One year after John Harbaugh coaxed Greg Mattison out of college football, he turned over the Ravens' defense to his longtime friend.
Mattison, 59, who spent the 2008 season coaching the Ravens' inside linebackers, will succeed Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator, the team announced yesterday.
The decision to stay in-house with the next coordinator was Harbaugh's in a concession to continuity and chemistry. Mattison was selected after a round of four interviews with staff members Vic Fangio, Clarence Brooks and Chuck Pagano.
"I'm very humbled and very proud to be named the coordinator of the Ravens," Mattison said at a news conference. "I think the biggest thing I plan on doing is utilizing a great staff. Our defensive staff is out of sight, and we will work very closely together in making sure we keep moving toward that bar that's been established, the way we play defense here."
Harbaugh actually had two staff positions to fill. When Ryan became coach of the New York Jets last week, he took Mike Pettine as his defensive coordinator. Pettine coached outside linebackers for the Ravens the past four seasons.
To fill the void, Harbaugh said, Fangio will coach all linebackers next season and continue in his role as special assistant to Harbaugh.
Harbaugh also said special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg will take over the title of assistant head coach, previously held by Ryan.
That's not necessarily the end of the staff shuffle, however. Quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator position last week. Harbaugh said he hopes to hold the rest of his staff together, "but at the same time, we don't want to hold people back unfairly from opportunities."
He said there would be no more defections to Ryan and the Jets, however.
Hiring "Mike Pettine, obviously, was important to Rex, and we allowed that to happen," Harbaugh said. "It's good for both those guys. But Rex is finished with the Ravens - as far as that goes."
With Mattison - who spent 31 years coaching in college, including at Michigan, Notre Dame and Florida - Harbaugh said, he can keep the same chemistry in the locker room that Ryan had.
"Rex did a tremendous job of getting the most out of his players and having them believe and trust in what they're doing, be accountable for what they're doing," Harbaugh said. "And those are the strengths that I've always felt Greg had as a coach. ... I think our defense will evolve in that way, just like we have in the past here."
Mattison's college defenses were attack-styled schemes. In 2002 at Notre Dame, his defensive line alone collected 37 sacks. In 2007 at Florida, one year after the Gators won a national title, they ranked 10th nationally in rush defense.
"I believe very strongly that you have to be aggressive, you have to be an attacking defense," he said. "Obviously, that's been the M.O. of the defense here for years. In looking at what we do defensively, we don't plan on changing a great deal. It's not broken, by any means."
Mattison said he will retain the Ravens' base 3-4 defense but continue to use a 4-3 front at times as Ryan did. One of his first offseason projects will be to break down every defensive call in 2008 to see where the scheme can be tweaked or improved.
"We're also going to really study closely to make sure we're getting our best players in the best position for them to have success," he said. "I think that's something Rex did a great job of, and we'll continue to do that."
Harbaugh has known Mattison since they served on the staff of his father, Jack Harbaugh, at Western Michigan, from 1984 to 1986. John spent two years coaching outside linebackers under Mattison.
He was struck by Mattison's honesty and sincerity.
"He has a real commanding presence, and he's a real honest guy," John Harbaugh said. "He's the kind of guy you felt ... you could always trust what he said. Young coaches from all over would call Greg and ask, 'What do you think?' He was the kind of guy you could go to, you could lean on."
RAVENS ASSISTANTS WITH NEW TITLES
New title: Defensive coordinator
Years in NFL: 1
Background: Spent 31 years at college level and was defensive coordinator at four schools, including Florida during its 2006 national championship season. Worked with Ravens coach John Harbaugh at Western Michigan from 1984 to 1986 under Jack Harbaugh. Coached inside linebackers in 2008 for the Ravens.
New title: Assistant head coach
Years in NFL: 8
Background: Worked with John Harbaugh at the University of Cincinnati from 1992 to 1995. Rejoined Harbaugh this season after special teams stints spanning seven years with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.
New title: Linebackers coach
Years in NFL: 23
Background: Served as defensive coordinator for three teams (Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans). Also spent two years in the U.S. Football League with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. Joined Brian Billick's staff in 2006.