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John Harbaugh may have opened the door for special-teams coordinators

John Harbaugh AP

It was a surprise on Sunday night to hear Peter King say that Cowboys special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis will be a candidate for the head-coaching job in Jacksonville.  It was a shock on Monday to see reports that the Dolphins will interview Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Rarely do special-teams coaches even get opportunities to become head coaches.  Even more rarely are they hired.

DeCamillis and Toub — and any other special-teams coach who gets considered for a head-coaching job — can thank Ravens coach John Harbaugh for the elevated status of the position.  Harbaugh served as the Eagles’ special-teams coordinator for nine years before one season as defensive backs coach.

Special-teams coordinators have experience bringing together players from offense and defense, since those are the players who fill out the various special teams (punt, punt return, kickoff, kick return, field goal, extra point).  Unlike a former offensive or defensive coordinator, who often gravitates to one side of the ball and delegates the other to his coordinator, a special-teams coach delegates to both coordinators, but also keeps his hand in the pot on both sides of the ball.

It has worked very well in Baltimore, where Harbaugh has led the Ravens to four straight playoff appearances, the longest current streak of any NFL team.

With a home game in the division round and a team that plays well on the road (if only when playing good/great teams on the road), Harbaugh could soon be leading the Ravens back to the Super Bowl.

Which would make special-teams coaches even more desirable as candidates for head-coaching jobs.

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44 Responses to “John Harbaugh may have opened the door for special-teams coordinators”
  1. cubano76 says: Jan 3, 2012 9:03 AM

    Oh no!!!!! Does that mean there’s a chance the Redskins will lose Danny Smith? ;)

  2. 6ball says: Jan 3, 2012 9:04 AM

    .

    Belichick spent a lot of time coaching special teams prior to becoming a defensive coordinator.

    .

  3. psuravens19 says: Jan 3, 2012 9:10 AM

    There are a lot of fans in the Baltimore area that really don’t like Harbaugh and thinks the only reason he wins is because of the players.

    I for one am a fan of this guy as he brings stability and accountability to the players and this team. He has the ability to get veterans and young players to listen to his message and play as a team; something Billick could not do.

  4. southpaw2k says: Jan 3, 2012 9:10 AM

    Ironically, the Ravens’ special teams is the weakest area of the entire team. Still, Bisciotti made the absolute right call in hiring Harbaugh over Rex Ryan. I’m sure I would’ve even gotten tired of Rex’s predictions of the Ravens winning the Super Bowl every offseason as a Ravens fan.

  5. cowhawkfan says: Jan 3, 2012 9:12 AM

    Pretty sure a former Cowboys ST coach was interviewed a time or too? Avezano (sic)?

  6. gridassassin says: Jan 3, 2012 9:13 AM

    Let’s not forget Michael Keller Ditka my friend. Went from a Special Teams Coordinator to Head Coach to the first of two guys who won a Super Bowl as a player, coach and head coach.

  7. jc1958cool says: Jan 3, 2012 9:13 AM

    packers 42 ravens 20 special teams won’t help this super bowl!

  8. bleedgreen says: Jan 3, 2012 9:14 AM

    The logic makes sense. You should be deferring to your OC and DC anyways, thats what you hired them for. The CEO of a company doesn’t hire a CFO and CTO and then say ‘well I’m going to call all the shots on the technical side of things’. He defers to his CTO to come up with a plan that the CEO will approve and allow the CTO to implement.

  9. wryly1 says: Jan 3, 2012 9:14 AM

    Bill Cowher began his NFL coaching career as Special Teams coach for the Cleveland Browns – for whom he had earlier been a Special Teams player.

