Though his first season in 2008 was challenging, Harbaugh ultimately won over the veterans. He had the self-assuredness to keep Ryan on as his assistant head coach and defensive coordinator and, by all accounts, the two got along well.

However, Ryan's presence in the building was a constant reminder of the decision that the organization made to bypass a coordinator who had so much loyalty among his players.

"You're always going to be closer to the guy that you know longer," former Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg said. "We all wanted Rex as the head coach, but Harbs has done a great job. I think it worked out great for the both of them, and winning cures everything."

Even during Harbaugh's finest hour — the Ravens' run in February to Super Bowl XLVII — players such as Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were getting asked in the days before the game about Ryan's tenuous status in New York. But those questions have died down, replaced by the reality that what was an unconventional head coaching decision at the time has worked out well for both men.

"How could you not say that?" asked Reed, the former Ravens safety who was picked up by the Jets last week after his release by the Houston Texans. "Rex came [to New York], went to [two] AFC championships, been successful, and coach Harbaugh came in, and we went to [three] AFC championships, been to the playoffs five years straight and won the Super Bowl. I think it worked out for both sides. We definitely grew as men in Baltimore, and I'm pretty sure the same has happened here."

Comparing coaches

John Harbaugh and Rex Ryan's NFL head coaching careers always will be linked after Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's decision to hire Harbaugh, then the special teams coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, over Ryan, then defensive coordinator for the Ravens. Here is a look at their head coaching records.

;John Harbaugh ;Rex Ryan

Number of seasons at helm; 6 ;5

Regular-season record; 58-32 ;39-35

Playoff record; 9-4 ; 4-2

Division championships; 2 ;0

AFC championship berths; 3 ;2

Super Bowl victories; 1 ;0

Head-to-head record; 2-0 ;0-2