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Search far from over

The Baltimore Sun

After the Ravens made their biggest decision by hiring a new head coach, John Harbaugh now has his own hiring to do.

Harbaugh has started the search for a coaching staff, a pivotal process, especially for a rookie head coach.

It is believed that the front-runners are Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur for offensive coordinator and Rex Ryan for defensive coordinator.

"There are a lot of good football coaches inside this building right now, and there are a lot of really good football coaches outside this building who want to coach for the Baltimore Ravens," Harbaugh said. "We're going to see what the best fit is for our players and what the best fit is with one another. We'll try to build strengths to other people's weaknesses and build a real chemistry on our staff. I don't think we're in a hurry to do that."

Shurmur has been with the Eagles for nine seasons, working with tight ends and offensive linemen before becoming quarterbacks coach in 2002.

But it's uncertain whether Shurmur, 42, will be available. He has a year remaining on his contract with the Eagles, who can block any move except a jump to a head coaching position.

Two years ago, when Brad Childress left the Eagles to become the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, he wasn't allowed to take any coaches from Philadelphia with him.

Another option for offensive coordinator is recently fired Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron, who had Harbaugh on his staff at the University of Indiana in 1997.

Asked about Shurmur, Harbaugh said: "I think Pat's a great coach. [But] I'm not going to give any names. I don't know how it's going to shake out."

At defensive coordinator, Ryan could be retained if he isn't hired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who have reopened their coaching search.

If Harbaugh wants Ryan, 45, the Ravens can keep him because he has a year remaining on his contract. They coached together at the University of Cincinnati in 1996.

Another possibility is Ron Rivera, who is thought to be close to Harbaugh. They coached together with the Eagles from 1999 to 2003, when Rivera was the linebackers coach.

Rivera was the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears for three seasons before becoming the San Diego Chargers' linebackers coach this season.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Why hire Pat Shurmur?

Personal sounding board. A rookie head coach needs someone he can trust and someone with whom he can bounce difficult decisions back and forth. He is close with Shurmur, having coached nine seasons with him.

Boost the passing game. The Ravens' air attack has underachieved despite having weapons such as Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams. Shurmur could change that because Philadelphia passed heavily. In the past four seasons, the Eagles ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in passing.

Track record with quarterbacks. With Shurmur as the quarterbacks coach, Donovan McNabb had three of his five Pro Bowl seasons. In 2004, McNabb became the first quarterback in NFL history to have a season with more than 30 touchdown passes (31) and fewer than 10 interceptions (eight). Shurmur also got the most out of journeymen Jeff Garcia and A.J. Feeley.

Why hire Rex Ryan?

Link to Ravens history and the players. Ryan is the only coach left from that dominating Super Bowl defense and has always trumpeted the Ravens' tradition. By keeping Ryan, Harbaugh would have a coach who could instantly gauge the pulse of this team.

Best coordinator available. If Harbaugh doesn't want him, Ryan would immediately have teams lined up to hire him (which could be the best indicator of why the Ravens should keep him). Retaining Ryan would nearly guarantee a top-five defense.

Motivation factor. There is a chance Ryan could be disgruntled because he wasn't a finalist for the Ravens' head coaching job. But sulking isn't Ryan's style. He would use this season to again prove to the league why he should be a head coach.

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