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

January 12, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

head coach in Westwood, leaving Harbaugh as a college head coaching bridesmaid once again.

“I understand why they went with Rick, really,” Harbaugh said. “By the time I had gone through the process I was honestly relieved that I didn’t get the job. It was like, ‘Thank god!’ The more I’d thought about it and competing against my brother for recruits in California and the feel of the thing when I was there, whew, it was like a weight off my shoulders when they gave Neuheisel the job. It was a great job, but it never felt like the right job for me.”

The next day the Eagles ended the season with an 8-8 mark on the high of a three-game winning streak after beating the Buffalo Bills, 17-9, in Philadelphia and the not-too-disappointed Harbaugh went to work on the offseason of trying to get better as he’d done for a decade.

Forty-eight hours later, on Billick’s advice earlier that day, Andy Reid received a phone call from Ozzie Newsome.

“I was kinda taken aback at first,” Reid recalled. “John had a few interviews to be a college head coach and that UCLA thing seemed like it was close and it made sense there so I said some nice things about John initially, but I was surprised to get a call about him as a candidate from an NFL team.”

Reid called his pal Billick back later in the day and said, “I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job stressing to Ozzie what a good candidate I think John is. Can you give me Ozzie’s cell number so I can call him again and talk more about John?”

“The more I thought about it the more I thought it was genius and I wanted to tell Ozzie that,” Reid said. “No one is a bigger John Harbaugh fan than I am. He’s very thorough with an amazing attention to detail. He’s smart, tough. It really surprises me that there aren’t more special teams coaches considered to be head coaches because no one does more preparation or has more facets of the game to worry about. I told Ozzie he was a genius.”

Harbaugh knew that the Ravens were “calling around” about him, but he also knew he was an absolute long shot. He was a special teams coach. What NFL owner was going to trust his billion-dollar franchise to a special teams coach?

Steve Bisciotti and his search committee called at least 30 different references on all five of the men they considered in addition to Rex Ryan, who they felt they knew intimately.

So, Harbaugh was getting an earful from his many contacts and moles around the league and the more calls that went out the more he believed he might be in the running to at least get an interview because it was clear that the Ravens were being thorough in calling every person in the business who would give them intelligence on him.

Meanwhile, after losing out on the UCLA job the previous weekend in Westwood near Los Angeles, John was again flying westward to Palo Alto in Northern California to see his brother Jim and be a part of the rehearsal dinner for his marriage.

“I know I’m a long shot and of course my brother knows that I’m a little excited because the Ravens are calling around about me,” Harbaugh said. “But trust me I was very low key about it because it didn’t feel like I had a real chance.”

During the toast that evening at Stanford Stadium, Jim Harbaugh was anything but low key. He decided it was the perfect time to give his big brother a shout out and introduced him to the room as “the next coach of the Baltimore Ravens.”

“He was just being a total wise ass,” John said. “That’s so him!”

That was Saturday night.

The next morning, while standing at the San Francisco airport waiting for a flight with his five-year old daughter Alison, Harbaugh’s cell phone rang. It was Ozzie Newsome.

“John,” Newsome said, “we’d like to interview you for the head coaching job of the Baltimore Ravens.”

Harbaugh flew back and used Monday to get ready to interview