  10. wideright91 says: Jan 3, 2012 9:16 AM

    Marv Levy was also a special teams coach

  11. GG Eden says: Jan 3, 2012 9:16 AM

    Long over-due

  12. BTC says: Jan 3, 2012 9:17 AM

    As a Ravens fan, I remember when John was hired over Rex. A LOT of people were up in arms: “Why choose the company man over a guy with passion who speaks his mind?!? … Baltimore’s about defense, not special teams!!!” Well, look how the two situations have played out. They are dying a slow death in New York because of a coaching style that as a short shelf life.

    I grant the Ravens are nowhere NEAR perfect, but for a special teams guy to come in and reunite the torn Baltimore locker room (if you think the offense is bad now, remember, remember, the name of Kyle Boller), draft the guys he will build his career around (Rice, Flacco), and turn a 5-11 team into what looks like a playoff contender for the next five years easy… Well, that’s a job a well done.

  13. ravenmaniacisback says: Jan 3, 2012 9:22 AM

    Thaaaaaaaat’s Right!

  14. duanethomas says: Jan 3, 2012 9:24 AM

    Nothing new, George Halas was a special teams guy and so was Bear Bryant…….

    :)

  15. IainRWB says: Jan 3, 2012 9:26 AM

    It’s a shame this trend has come too late for Mike Westhoff. His weekly press conferences are often like masterclasses and his units are regularly amongst the league’s best (though the less said about this year’s fumble issues the better!).

  16. getyourownname says: Jan 3, 2012 9:28 AM

    The funny thing is, many Ravens “fans” are still trying to blame Harbaugh for the results this season. Yes, you read that right. Just check out their fan message boards. Some of them even still think Rex Ryan would have been a better choice. Never have so many been so unappreciative of so much success. Except maybe the Irsays.

  17. apac6586 says: Jan 3, 2012 9:30 AM

    Bill Cowher was a special teams coordinator too. I think he opened the door for Harbaugh.

  18. jimmymcnultysbottleofjameson says: Jan 3, 2012 9:37 AM

    So happy we gave him the job over Rex. Harbs is a little too notorious for cliche “coach speak” but I still like him. Go Purp!

  19. jlv3gem says: Jan 3, 2012 9:39 AM

    Reading this and looking back.. Baltimore offered Jason Garrett the HC job and he declined. Rex wanted the job, never recieved an offer and now the NYJ situation is seemingly getting worse as I type this.

    Funny how things work. It’s going to be really funny when Harbaugh is hoisting that Lombardi Hardware in a few weeks.

  20. worldfamouschris says: Jan 3, 2012 9:41 AM

    psuravens19 says:
    Jan 3, 2012 9:10 AM
    There are a lot of fans in the Baltimore area that really don’t like Harbaugh and thinks the only reason he wins is because of the players.

    ^ Really??? I remember a few people pissed that they skipped over Rex for him but most got over it after we made the playoffs his first year. I think most Ravens fans have bought in to Harbaugh…if anything we don’t like Cam Cameron being a little too conservative at times but hey four years straight in the playoffs we can only complain so much. Just need to take that next step.

  21. ralphtherealravenfan says: Jan 3, 2012 9:50 AM

    We definitely have our flaws as a team. No delusions there. But John finds a way to get the the overall strength of our team to fight through all that and go out and kick peoples butts more times than not on Sunday. 11-5, 9-7 (Flacco played that year with a hip contusion), 12-4, 12-4. Not bad for an aging defense, “game manager” quarterback, and a special teams coach. Harbaugh’s the man.

  22. theravens1 says: Jan 3, 2012 9:51 AM

    I said it yesterday, our organization seems to keep the right guys, and let the right guys go year after year. Sometimes, I scratch my head, but things keep turning out well.

    “Awesome job” Ozzie!

    I’m going to enjoy the play-offs once again!
    Thanks!!

  23. baltomjg182 says: Jan 3, 2012 10:02 AM

    Because of this man I take daily Gatorade baths. I’m Harbs we trust!

  24. baltomjg182 says: Jan 3, 2012 10:04 AM

    In** excuse my IPhone.

