A winding road

DEC 31

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti (left) surprisingly fires coach Brian Billick after nine seasons and a Super Bowl victory. The decision comes 18 days after a high-ranking team official told The Sun that Bisciotti had informed Billick he would return. "I believed that it was time for a change," a visibly upset Bisciotti says. "I believe we have the nucleus of a team that can get back to the Super Bowl. We felt that in the next five years that we had a better chance with a new coach than leaving Brian in that position." The dismissal comes a day after Billick finished a 5-11 season, the worst record in his run as Ravens coach. Because Billick was fired one season after being signed to a new four-year contract, the Ravens owe him $15 million over the next three years.


JAN. 1

The Ravens' search committee engages in its first meeting, which lasts the entire day. The meetings are attended by Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty, director of college scouting Eric DeCosta, director of pro personnel George Kokinis, assistant director of pro personnel Vince Newsome and senior vice president of public relations Kevin Byrne.


JAN. 2

The Ravens request permission to speak to four NFL assistants whose teams are in the playoffs: Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and assistant head coach Tony Sparano, Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

JAN. 3

McDaniels says he is not interested in pursuing head coaching jobs this year. McDaniels, though, wasn't believed to be at the top of the Ravens' list. The Ravens request permission to talk to Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

JAN. 4

The Ravens interview their first candidate, Caldwell. Most teams seeking head coaches traveled to meet the assistants still in the playoffs. But the Ravens fly their candidates to their $32 million, state-of-the-art team headquarters. Also, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a respected assistant during his time with the Ravens, withdraws his name from consideration. "I've got a great job here, and with that being said, I'm sure Baltimore will get a top-notch coach," Ferentz says.

JAN. 5

The Ravens meet with Garrett and Sparano. Garrett is widely considered the front-runner for the Ravens' job, while Sparano has been linked to the Miami Dolphins' vacancy.


JAN. 6

The Ravens interview their only in-house candidate, meeting with recently fired defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. He arrives for his meeting by parking in the head coach's parking space at the team headquarters. Chudzinski cancels his trip to meet the Ravens after receiving a contract extension from the Browns.

JAN. 7

New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the son of Marty Schottenheimer, meets with Ravens officials. His offense finished 25th in 2006 and 26th this season. Schottenheimer declines to stop and talk to reporters, saying only, "I had a great day" as he walks across the darkened parking lot.

JAN. 8

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach John Harbaugh becomes the sixth candidate to interview for the Ravens' job, but he is the first who is neither a coordinator nor an assistant head coach. "I don't think there's any one way to prepare to be a head coach," Harbaugh says. "[Eagles coach] Andy Reid was never a coordinator before he became a head coach, and he's one of the best in the league."


JAN. 9

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher ends speculation that he will return to coaching next season, saying he will remain a television analyst for another year. "I don't have any plans to coach in 2008," Cowher says. He indicates that he hasn't been contacted by the Ravens for their opening.

JAN. 10

The agent for Marty Schottenheimer confirms that the veteran coach has spoken with the Ravens about their vacancy. "There's been some discussion, but nothing substantive," says Trace Armstrong, a former NFL player who represents Schottenheimer.

JAN. 13

The Cowboys are upset by the New York Giants, 21-17, in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. That allows the Ravens to pursue the Cowboys' Garrett (below, center).


JAN. 14

After spending most of the day in end-of-the-season meetings in Dallas, Garrett flies to Baltimore for a second interview. Garrett and his wife, Brill, have dinner with the Bisciotti family and members of the organization.

JAN. 15

The Ravens aggressively try to hire Garrett, meeting with him for seven hours at team headquarters. While team officials met with Garrett, his wife was given a tour of the facility by Cass and then was driven around to see the area. But Garrett left for a second interview with the Atlanta Falcons. "I'm going to continue through this process that I'm in right now," Garrett says. "At some point, we'll make some decisions on both sides."

JAN. 16

Garrett leaves Atlanta and heads back to Dallas, where he has a late-night meeting with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. A league source says Garrett has narrowed his job choices to taking the Ravens' head coaching post or remaining the offensive coordinator of the Cowboys.


JAN. 17

Garrett turns down the Ravens' offer and decides to stay as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator. He reportedly will receive a new contract - possibly worth more than Dallas head coach Wade Phillips' deal for $3 million a season - and the title of assistant head coach. The Ravens spend more than two hours re-evaluating their search. "We did negotiate with Jason Garrett to become our head coach," the Ravens say in a news release. "In the end, he decided to stay in Dallas. We're continuing our second round of interviews."

JAN. 18

Harbaugh arrives for his second interview at 9 a.m. About 8 1/2 hours later, he accepts the Ravens' offer and becomes the third coach in the team's history. At 45, he is the ninth-youngest coach in the NFL. "I don't think age has anything to do with being a head coach or coordinator," tight end Todd Heap says. "It's that innate ability to rally guys and make them believe in your coaching ability."