Ravens Have Success Hiring Former Head Coaches


Head Coach John Harbaugh interviewed Marc Trestman and Adam Gase for the open offensive coordinator position on the same day, Monday, Jan. 19. 

The 59-year-old Trestman, who had worked with nine different NFL teams, went first. He was followed by Gase, the 36-year-old who had worked with three NFL teams.

While Harbaugh said both did an "excellent" job in their interviews, Harbaugh went with the experience. Trestman had something on his resume that Gase just couldn't match.

Trestman was a former head coach, something Harbaugh has found success with when hiring assistants during his eight years with the Ravens.

Harbaugh completed his coaching staff on Wednesday. He has now brought on eight former NFL head coaches over his time as a Raven, including seven on the offensive side of the ball.

He did it twice this year with Trestman, the Chicago Bears' head coach the past two years, and Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg, the Detroit Lions' head coach in 2001 and 2002.

"I think that's an advantage in and of itself. Guys having had that experience – bringing that experience to the table, just like any other experience," Harbaugh said. "It's kind of a unique experience, and it helps in a lot of different ways from perspective to big-picture view of things."

The trend began from the start of Harbaugh's tenure in Baltimore.

His first offensive coordinator hire was Cam Cameron, who was coming off a [add] one-[hyphen]year stint as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. While Cameron's offense never ranked in the top 10, they averaged 17th (about right in the middle) in the NFL during his four years, and he helped lay the foundation with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.

Cameron was replaced mid-season in 2012 by Jim Caldwell, who was the Indianapolis Colts' head coach the year prior. Caldwell jumpstarted Flacco and an offense that led the Ravens to the Super Bowl XLVII title. Caldwell left for another head coaching gig in Detroit one year later.

Caldwell was replaced by Gary Kubiak, the former head coach of the Houston Texans for eight years. Kubiak delivered franchise highs in yards and points per game before departing after one season for a head coaching job in Denver.

Harbaugh's other former head coaching hires as offensive assistants are former Redskins Head Coach Jim Zorn (quarterbacks coach, 2010) and former San Diego Chargers Head Coach Al Saunders (senior offensive consultant, 2009-2010).

Harbaugh has promoted from within on defense, including Chuck Pagano to defensive coordinator before he left for Indianapolis. He has also had other coaches leave for NFL promotions with Rex Ryan (Jets/Bills), Teryl Austin (Lions) and most recently Steve Spagnuolo (Giants), who was Harbs' only defensive hire that was a former NFL head coach.

Offensively, Harbaugh has leaned more on previous experience, which is something Trestman has plenty of.

"Marc's experiences are broad," Harbaugh said. "It's not just being a head coach – although that's a big part of it.

"He has been a head coach for a number of years, very successfully in Canada and in Chicago, especially the first year. And he has been highly experienced as an offensive coordinator in a number of different systems, going all the way back to San Francisco in the Bill Walsh West Coast System, which is his foundation. So, he brings a lot of experience to the table, and that's going to be a big plus for us."

The other end of the double-edged sword that comes with success is that Harbaugh's former head coaches have sometimes left as quick as they've come (Caldwell and Kubiak).

Harbaugh said he thought "a little bit" about how long Trestman may stay in Baltimore before hiring him, but said it can't be the main factor because it's so unpredictable when coaches may leave. Harbaugh said Kubiak was planning on being in Baltimore for "some number of years" before his dream job opened up in Denver.

Harbaugh said he just puts it in God's hands and has faith in the path going forward.

"When you hire great coaches, coaches are going to get opportunities," Harbaugh said. "All things work for the good, and this is going to be a good thing going forward just like having Gary 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."

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