First-year Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh scored a staffing coup on Monday, and struck a blow for continuity as well, by retaining defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
Ryan had interviewed two weeks ago for the Ravens' head coach position, after Brian Billick was dismissed, and players had publicly lobbied for him to get the job. Ryan also interviewed for the head coach positions with the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins.
"Man, it's great to be a Raven. That head coaching stuff, I was
just kidding about that," Ryan said with a grin. "Quite honestly
though, when it was clear that I wasn't going to be a head coach, I
wanted to stay here in Baltimore."
In addition to his defensive coordinator role, Ryan will serve as assistant head coach. He signed a new three-year contract that is believed to be worth as much as $1.5 million annually. Ryan was earning $1 million-$1.2 million per year under his previous contract.
"It's a huge opportunity for me to actually be there when the
decisions are being made, when they're being thought about," Ryan
said. "I've been coaching 11 years in the NFL, and I realize I
have a lot of learning still to do. Maybe when I do get an
opportunity down the road, I'll be more prepared for it."
Ryan is pleased with his title and the raise he received, but
his ultimate quest is to have a team to call his own.
"I think eventually I will become a head coach," he said.
"Whether that's three, five, six years down the road, or next
year, that's fine. It will be the right time."
The Washington Redskins were also interested in hiring Ryan as defensive coordinator, even though they have yet to decide on a head coach to succeed Joe Gibbs. The Ravens had released Ryan, allowing him to speak to other franchises about jobs, but he remained under contract in Baltimore. Thus, the Ravens did not have to permit him to leave for any post that represented a parallel move.
Ryan said last week that he knew and liked Harbaugh, with whom he worked when both were assistant coaches at the University of Cincinnati in the mid-1990s, and that he would strongly consider being a part of the first-year coach's staff. Harbaugh, who most recently served as the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary coach, stressed at his introductory news conference that he hoped to retain Ryan on his staff.
"I couldn't be more proud, more excited, more fired up, than to
have Rex Ryan, my good friend, as defensive coordinator," Harbaugh
said. "He's built [a defense] here that is one of the best in the
National Football League, and that's a foundation for us to stand
An assistant coach in the league for 11 seasons, Ryan, 45, has worked the past nine years for the Ravens. After several stints as a college assistant, he joined the staff of the Arizona Cardinals, coached by his father, Buddy Ryan, in 1994. He returned to the college ranks after two years, and then joined Billick's staff in Baltimore in 1999. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2005.
In his three seasons as coordinator, Ryan's defense has statistically ranked among the top six in the league each year. Baltimore was No. 1 in the NFL in 2006 and also surrendered the fewest points in the league.
Ryan's twin brother, Rob Ryan, is the Oakland Raiders' defensive coordinator.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.