Bisciotti pleased with search, results

OWINGS MILLS -- During the Baltimore Ravens' hunt for a new head coach that culminated by hiring John Harbaugh, team owner Steve Bisciotti said he never relented in his belief that he was on the right path.

Nearly three weeks after firing coach Brian Billick after Bisciotti initially told him he would be retained for next season only to change his mind and days removed from a humbling rejection by Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, the Ravens decided to go with Harbaugh, the young, energetic former Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach.

Ultimately, the search committee resisted the temptation to go with a proven alternative in veteran coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Bisciotti said he remained calm throughout the search process.

"I made a very difficult decision, but then I found my equilibrium," Bisciotti said. "I may be an emotional person, but that's not about highs and lows. This was fairly easy for me because it's something I've done my whole life. It's the toughest hire I've had to make because it's public, not because it was over my head intellectually or emotionally."

Wearing a blazer, pink shirt and jeans Saturday at the Ravens' training complex, Bisciotti looked refreshed days after he appeared worn out by Garrett's snub and the grueling demands of an exhaustive search.

The Ravens offered Garrett the job Tuesday prior to his decision to remain in Dallas with a raise to $3 million and a likely private assurance from Dallas owner Jerry Jones that he'll eventually succeed coach Wade Phillips. Before Garrett left the building, Bisciotti said he told him that it was extremely close between him and Harbaugh.

"We weren't wrong in looking at Jason Garrett, and I don't want you to think that we feel jilted," Bisciotti said. "He was an honorable guy who was put in a difficult position. I know Jerry and I know how persuasive he is.

"I knew people said if he got out of this building then Jerry is going to talk him into staying. If Jerry is capable of talking him into staying, then I don't want him. It wasn't that much of a downer, to be honest with you. I don't let things like that get me down. Let's just move on."

Bisciotti drew laughter with his quip about winding up with Harbaugh, his second choice.

"I don't know that I was my wife's first choice," Bisciotti said.

Team president Dick Cass said that it was difficult to separate Garrett and Harbaugh as candidates.

"It was very close between the two of them," Cass said. "There was no bright line. They were touching is how I put it."

Bisciotti denied that he was looking to place his own stamp on the franchise by hiring Harbaugh even though he admitted liking the idea of a first-time head coach building his reputation in Baltimore.

"If I thought Brian Billick was going to be the best coach, I would have brought him back and hired him," Bisciotti said. "If I thought Rex Ryan was ready, I would've hired him. There's no statement underlying my decision."

Although players lobbied aggressively for Ryan, their outgoing defensive coordinator who's under consideration to join Harbaugh's staff, Bisciotti said he didn't let those endorsements work for or against the nine-year Baltimore assistant.

"No, of course it didn't hurt him," Bisciotti said. "It would be ridiculous to think that they wouldn't campaign for him. It certainly didn't hurt him. It was our job to make sure it didn't help him.

"He was in a unique situation, and I trusted the instincts of the committee and that we made the best decision that we thought we needed to go forward. I think very highly of Rex."

Besides Harbaugh, Garrett and Ryan, the Ravens interviewed Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, new Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Marty's son.

The elder Schottenheimer's resume overshadowed the other candidates with his 200-126-1 record and just two losing campaigns in 21 NFL seasons, but he was never interviewed even though he did hold discussions with general manager Ozzie Newsome. Schottenheimer's age (64), expensive asking price (in excess of $4 million), 5-13 playoff record and desire to be involved in personnel decisions were drawbacks.

"If I had hired Marty Schottenheimer, he'd probably still want to coach like Joe Paterno," Bisciotti said. "I don't think that Schottenheimer was a three-year coach like it was being reported. There were some pros and cons to the candidates, and I don't want to say I eliminated Marty because these guys have experience with Marty and they kind of knew what we were getting.

"I can just imagine a guy like Marty winning 13 games and losing a playoff game and you'd say, 'Well, that's the book on Marty.' So, I'd be lying if I said that doesn't come into play. It kind of does."

Unprompted, Newsome interjected that Schottenheimer didn't want to be an obstacle to his son's chances.

"I spoke with Marty and Marty told me that as long as his son, Brian Schottenheimer, was a candidate, which he was up until yesterday, that he did not want to be a candidate for our job," Newsome said.

All of the six candidates were acceptable to him, Bisciotti emphasized.

Bisciotti said he watched a videotape of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin after interviewing Garrett and Harbaugh and was comforted that there were positive parallels between all three coaches.

"I want someone who understands that it can be very lonely at the top, but that it doesn't have to be," Bisciotti said.

The Ravens interviewed Harbaugh for 15 hours, a demanding examination and exchange of ideas, philosophies and a few unexpected questions.

"You guys put me through such a grueling process," Harbaugh said while turning toward Bisciotti. "It was about as detailed as it could've been. You made me think. Steve, you had the toughest questions."

Bisciotti left a lasting impression on Harbaugh, who said he broke out a pencil and began jotting down notes during the meeting with the Anne Arundel County businessman who's on the Forbes' list for richest Americans.

"Energetic, powerful, strong, very creative," Harbaugh said of Bisciotti. "You've got to be an outside-the-box thinker. I tell you, I took notes. Anytime you have an opportunity to spend that much time with a guy like that, even if you don't get the job, you have to learn something."

In Harbaugh, Bisciotti said the Ravens identified someone who's willing to listen to feedback issued from above or below his pay grade.

"I'm looking for a person who values the opinions and insights of people below him on the traditional hierarchy," Bisciotti said. "One person has to ultimately make that decision, but I value people at the top who understand that at the top you are not required to make that decision by yourself.

"That's the kind of leader I think we're tried to get for our other companies. I think it keeps everybody engaged. It keeps everybody at their best. No different than if you tell your 53rd player on your team you might get in for a series. Well, that's all he needs to give 110 percent. That's leadership to me. That's what I think John exhibited."

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


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