How a simple conversation led John Harbaugh to the Ravens

Justin Fried
Ravens, John Harbaugh Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Ravens, John Harbaugh Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports /

Following the departure of Brian Billick, the Baltimore Ravens were in search of a new head coach in January of 2008. Their coaching search featured a number of notable names including future Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.

But instead of opting for any of the highly-touted candidates on the market, the Ravens went in a different direction hiring the little-known John Harbaugh to be the third head coach in the franchise’s brief history.

Harbaugh stepped into the job with little fanfare, but 14 years, 137 wins, nine playoff appearances, and one Super Bowl later, and it’s clear that they made the correct choice.

But how exactly did someone like Harbaugh, who had spent the majority of his coaching career as a special-teams coordinator, even come to be a candidate in the first place?

Former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner recently revealed how internal discussions within the Eagles organization ultimately exposed Harbaugh to the NFL and eventually led to his job with the Ravens.

How did John Harbaugh become head coach of the Ravens?

In the article, Banner states that he and Harbaugh had become close over the years and the longtime special-teams coach had repeatedly asked him about what it would take to elevate his career.

Harbaugh had aspirations of being a head coach in the NFL, and Banner and the Eagles organization wanted to do their part in ensuring that he received the proper exposure to NFL teams.

That’s when Banner and others discussed potential ways for Harbaugh to further establish his reputation. Below is an excerpt from the article.

"“A few years later, when that progress seemed to have stalled, we started to have annual conversations about what else he could do in the NFL to further that goal. We also discussed whether he should go and become a college head coach at a big program, which he had been offered multiple times.These conversations led to an internal discussion which resulted in John [Harbaugh] becoming the DBs coach, working under Jim Johnson on our defensive staff. This move succeeded in exposing him to the league in a way that led to him becoming the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.”"

After nine years as the Eagles’ special-teams coordinator, Harbaugh was “promoted” to the team’s defensive backs coach in 2007. The move worked as one year later, Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens.

It was still a hire that was seen as an out-of-the-box move at the time. But the Eagles’ efforts to get Harbaugh more exposure clearly paid off. He got himself on the Ravens’ radar and convinced owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome to give him the job.

The rest, as they say, is history.

John Harbaugh has gotten the chance to live out his dreams in Baltimore and, in the process, brought the city more success than they could have ever imagined.

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As one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, it’s worth wondering what might have been if Banner and the Eagles didn’t go to the lengths they did to ensure that Harbaugh fulfilled his destiny.

Ravens fans are certainly thankful that they did.