Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh named his four candidates for offensive coordinator on Tuesday: former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Ravens wide receiver coach Jim Hostler, and Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson.
Three of the candidates (Shanahan, Linehan and Hostler) have previous coordinator experience, and Wilson was reportedly given additional responsibilities after the season when Todd Haley was retained as the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
As far as surprises, I'm wondering why Gary Kubiak isn't on this list. He has just as good -- if not better -- credentials than these finalists. His offenses with the Houston Texans (as the head coach) and Denver Broncos (as the offensive coordinator) were regularly in the top 10.
Here is my initial reaction to the Ravens' candidates:
If the Ravens want the most experienced coordinator who has the most proven track record, that's Linehan.
If the Ravens want a young play-caller with familiarity in the zone-blocking scheme, that's Shanahan.
If the Ravens want someone who maintains continuity with the staff and players, that's Hostler.
If the Ravens want to put the emphasis in reviving a historically bad running game, that's Wilson.
And here's a breakdown of the four candidates:
What to like: The Lions ranked in the top six in offense the past three seasons. Linehan has nine years of experience as a coordinator.
What not to like: Quarterback Matthew Stafford plateaued under Linehan. The Lions failed to score more than 20 points in the season-ending four-game losing streak.
Coordinator experience: Houston Texans (2008-09), and Washington Redskins (2010-13).
What to like: Under Shanahan, quarterback Robert Griffin III was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. He also had the NFL's top passing attack in Houston in 2009, when Matt Schaub was his quarterback. Plus, last year was the fourth time in his six seasons as an offensive coordinator that his offenses ended up in the top 10 in total yards.
What not to like: It's tough to forget he was involved in one of the ugliest seasons in NFL history with that implosion in Washington. The Redskins went from fourth in points per game a year ago to No. 23 this season.
Coordinator experience: San Francisco 49ers (2007).
What not to like: It's that one year where he was the coordinator of the 49ers. Under Hostler in 2007, the San Francisco 49ers ranked last in total yards and points (13.7).
Coordinator experience: None.
What to like: Hiring Wilson would be a statement that the Ravens are committed to running the ball again. In his seven seasons as the Steelers' running backs coach, Wilson has gotten the most out of the running backs who played under him, from undrafted runners (Willie Parker and Isaac Redman), to an overrated first-round pick (Rashard Mendenhall). He was supposed to be in line for the Steelers' offensive coordinator position when the team was replacing Bruce Arians, but he was severely burned in a house fire at the time.
What not to like: Wilson is the only candidate who has never been an offensive coordinator at any level. The Steelers haven't been a great running team lately, ranking No. 26 in 2012, and No. 27 in 2013.