Ravens targeting Ryan

OWINGS MILLS -- As the Baltimore Ravens publicly campaigned for popular former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to land the Atlanta Falcons' coaching job, they privately remain in discussions for him to join new coach John Harbaugh's staff.

Team owner Steve Bisciotti recommended Saturday morning that Falcons owner Arthur Blank hire Ryan, who has been interviewed twice and was regarded as the frontrunner at one point when Jason Garrett decided to remain with the Dallas Cowboys. Although Ryan remains a top candidate, new Falcons general manager Tom Dimitroff has opened up the search and Ryan is no longer considered a lock in Atlanta.

"I think very highly of Rex," said Bisciotti, who added that Harbaugh has the autonomy to select his own staff. "I talked to Arthur Blank about a half-hour ago, and if Rex doesn't get the Atlanta job, I hope he does, then I hope he stays here.

"I had a great talk with Arthur Blank. He appreciated my call and I expressed a lot of things to him that I thought would give Rex the best chance of getting the job."

Meanwhile, former Miami Dolphins coach Cam Cameron has emerged as the likely frontrunner to be hired as the Ravens' offensive coordinator. As for Ryan. he and Harbaugh worked together for one year at the University of Cincinnati in 1996. Harbaugh was the assistant head coach and Ryan was the defensive coordinator. They have apparently maintained a solid relationship.

Ryan, who interviewed for the Ravens' vacancy created when coach Brian Billick was fired, praised Harbaugh earlier this week. Ryan was briefly at the Ravens' training complex Saturday, but didn't speak to reporters.

"We're going to get a chance to talk to him," Harbaugh said regarding Ryan. "He's a great coach, a good person. I know he's got some opportunities out there right now, too. I can't wait to see where Rex is going to go."

Keeping Ryan will likely entail giving him a significant raise above the $1 million to $1.2 million he's expected to make in the final year of his contract.

Team officials confirmed that the Ravens can block Ryan from taking another defensive coordinator job under league rules. There are several teams who are interested in him for that post.

Harbaugh has other potential options to run the defense, including San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Ron Rivera and Eagles linebackers coach Sean McDermott.

Harbaugh was extremely respectful of Ryan, who directed the Ravens to fifth, first and sixth overall in total defense over the past three seasons. He even referenced how an Eastern Kentucky team with Ryan on the staff defeated Harbaugh's Morehead State (Ky.) squad.

"Rex was a great coach back then, you could see it from Day 1 that he was going to be a great coach," Harbaugh said. "He was the defensive coordinator and he was running the same stuff he's running now, and I guarantee you people in our league couldn't defend against it, either."

If it doesn't work out with Cameron, Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur is another strong possibility to try to revitalize a dormant offense.

"I'm sure I'll talk to Pat," Harbaugh said. "He's a great coach and I'm sure he's going to be a great coordinator, so we'll see what happens."

Harbaugh was complimentary of special-teams coach Frank Gansz, who was on Billick's staff, but was noncommittal on whether he would be interviewed.

"There are a lot of good football coaches inside this building right now, and there are a lot of really good football coaches outside this building who want to coach for the Baltimore Ravens," Harbaugh said. "This is a great organization, and this is a good football team in place right now. People want to be here. We're going to take our time.

"We're going to talk to all those guys. We're going to see what the best fit is for our players, what the best fit is for one another, try to build strengths to other people's weaknesses and build a real chemistry on our staff. I don't think we're in a hurry to do that."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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