Ryan remains in limbo

OWINGS MILLS -- An arduous wait continues for defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and, to a lesser extent, the Baltimore Ravens. While Ryan remains in contention for the Atlanta Falcons' head-coaching vacancy, he's simultaneously a candidate to run the Ravens' defense for new Baltimore coach John Harbaugh.

The limbo effect for Ryan is being impacted by the unavailability of highly-regarded New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who's now considered the frontrunner in Atlanta in NFL circles.

Under league rules, though, the Falcons aren't allowed to interview Spagnuolo until after Super Bowl XLII. Because league guidelines stipulate that only assistants that have already been interviewed once prior to the conference championship games can be interviewed, Spagnuolo is off-limits to Falcons owner Arthur Blank for the next two weeks.

The Falcons weren't granted permission by the Giants to talk to Spagnuolo prior to the team's wild-card victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ryan, 45, has interviewed twice for the Falcons' job, but is no longer consider a lock to ultimately land the position.

The Falcons brought Ryan and his wife in last week to meet with high-ranking team officials, and Baltimore team officials were surprised that Ryan wasn't immediately offered the job after Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett rejected their offer.

Atlanta has since interviewed Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith, a former Baltimore assistant, had a second interview.

Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti called Blank on Saturday prior to Harbaugh's introductory press conference and recommended that he hire Ryan, who has directed the Baltimore defense to rankings of fifth, first and sixth over the past three years.

For Ryan to remain in Baltimore, he'll likely require a significant raise over the $1 million to $1.2 million that he's due in the final year of his contract.

It's considered highly unlikely that Ryan, who's also in demand as a potential defensive coordinator with other NFL teams, would remove his name from consideration in Atlanta unless it's communicated to him that he's definitely not getting the job. Because Ryan remains under contract, the Ravens can block him from being a defensive coordinator elsewhere under league rules.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have targeted Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shumur as an offensive coordinator candidate. Although Eagles coach Andy Reid has blocked assistant coaches in the past from taking jobs elsewhere, there are now indications that he's willing to give Shumur the freedom to go to Baltimore.

An Eagles team spokesman said Monday that he wasn't aware of the Ravens asking permission to speak to Shurmur yet.

Former Miami Dolphins coach Cam Cameron is another strong option for that position.

If it doesn't work out with Ryan, Harbaugh could turn toward San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Ron Rivera, who previously worked with Harbaugh in Philadelphia.

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

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