  25. sonvar says: Jan 3, 2012 10:07 AM

    Before he got hired by the Ravens, Harbaugh actually spent at least the last year with the Eagles as their Defensive Backs coach primarily so he would have a better opportunity to get into a head coaching job.

  26. watermelon1 says: Jan 3, 2012 10:26 AM

    It’s hilarious to see all these Ravens fans come in here and talk like the Jets haven’t been further than the Ravens in the playoffs the last two years.

    Yes, this season was horrible. But even before this season… I never thought the Jets actually had a better team.

    Harbaugh inherited a great team who went 13-3 only 2 seasons before he got there.

    The only mistake Rex has made that has anything to do with football is he’s stuck with Sanchez for far too long just like the Ravens stuck with Boller for too long.

    All the talk means nothing, and of you don’t care what he says then stop watching ESPN 24/7 and get a hobby to keep you busy until Sundays when the games are played.

  27. 33rdasylum says: Jan 3, 2012 10:32 AM

    In is his first year, John certainly didn’t make the splash that his little brother has (although making it to the conference championship game with a rookie quarterback wasn’t bad). I predict, however, that’s John’s style will produce a longer shelf life than Jim’s.

  28. sonoco says: Jan 3, 2012 10:36 AM

    The best guy nobody is talking about is San Francisco special teams coach Brad Seely. I don’t want to lose him, but IMO he would definitely be a real find for some smart Owner/GM.

  29. smokeya says: Jan 3, 2012 10:51 AM

    People always say that ravens are carried by their defensive stars, although that’s just not true..

    Torrey smith – First he had bad hands, now he’s the best receiver in the core
    Pernell McPhee – rookie, 5th round pick – wreaking havoc on every play.. (even in JAC he still got a sack ;))
    Jameel McClain – undrafted, 2-3 years ago – fills in for ray lewis and the defense plays bettter lol.
    Ladarius Webb – 3rd round or something, second year player that hasn’t a allowed a td this season.
    Our 2 two year tight ends

    Just to name a few

    All future stars and i attribute a lot of their abilty to Harbaugh and the coaching in general..

    Although i keep losing faith in him every time i see David Reed returning kicks.. “Fumble once, shame on you. Fumble twice, shame on harbs”

  30. runrickyrun34 says: Jan 3, 2012 10:52 AM

    @Watermelon01

    If I remember correctly you tried using this “Harbaugh inherited a better team” line before with another article. The team went from 13-3 to 5-11. That’s not indicative of “inheriting a good team.” You don’t drop 8 wins following a 13-3 season because your good. And like you, not all fans make logical arguements/statements.

    Also, the point of the article is that he went from a Special Teams guy directly to head coach. Some of the guys mentioned started as Special Teams Coordinators and then moved onto Defensive Coordinators. Not taking anything away from them but the article if referring to another Special Teams guy directly getting a head coaching interview.

  31. smokeya says: Jan 3, 2012 10:59 AM

    @ watermelon1

    It’s hilarious to see all these Ravens fans come in here and talk like the Jets haven’t been further than the Ravens in the playoffs the last two years.

    ———————————————————-

    That’s not it, we’re just happy we didn’t end up with Rex Ryan..

    Btw, i might be mistaken, but you are 0-2 versus Ravens last two years right? In the two matches you scored a total of 2 TDs and we had three on D alone right? Or am am I mistaken?

    Helms deep burn!!

  32. stevincinci says: Jan 3, 2012 11:02 AM

    Ravens won’t be in the Super Bowl. Get over it Ravens fans.

  33. worldfamouschris says: Jan 3, 2012 11:06 AM

    watermelon1 says:
    Jan 3, 2012 10:26 AM
    It’s hilarious to see all these Ravens fans come in here and talk like the Jets haven’t been further than the Ravens in the playoffs the last two years.

    ^ Did the Jets win the superbowl, that aside our coach is on a streak of four straight playoff appearances … effective this season your coach is beginning a streak of non-playoff appearances…is it still hilarious?

