When Jason Garrett didn't accept the Ravens' head coaching offer and left team headquarters yesterday, the Dallas offensive coordinator likely opened the door for Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach John Harbaugh, a league source said.
While the Ravens are still making a run at Garrett and are continuing to negotiate with him, the team understands that landing its top candidate might have become more difficult because he is being pursued by the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons.
According to the source, the Ravens are ready to hire Harbaugh as head coach over the next couple of days if Garrett is unavailable.
Harbaugh, 45, was the only candidate interviewed by the Ravens who was neither a coordinator nor an assistant head coach. He became the Eagles' secondary coach after spending nine seasons as the special teams coach.
Considered the dark-horse candidate, Harbaugh impressed the Ravens' coaching search committee with his energetic coaching style and charismatic personality. A finalist for the UCLA job last month, Harbaugh is the brother of former Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh.
The Ravens aggressively tried to hire Garrett yesterday, meeting with him for seven hours at team headquarters. But Garrett left for a second interview with the Atlanta Falcons, who have already offered him their coaching job, according to the NFL Network.
The Cowboys are also in the hunt to keep Garrett as their offensive coordinator. According to a league source, Dallas owner Jerry Jones made a counteroffer to match the contracts of the Ravens or the Falcons.
"I'm going to continue through this process that I'm in right now," said Garrett, 41, on leaving the Ravens facility. "At some point, we'll make some decisions on both sides."
The Ravens will continue with their second round of interviews, but they aren't scheduled to meet with anyone today because general manager Ozzie Newsome will be in Houston watching college prospects practice for the East-West Shrine Game.
Newsome declined to comment on the coaching search, and Bisciotti was not available to comment.
"We had a good day of interviews," Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "It's the start of our second round. [Garrett] is the first one in for the second round. We have more interviews in the second round coming up later in the week. And that's what we have to say right now."
According to a league source, the Ravens have ruled out veteran coach Marty Schottenheimer, which means Harbaugh is the team's next option.
Harbaugh could travel to Baltimore as early as today.
Asked if Schottenheimer would coach this season, his agent, Trace Armstrong, said yesterday: "There is a possibility. As Marty has said and I have said, it's about fit. He still has a passion for coaching, and he's got top-notch assistants that expressed interest to be a part of any staff that he'll assemble. He's enjoying retirement, but if there's a place with the right fit, he definitely would be interested."
While Garrett spent the day with the Ravens, former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan interviewed for a second time yesterday morning in Atlanta. He returned to Baltimore unannounced and crossed paths with Garrett at Ravens headquarters.
If Garrett returns to being a coordinator in Dallas, Ryan likely would be hired by the Falcons. If Garrett is hired by the Falcons, it probably would eliminate Ryan's best shot at becoming a head coach this season.
Garrett arrived in Baltimore on Monday night and had dinner with the Bisciotti family and members of the organization. He came to Ravens headquarters yesterday at 9:57 a.m. and was greeted by team president Dick Cass.
While team officials met with Garrett, his wife, Brill, was given a tour of the facility by Cass and then was driven around to see the area. Before Garrett left, he met one last time with Cass, who is a Princeton graduate like Garrett.
But Garrett decided to leave without becoming the Ravens' head coach.
"It's been an exciting time for me to be here and be around this organization," Garrett said. "I heard nothing but great things about it prior to coming here, and everything I've seen since I've been here has really been off the charts. It was a great second visit with these guys, and I really enjoyed the process of doing that."