With new coach Harbaugh in place, Ravens set sights on retaining Ryan

Updated: January 20, 2008, 11:48 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

With their search for a head coach completed, the Baltimore Ravens hope to move quickly to begin assembling John Harbaugh's first staff, and one name near the top of their wish list is a familiar one.

Ryan
Ryan
Baltimore officials would like to retain Rex Ryan, the team's defensive coordinator for the past three seasons, but also a current candidate to fill the Atlanta Falcons' head coach vacancy.

Ryan, 45, interviewed for the Ravens' job after his boss, Brian Billick, was fired Dec. 31, but the team chose Harbaugh after Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett rejected a job offer. He was also a candidate in Miami for the job that went to former Cowboys' assistant head coach Tony Sparano.

In Atlanta, Ryan is the final candidate remaining from what was believed to have been the franchise's top three choices, with Garrett having rebuffed the Falcons' overtures as well, and Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell having withdrawn from consideration. But with new general manager Thomas Dimitroff on board, the Falcons have opened up and expanded their search, and there is no timetable for when they will name a successor to Bobby Petrino.

That leaves Ryan in limbo, but also squarely in the crosshairs of Ravens' management, which clearly wants him back.

"We're going to get a chance to talk to him," Harbaugh said at the Saturday news conference introducing him as the new Baltimore coach. "He's a great coach and a good person. I know he's got some opportunities out there right now, so I can't see where that is going to go."

Ryan has been an assistant coach in the league for 11 seasons, the last nine of them with 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 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.

Although the Ravens' released all of Billick's staff, which meant the assistants could seek other jobs, Ryan technically remains under contract to the team. While league rules stipulated that Baltimore had to permit other teams to speak to Ryan about head coach positions, they could block him if he sought to sign on elsewhere as an assistant coach.

Harbaugh did not get into much detail about his staffing plans. It is believed, however, that his first choice for offensive coordinator is current Philadelphia quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE