Ravens continue strategy of hiring assistants with head-coaching experience

When they hired Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator, the Ravens continued a recent trend of adding former head coaches to their staff.
When they hired Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator, the Ravens continued a recent trend of adding former head coaches to their staff. (Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press)

As Ravens coach John Harbaugh looked this month for an offensive coordinator yet again, he returned to a familiar script that has emerged. Like all of his previous offensive coordinator hires, Harbaugh selected a former head coach, Marc Trestman.

To Harbaugh, the benefit of having someone with an experienced mind in that role far outweighs the possibility of the coordinator finding another head-coaching job. Those other opportunities only come with success, which no matter how it comes, is how teams and franchises are measured.


"When you hire great coaches, coaches are going to get opportunities," Harbaugh said on a recent conference call while introducing Trestman. "All things work for good, and this is going to be a good thing going forward, just like having Gary [Kubiak] here for a year was a good thing.

"I'm not worried about how long it is or how long it goes — I'm worried about this year and the type of football team that we can be immediately this year going forward."


Under that mindset, John Harbaugh — who just completed his seventh season as coach — brought in his sixth former head coach to join the offensive coaching staff. Only Al Saunders, who was with the Ravens in 2009 and 2010, was not coming directly off a stint as a head coach when he arrived in the organization.

Trestman comes to Baltimore after nearly three decades in coaching and, most recently, two seasons as Chicago Bears head coach. He replaces offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who was coming off eight seasons as the Houston Texans head coach and who earlier this month was hired as Denver Broncos head coach.

Coaching with Harbaugh was "as much fun as I've had in my career," Kubiak said.

"I was able to get back on the horse, and I was able to do that at a place with tremendous expectations and a great coaching staff," he said. "I couldn't have worked for a better guy than John Harbaugh. He was very positive with me and Rick [Dennison] and supported us. It's like anything else in life. You surround yourself with good people. I'm so glad I was able to a part of that."

Kubiak took over for Jim Caldwell, who joined the Ravens' coaching staff as quarterbacks coach in 2012 after three seasons in charge of the Indianapolis Colts, and who was elevated to offensive coordinator later that season after Cam Cameron was let go in the final month of the season. Cameron was a former Miami Dolphins head coach whose four-plus seasons as the Ravens offensive coordinator came directly after that job.

Former Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn served as the Ravens quarterbacks coach in 2010, while Saunders — who was the San Diego Chargers head coach from 1986 to 1988 — was an offensive consultant with the Ravens in 2009 and a senior offensive consultant the next season.

While hiring former head coaches isn't unprecedented, Harbaugh said he views it as "an advantage in and of itself.

"It's kind of a unique experience, and it helps in a lot of different ways from perspective, to big-picture view of things," Harbaugh said.

Former Redskins and Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly, now an NFL Network analyst, said Harbaugh filling key openings in his staff that way means a few things about his approach.

"One, I think he's very comfortable in his leadership ability," Casserly said. "Number two, he's trying to surround himself with an excellent staff, to give the Ravens the best coaching staff possible.

"The single most important thing of hiring a staff is finding a group that works best together. What you have to be careful of is you bring people in who have been a head coach and they can't adjust to being an assistant. I think John has done a great job of identifying who can and who can't do that, and managing his staff."

Casserly said he believes Trestman, like Kubiak before him, will settle into the Ravens coaching staff. Trestman said last week that he is "grateful to get myself to stay in the game," and isn't focused on getting another head-coaching job.


Despite the Ravens' proclivity for more experienced play-callers, young talent still permeates through the staff. The additions of running backs coach Thomas Hammock and wide receivers coach Bobby Engram both drew strong reviews in 2014 from players and fellow coaches.

There also have been up-and-coming coaches on the defensive side, where former defensive backs coach Teryl Austin is in line for a head-coaching job after a successful season as defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions.

The Ravens also have several former assistants under Harbaugh who are current head coaches in the NFL.

Current Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan finished his 10-year tenure with the Ravens in Harbaugh's first season with the team in 2008. He was the Ravens defensive coordinator and assistant head coach under Harbaugh before leaving to become the coach of the New York Jets.

Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine was with the Ravens from 2002 until 2008, when he left with Ryan to join the Jets as defensive coordinator. After one year as Bills defensive coordinator, he became the Browns coach before this past season.

The Ravens also produced Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was Ravens secondary coach from 2008 to 2010 and defensive coordinator in 2011 before earning a top job the next season.

Casserly said he believes Harbaugh has discovered the correct balance of experienced coaches and young talent in Baltimore.

"You want to have a combination of some veteran guys and some young guys," Casserly said. "I think it gives you a good cross-section in your meetings. You've got people who have been there, done it, seen it, and you've got young people who don't know any bounds, if you will, and have no limitations on their thinking based on experience so you have a good mix, good chemistry."


Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.

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