Out-of-the-Box Hire Good with Me

January 19, 2008 |

Count me in the yes column on John Harbaugh as the new Ravens head coach. I will admit, when I first heard of Harbaugh as a candidate, I kind of took a double take. At first I even thought they were mistaking him with his brother, Stanford coach and former Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

The more I researched this potential candidate, the more the choice intrigued me. I really wasn’t disappointed that Jason Garrett turned us down. Will Garrett make a good head coach some day? Maybe and maybe not. After all he has very limited experience and has yet really to prove anything consistently.

What I like about Harbaugh and this pick is that it goes against the norm. From the start my problem with the search from the fans’ perspective was that they wanted the organization to hire an offensive coordinator, not a head coach. Truthfully, we haven’t been very good on offense, and people are starved for an effective unit.

Head coaching in the NFL, however, is so much more than knowing when to call a draw play on third and seven. It’s about assembling a staff, motivating players, presenting a vision and managing people towards common goals every day.

From all accounts Harbaugh is an excellent communicator, very fair and a no nonsense type of coach. He apparently impressed the Ravens with his plans and enthusiasm. A guy named Andy Reid did the same thing in Philadelphia nine years ago.

As you know from reading my first blog on the coaching situation, I like pedigree. Harbaugh, like Garrett, Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer, comes from a coaching family. His dad worked for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and coached Western Kentucky to a Division I-AA Championship in 2002. As mentioned earlier, his brother is the head coach at Stanford. His brother-in-law is Marquette head basketball coach Tom Crean. Think they have some good discussions about coaching philosophy at the family barbeque in the summer?

He has worked under Reid for nine years, worked under Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson last year, and originally was hired by respected NFL coach Ray Rhodes in Philly.

Finally when I listened to ex-players who really talked about the importance of special teams, it sealed the deal for me. Special teams coaches, which Harbaugh was for nine years with the Eagles and at the college level, probably work with a greater number of players than any coach outside of the head man. Offensive and defensive lineman work on the field goal teams; linebackers, defensive backs, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs work on the return game.

At training camp at the end of each practice, they work on special teams and twice or three times a week they hold special teams only practices in the afternoons. If it wasn’t important why would they give it all this attention? It is also where young players cut their teeth in the league. So as a special teams coach, you have to be a good communicator and teacher. Harbaugh was not only a good special teams coach, he was by all accounts one of the best.

Yet, he took a risk last year by switching to secondary coach with the Eagles, all to give himself a chance to be a head coach in the NFL. That tells me something about him as a person as well. He really wanted this!

Look, will he be a good coach? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain, he has the enthusiasm, experience and pedigree to be a head coach. On this choice, I have a gut feeling that it is the right move at the right time. Let’s hope like Steve Bisciotti I am right