Ravens believe Rex Ryan is ready

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan has been targeted by the San Diego Chargers as a candidate for head coach in the wake of firing Marty Schottenheimer. The Chargers have received permission to interview Ryan and are expected to meet with him on Thursday.

"Yes, Rex has been granted permission to interview," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Tuesday night.

Rivera will be the second to interview, following San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary on Wednesday.

"I hope we don't lose Rex as our coach, but he deserves this opportunity," Pro Bowl linebacker Bart Scott said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. "Rex is a players' coach and he would be successful anywhere as a head coach. I just hope we can keep him, but you never want to stand in the way of anyone's dream."

Ryan, the son of fiery former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, is the architect of the league's top-ranked defense. The Chargers run a 3-4 scheme that features Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman as the centerpiece of an aggressive front seven.

Ryan has significant experience working with 3-4 athletes in Baltimore. Under Ryan, the Ravens' trademark has been unpredictability, lining up athletic defenders at multiple positions, especially Pro Bowl outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, to create confusion.

"I think he's as ready to be a head coach as any coach I've been around," Ravens coach Brian Billick said last month regarding Ryan.

When he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma in 1998, Ryan co-authored a book on his father's 46 defense that rose to fame with the 1985 Chicago Bears.

The Ravens allowed a league-low 264.1 yards per contest last season, leading the NFL with 28 interceptions with five touchdowns while finishing second behind the Chargers with a franchise-record 60 sacks. All four linebackers -- Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Thomas and Terrell Suggs -- earned Pro Bowl recognition last season and safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris McAlister also made the AFC squad.

If Ryan gets the job, he would become the fourth former Baltimore defensive assistant to ascend to the head coaching ranks, joining 49ers coach Mike Nolan, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio and Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.

"When you're a Ryan, you're born with a blitz package in your DNA," Scott said during the season. "Rex is the mad scientist, that's what we call him. He always has new schemes for us. "He keeps us happy, gives us all a chance to make a big play. He takes advantage of the athletes that we have and, in the end, keeps quarterbacks guessing with all we do."

No time table has been set to fill the San Diego job for which the team is also expected to consider multiple other candidates including 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach Jim Mora Jr. among others. There has been heavy speculation about USC coach Pete Carroll.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times for Westminster, Maryland.

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