(For this Friday, I was planning to write about the hiring of Gary Kubiak and everything I saw over the past couple of weeks in our search for a new offensive coordinator. Instead, I decided to do this today after reading a column in the Baltimore Sun this morning and then hearing some sports talk show hosts repeat what that column proclaimed.
The columnist tweeted this on Monday: “Finger prints of owner, Steve Bisciotti, and general manager Ozzie Newsome all over possible Kubiak hiring. Harbaugh was non-factor.” Columnist then came back this morning with quotes from Ozzie Newsome’s brain: “John, you’ve got one chance to get this right. If you don’t, you could lose the right to name future coaches…”
C’mon Man! This franchise, the Baltimore Ravens, is very well respected for being run the right way, for winning and for letting people do their jobs. Harbaugh a non-factor? Please! Do any of you think that Steve and Ozzie are giving ultimatums to the head coach who won the last Super Bowl played and is the first coach in NFL history to lead teams to the playoffs for five-consecutive years and win at least one game in each of those postseasons?
Hey, it’s a collaborative effort here. We trust each other. We bounce things off each other. What was reported was wrong! Here’s what I know – what I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears – not reading anyone’s mind about the hiring of Gary Kubiak.)
The Hiring Of Gary Kubiak
“When John [Harbaugh] told us that he didn’t want to leave any stone unturned, he meant it,” general manager Ozzie Newsome chuckled this morning.
“His process for hiring the offensive coordinator was typical John: thorough, tireless and consuming. Ever since Jim [Caldwell] was hired by the Lions, John seemed to spend all of his waking hours working to find the right guy,” Newsome said.
Coach Caldwell was named Detroit’s head coach on Jan. 14.
“I knew Jim had a legitimate shot to be some team’s head coach. I had already started to compile a list of candidates in my mind,” Harbaugh explained earlier today. “Before Jim got the job, I also asked Ozzie to canvas our college scouts to get a list of the best at the college level.
“There were obvious ones I thought about right away. There was Jim [Hostler, Ravens wide receivers coach] and the respected coordinators available at the time like Gary [Kubiak], Kyle Shanahan, Brad [Childress], Scott Linehan, Norv Turner, ‘Chud’ [Rob Chudzinski, who had just been let go as the Browns’ head coach].
“There were some [NFL] position coaches I’ve had my eye on, and Ozzie was a good sounding board here and had some suggestions,” Harbs continued. “We brought in Kirby [Wilson, then-Steelers’ running backs coach].
“The guys we were immediately serious about seemed serious about us, and there was not a candidate saying, ‘Hey, you have to let me know now, or I’m going to another team.’ You also had to look at each candidate and make the decision if what he believes in is a fit for us offensively and scheme-wise. You look to find what could fit our players best.”
Newsome liked the Harbaugh method. “John was really using the same kind of process we used when we hired him. He was gathering as much information as he could by calling lots of people. We were calling some too and sharing that with him,” Newsome explained.
The Interviews Start
The day after Caldwell was named in Detroit, Harbs brought Shanahan to Owings Mills. Within a few days, other coaches visited. Among those arriving were Mike Sullivan [former Tampa Bay OC], Joe Lombardi [formerly of the Saints and the new OC at Detroit] and Charlie Taaffe, the OC at Central Florida, who is a hot name in the coaching world right now.
Harbaugh brought some back for second interviews, all the while making calls on the candidates and listening to others who wanted their hats in the Ravens’ ring. (When John brought Shanahan and Wilson back for second interviews, he had each sit with the Ravens’ defensive staff to answer questions and present offensive philosophies. Harbs made Hostler do the same. Typical of Harbs, he was being very thorough.)
Mystery Candidate Pops Up
Those second interviews concluded last Friday (Jan. 24) afternoon. And, just when I thought we were close to hiring the coordinator, a new coach came up. A prominent NFC offensive coordinator was interested in the job. When I left the office late that afternoon, Harbs said: “Stand by. We could have a coordinator tomorrow – or, it could be next week. There’s another candidate in the mix. And, I’m still calling some guys about the coaches we interviewed.”
As it turned out, the NFC team refused permission for us to talk with the prominent OC. However, one of the calls John made was to Rick Dennison, who had been the offensive coordinator for the Texans the last four years. Harbaugh was calling Dennison to talk about Shanahan, because Kyle and Rick had worked together in Houston and Denver.
“Before that conversation with Rick, I was ready to make the call between ‘Hoss’ [Hostler] and Kyle, two really good coaches. In my conversations with Rick, he suggested reaching out to Gary,” Harbaugh explained. “We had discussed Kubiak early in the process, but Gary was a head-coaching candidate, and we knew he had turned down some teams for the offensive coordinator position.
“I called Gary on Saturday, and we had a long conversation. We found that we agreed on many of the fundamentals needed to make an offense great, and he agreed to fly to Baltimore as soon as he could. I let Ozzie know and asked him to help get more information on Gary. Ozzie called Rick Smith [the general manager] of the Texans to get a little more of a feel about where Gary was at right now. Oz called me back and said Rick was very strong on Gary – very positive.
“I called Steve [Bisciotti], who was in Florida, and let him know [the NFC coordinator] was not allowed to interview with us and that I had talked with Gary Kubiak and invited him to interview,” Harbaugh continued. “Gary was here Sunday afternoon, and we met at my house. By the end of the evening, I knew we had the right guy.
“On Monday morning, Gary and I met again [at the Under Armour Performance Center]. We talked about the structure of the offense, along with the day-to-day coaching and operations – basically, how the offense would be coordinated. After that, I offered him the job, and he said, ‘Yes.’”
All About Timing
Sometimes it’s all about timing.
“I think if we had reached out to Gary when Jim left for the Lions, I don’t think we would have gotten him,” Harbaugh said this afternoon.
Coach Kubiak agreed. “I wasn’t ready to talk about coordinators’ jobs two weeks ago and turned down some respected opportunities,” Kubiak told me today. “I was thinking about those head-coaching jobs that were open, and my wife and I had talked about the possibility of sitting [out of the NFL] for a year. Truth is, I was looking for something to hit me right between the eyes. The Ravens’ job did.”
Judging by the smiles around here, that bull’s-eye is the target that will move us to a better offense in the 2014 season.
What a coup! Gary Kubiak, recognized as one of the NFL’s best coordinators and play-callers, is a Raven. Now that’s a good start to the offseason.
Talk with you soon,
P.S. By the way, Ozzie made a strong point to me this morning about Jim Caldwell. “I get so angry when I hear or read that John was going to fire Jim if the Lions had not made him their head coach. That is so completely wrong, untrue and really unfair to Jim. Harbs told me he was bringing him back. That’s the truth. How does that other stuff get out there as real? Don’t you have to have some facts to report before you can say that?”