Welcome home, Rex. That's what new Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said to Rex Ryan, who will return to the team as defensive coordinator. Ryan also earned a promotion to assistant head coach, a title that he would one day like to hold without the "assistant" part.
After two years with his name in the running for multiple head coaching positions and falling just short, Ryan feels that he is in the best scenario a coordinator could want.
One year ago, Ryan was a finalist for the vacant head job with the San Diego Chargers. Three weeks ago, he interviewed for the top spot with the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons (even going back to Atlanta for a second meeting).
But, Miami brought in former Dallas Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano and the Falcons gave it to Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
Ryan said his decision at that point was easy, although he still was listening to outside suitors.
"When it was clear that I wasn't going to become a head coach, I wanted to stay here in Baltimore," he explained. "The entire organization here is – you always talk about how it's a first-class organization. Quite honestly, I was hoping to get some interest from other teams, but I wanted to stay here. I'm just so happy to be here and be part of what I think is going to be a terrific season and a terrific future."
The most prominent of those suitors was the Washington Redskins, who are still courting candidates for their next head coach and had Ryan in consideration for both the head job and defensive coordinator.
Ryan doesn't think that his stint as the Ravens will last very long, however.
"I think eventually I will become a head coach - whether that's three, five, six, whatever years down the road, next year – and that's fine, and that'll be the right time," he said with confidence. "I think every coach has the goal of becoming a head coach if you truly believe in yourself and your abilities, but again, I'm doing what I love to do – I'm coaching."
The move marks Harbaugh's second coaching hire after adding offensive coordinator Cam Cameron last week, and is one that will certainly be a hit with the Ravens' players. Many in the locker room voiced their support for Ryan for head coach during the initial round of Baltimore's search.
"Rex is the type of guy I always have loved playing for," said linebacker Bart Scott. "The fact that he's back says that he has the respect of the players and the organization."
Ryan will continue to helm a defense that finished fifth in 2005, first in 2006 and sixth in 2007, Ryan's three years as defensive coordinator. As assistant head coach, Ryan will have the ability to contribute to the decision-making process at the highest level.
"He's going to be involved in every decision," Harbaugh said. "We said before, we're going to be shoulder-to-shoulder. I take that seriously. To me, it's not a title; it's a responsibility. I know he's going to take it seriously. He's going to be excited to be a part of it."
Harbaugh also decided to retain defensive line coach Clarence Brooks and is considering bringing back outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine.
"Everything I've heard about Mike has been positive, and I was very impressed in the interviews with Mike," stated the head coach.