond, but Rex will definitely have some soul searching to do in the next few days.

Pick a candidate and he had a blemish – or two.

John Harbaugh’s ONLY pimple?  He’s never been a head coach.

From all accounts, Harbaugh’s character, professionalism and general football accumen are top notch.  He’s the “under the radar screen” hire that a lot of people around the league admire from afar.  As one NFL executive said to me tonight:  “The Ravens just hired themselves the next Bill Cowher.”  Well, wouldn’t we all love that if it turned out to be true.  Cowher wound up doing OK for himself, huh?

When the dust settled on this epic process, the Ravens passed on the winner and the favorite and went with the career-understudy. 

It wasn’t a coin flip, mind you.

They researched John Harbaugh like they were studying for the Bar Exam. 

He’s the guy that gives them the best chance to succeed.  With this hiring, they didn’t give in to the players, who wanted Ryan, and yet, they also didn’t bring in the guy who would have forced the players to comply to a new way of life.

They went for the in-between guy. 

The players can’t POSSIBLY have a bad opinion of John Harbaugh.  He has no real track record for them to bad mouth and, to that end, he’s also not the stubborn, mean, “my way or the highway” guy that the players would have battled with from day one. 

Of course, the Ravens hired Harbaugh to help their football team win games.  His immediate task, after hiring a staff, will be to sit down and figure out how he’s going to make that happen starting right away in 2008.

The Ravens got their guy today.

He’s the guy with the least amount of blemishes.

Let’s hope the “complexion” of the Ravens changes next season and that John Harbaugh’s tenure in Baltimore is a successful one.

All the best, John.