Chapter 1: Meet the new boss, not the same as the old boss

January 12, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

the world – Princeton was also Cass’ alma mater. One of Bisciotti’s local advisors, legendary agent Ron Shapiro’s son Mark Shapiro was the general manager of the Cleveland Indians and had gone to Princeton with Garrett in the late 1980’s.

It didn’t take long for Bisciotti to get plenty of intelligence and insider information on Garrett and he loved everything he’d heard.

On the evening of January 14, 2008, Garrett flew into Baltimore with his wife, Brill, also an Ivy Leaguer with a Harvard Law School degree. The courting began in earnest the next day when his wife was being driven around the local community looking at houses. Stories about his every move in Owings Mills were being documented in a newly created social media space on the internet, the closest Baltimore has come to a paparazzi trail.

Meanwhile, Bisciotti’s search committee quizzed Garrett and tried to make him feel comfortable all at the same time in the impressive offices of the Baltimore Ravens, which more closely resembles a European castle than an American football training facility.

A dual Ivy Leaguer, who played at Princeton until his father Jim Garrett became the head coach at Columbia and he followed him into New York, Jason Garrett had just one year of experience as the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, but it seems he spent a lifetime with a blue and silver star on his cranium as the backup quarterback during the Troy Aikman era. He also played briefly with New Orleans, the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins but Garrett was always associated with the silver star in Big D and was a favorite of owner Jerry Jones, who also acts as the football personnel man for his Dallas Cowboys.

Garrett was young and impressive. He had spent his entire adult life in the NFL but despite his Ivy League pedigree, found his way through the adversity of coming in after taking a tour through the World League of American Football in San Antonio and then to the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders.

Despite resembling Opie from Mayberry, there was certainly toughness and some tenacity to go along with the intelligence and obvious credentials that Garrett brought to the Ravens that day. Garrett’s credentials were impressive: three Super Bowl rings as Aikman’s understudy in Dallas and was actually on the losing side of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV title as Kerry Collins’ backup; played for Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Jim Fassel and Jon Gruden; coached with Nick Saban and Wade Phillips; grew up in a family of all football people, including his dad who was a Cleveland Browns coach and his brothers who were coaching in Dallas and St. Louis; grew up in suburban Cleveland, which makes football a part of his DNA.

To put it mildly, Bisciotti was impressed. He loved everything about Jason Garrett.

The Ravens’ search committee could tell how smitten Bisciotti was with Garrett, and they knew an offer was imminent. But, they also knew there was a strong chance Garrett would be going back to Dallas and not taking any job outside the Cowboys’ kingdom. They also knew that this was Bisciotti’s way – he was a born salesman and he loved trying to win with the long shot. They thought Bisciotti might somehow find a way to lure Garrett to Baltimore despite the obvious relationship he had with Jerry Jones and whispers and promises of a future as the Dallas Cowboys head coach.

Garrett met with the media briefly, said all of the right things, and left Baltimore on the afternoon on January 15 for an interview with the Atlanta Falcons.

Garrett was already among the highest paid offensive coordinators in the NFL and taking a tour of other NFL facilities and interviewing for head coaching jobs could only strengthen his negotiating position in Dallas, where many believed his heart was steering him. Jerry Jones was telling him, “You’re going to be my guy.” Jones was adamant that Garrett was the guy to mentor Tony Romo to bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas.

Meanwhile, Billick had just been fired and Garrett was sitting in front of the Ravens search committee because the franchise had been so frustrated by the lack of a franchise quarterback. Garrett believed in Romo, but just how much? Enough to walk away from an NFL head coaching job and inheriting Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and company in Baltimore?

The money and the contract weren’t really the issue for Garrett. He was already reportedly making almost $3 million per year as a coordinator. Assistant coaches’ contracts are the one part of the NFL that still remain mostly a mystery. They don’t file the numbers with the league office. It’s almost a private matter and most importantly, it has no bearing on the league’s salary cap for players, which creates a level playing field across all 32 teams. But when it comes to coaches and their staffs, it’s true capitalism. There are no caps. There are no limits.

Any coach in the NFL would tell you that the most significant item on your shopping list as a head coach would be a quarterback. If your franchise doesn’t have a top-shelf signal caller, you’re probably not going to remain a head coach very long in the NFL.

It was clear that the Baltimore Ravens didn’t have anything resembling a franchise quarterback and were sitting with the 8th pick in the April 2008 draft. Hotshot Matt Ryan from Boston College wouldn’t make it that far down to be picked by Ozzie Newsome’s crew, and the team didn’t have the draft firepower or conviction to go and get him.

For Garrett, this wasn’t about money or the opportunity to be a head coach – it was apparent he was going to get a job somewhere sometime soon – it was more about the ability to win and the perception of the talent he was inheriting. And, really, where he and his wife wanted to be and build a career as an NFL head coach.

Garrett had as many questions for Bisciotti, Newsome and the Ravens’ search committee as they did for him. Some media organizations began hinting that Garrett was ready to sign on to become the head coach and Baltimore was buzzing with anticipation and doing its homework on the stranger from Dallas via Princeton.

The next morning, after Garrett visited with the Atlanta Falcons to interview for their head