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

January 12, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

coaching position, it was apparent that the Ravens would need to continue their search.

Garrett called Bisciotti and declined his offer to become head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, opting as was originally expected to remain in Dallas as the offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.

Bisciotti, in offering a 1-in-32 chance of a lifetime to become an NFL head coach, had been rebuffed in his first offer of marriage to a “hot coordinator.”

“We weren’t wrong in looking at Jason Garrett, “ Bisciotti later said. “I don’t want anybody to think we feel jilted by Jason. Jason is an honorable guy and was in as difficult and unique a set of circumstances that any coach has ever been put in. Jason did what he thought was right at the end of the day. Jason is a man of character. He did not come here and go to Atlanta to just milk Jerry Jones. I know Jerry. And I know how persuasive he is. People here were worried if he left the building that Jerry would talk him into staying and we wouldn’t get him. I said, ‘Look, if Jerry can talk him into staying then I don’t want him.’ It has to be great for Jason. He’s a wonderful guy and he’s going to make a great coach and it seems to me it’s going to be for the Dallas Cowboys.”

It was time for Bisciotti and his crew to circle back to the other candidates and find the next head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

 

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The morning after he was fired, New Year’s Day 2008, Brian Billick came to Owings Mills one final time. He came in that awkward way to sadly, and for him, shockingly, clean out his office. His nine years as the Baltimore Ravens head coach were over and someone else would be taking over his view overlooking the fields in Owings Mills and overseeing the future of the franchise. Taking those memories off the wall was one of the darkest days of Brian Billick’s life.

Meanwhile, on a day that is a holiday to virtually everyone else in Baltimore, one of Billick’s best friends in the building and confidant Ozzie Newsome was in the office across the hallway early in the morning trying to put together a list of candidates for his all-too-surprising search for a head coach. Despite being in charge of player personnel since the Ravens’ inception in 1996, this was his first real search because the previous mission that ended with the hiring of Billick was led more by David Modell in late 1998 as a liaison to Art Modell.

Newsome was intimately familiar with personnel – he had been a Hall of Fame player, a short-term coach and a scout of talent on the field – but he had never really been in charge of finding coaches. That had always been Billick’s department. Clearly, Newsome would have some expertise in what criteria he wanted, but not as much with actual personalities because he probably never put much energy into thinking about whom he’d be replacing Billick with because Brian wasn’t about to be fired — not with $18 million left on his contract.

Newsome and Billick had forged a bond together over the previous decade of meetings, late nights, wins and losses over the years and they shared in Super Bowl XXXV glory. Newsome truly believed that Billick had a knack for picking great coaches and his resume is impeccable. Six Billick assistants from his era as Baltimore Ravens’ head coach went on to become NFL head coaches – Marvin Lewis, Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith, Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and Rex Ryan. Billick also had ties to the coaching community and fraternity because he had been at the game so long and learned it from his mentors, Bill Walsh and Denny Green.

Billick kept one of the NFL’s most active rolodex with coaching prospects and was originally headed to Miami the next day to try to hire Cam Cameron as his next offensive coordinator for the Ravens before he was fired less than 24 hours earlier. Billick always had a plan, always knew whose contracts were up and what every assistant coach in the league was doing to move up the NFL coaching ladder – the same way he did 15 years earlier in Minnesota when he was the assistant trying to earn a promotion to head coach.

While in the office together lamenting the end of their working relationship, Newsome prodded a shell-shocked Billick for a recommendation for a successor less than 24 hours after he’d been fired. Billick recommended he call his old BYU pal Andy Reid and ask about Philadelphia Eagles special teams and defensive backs coach John Harbaugh.

The name Harbaugh had forever been famous in NFL circles, ever since Jim Harbaugh, John’s younger brother by 15 months, quarterbacked the Chicago Bears in the waning days of the Mike Ditka era in the late 1980’s. Jim also led the Michigan Wolverines to the 1987 Rose Bowl and came a tipped ball away from leading the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl in January 1996 as the Baltimore Ravens were being birthed from the Cleveland Browns amidst a sea of litigation. Jim Harbaugh also later became the starting quarterback of the 1998 Baltimore Ravens in the first season John Harbaugh was the special teams coach of the Eagles.

The name “Harbaugh” meant something to everyone in Baltimore who knew anything about football. There were still plenty of