After a week of interviews with both college and NFL coaches, four leading candidates have emerged to fill the Ravens’ offensive coordinator vacancy.
Current Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson, former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan remain under strong consideration to replace Jim Caldwell, who was hired as the Lions’ head coach on Jan.14.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh broke his silence on the interview process to the Ravens’ team website, acknowledging the names of the top candidates and saying that while he has no timetable for making the hire, he doesn’t want the situation to go on “much longer.”
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It’s possible that Harbaugh, who stayed in Baltimore interviewing candidates while his staff is in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl, could make a decision soon after speaking to Wilson. That interview is expected to take place Wednesday.
Hostler has been considered one of the favorites for the job since Caldwell’s departure, largely because of Harbaugh’s history of promoting from within. Multiple NFL sources at this week’s Senior Bowl said that they believe Hostler is likely to get the job though Harbaugh is still mulling a decision.
Wilson, 52, is the new name to emerge from a process that Harbaugh wanted to be “thorough but decisive,” according to baltimoreravens.com. He told the web site that he spoke to one or two coaches each day last week and the process continued throughout the weekend with both college and pro coaches being interviewed.
Of the four final leading contenders, Wilson is the only one without NFL offensive coordinator experience. However, the Steelers’ running backs coach since 2007 was in line to become Mike Tomlin’s offensive coordinator before he suffered significant burns in a house fire in January 2012.
Shanahan, 34, was the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator from 2008-09 and the Redskins’ offensive coordinator under his father from 2010 to 2013. Linehan, 50, was the St. Louis Rams’ head coach from 2006 to 2008 and had stints as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings (2002-04), Miami Dolphins (2005) and Lions (2009-13).
Hostler, the Ravens’ wide receivers coach since 2008, was the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2007. Harbaugh has filled four previous coordinator openings — three of them on defense — with coaches already on his staff, and Hostler, 47, being promoted would continue that trend.
While he got poor results in his one season as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator — San Francisco ranked last in the NFL In total yards and points per game —Hostler has a good relationship with several of the Ravens’ offensive standouts, including quarterback Joe Flacco, and he’s gotten high marks for his work with young receivers like Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown.
Hostler would also make for the easiest transition for an offensive that ranked 29th in the NFL this past season. Harbaugh told the team site that he’s looking for a coach that matches the Ravens’ offensive philosophy “which is an aggressive, physical, creative and downhill attacking offense.”
The new offensive coordinator certainly will have plenty to fix as Flacco threw a franchise-record 22 interceptions, running back Ray Rice had his worst season since his rookie year with 660 rushing yards and the offensive line was overmatched at times.
The hiring of Wilson certainly would reaffirm the Ravens’ commitment to fixing their running game, which hit a franchise low this season in total yards. Wilson has spent the past seven seasons coaching the running backs for Pittsburgh, an organization that has long advocated a physical and downhill running attack. Wilson also has served as the running backs coach for the New England Patriots, Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals.
Linehan, who interviewed with Harbaugh on Monday, is on the other end of the coaching spectrum. His pass-happy offenses in Detroit ranked in the top six over the past three seasons and the Lions’ Matthew Stafford has thrown more passes since 2011 than any quarterback in the NFL.
Shanahan’s offenses in both Houston and Washington have also been extremely productive ranking in the top 10 in the NFL in total yards four times in his six seasons. Shanahan has also had significant success with the zone-blocking scheme, also advocated by Ravens’ offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
Harbaugh also told the team website that he has interviewed several candidates for the quarterbacks coach job. It’s possible that either Linehan or Shanahan could be up for that vacancy if they don’t get the offensive coordinator job. But the Ravens will worry about that, along with their running backs coach opening, after they settle on an offensive coordinator.
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.