  34. romangabriel says: Jan 3, 2012 11:21 AM

    All Harbaugh Superbowl…

  35. getyourownname says: Jan 3, 2012 11:22 AM

    watermelon1 says:

    Harbaugh inherited a great team who went 13-3 only 2 seasons before he got there.
    *************

    Ravens were 24-24 over the 3-year period before Harbaugh arrived, with that 13-3 season sandwiched between 2 losing seasons (6-10 and 5-11). Only the Redskins fans would think this is a sign of a great team.

  36. Nevis says: Jan 3, 2012 11:27 AM

    It’s because he’s a Harbaugh. Don’t make more of this than it is.

  37. tonymontana45 says: Jan 3, 2012 11:29 AM

    To everyone saying Bill Cowher, yes he was a special teams coach but he became a defense coordinator before he became a head coach. John was never a defensive or offensive coordinator.

  38. southpaw2k says: Jan 3, 2012 11:35 AM

    watermelon1 says:
    Jan 3, 2012 10:26 AM
    It’s hilarious to see all these Ravens fans come in here and talk like the Jets haven’t been further than the Ravens in the playoffs the last two years.

    Yes, this season was horrible. But even before this season… I never thought the Jets actually had a better team.

    Harbaugh inherited a great team who went 13-3 only 2 seasons before he got there.

    The only mistake Rex has made that has anything to do with football is he’s stuck with Sanchez for far too long just like the Ravens stuck with Boller for too long.

    All the talk means nothing, and of you don’t care what he says then stop watching ESPN 24/7 and get a hobby to keep you busy until Sundays when the games are played.

    ————————————————-

    Yes, and that 2006 team that went 13-3 had a different starting quarterback, different running back, no true #1 wide receiver (or any receiver who could really stretch the field, vastly differnet secondary, a different kicker, and a completely different offensive line. Aside from that, Harbaugh inherited that whole same team.

    This year’s team is completely Harbaugh’s handy work. It’s been in the works for 4 years now, and Ravens fans are now able to reap its rewards. Ray Rice is one of the top five RBs in the league, the defense is getting younger and once again elite, and we have two potentially great tight ends for years to come.

    The Jets may have reached two straight AFC Championship Games, but your window of opportunity has closed. Plaxico won’t be back, Bart Scott probably won’t be back, and Santonio shouldn’t be back. Couple that with a quarterback who shows more often than not that he doesn’t belong in the NFL, and you have a team that might need to be rebuilt from page one.

  39. rmc1995 says: Jan 3, 2012 11:38 AM

    Harbaugh spent nine seasons with Andy Reid so I’m sure his day to day management is very similar. What’s also similar is his inability to get to the big game which has been Reid and Harbs biggest knocks.

    Special teams is one thing but I wouldn’t hire a guy just because he’s good at special teams. Harbs was greatly influenced by having stability with a head coach and the desire to be a head coach so he soaked it in. Fortunately it was from someone with success. This is why coaching trees are important. This is why Belichich advised guys like Mangini that he wasn’t ready to take the next step. Had Harbs been the special teams coach under Norv Turner, I don’t think he would have gotten a sniff, no matter how good the special teams were.

  40. soumiss says: Jan 3, 2012 12:12 PM

    There are a lot of fans in the Baltimore area that really don’t like Harbaugh and thinks the only reason he wins is because of the players.

    Question: How else are you supposed to win?

  41. willardj says: Jan 3, 2012 12:28 PM

    If I’m not mistaken, Jesus Christ began his career as a special teams coach.

  42. charmcityravens says: Jan 3, 2012 1:08 PM

    Oh watermelonhead1, there you go with that Harbs inherited Billick’s team and that’s the only reason he has success nonsense again…just like you did in the Ray Lewis isn’t 100% thread. You were laughed at then for such an ignorant statement as you are now.

    Remaining team members from Billick days:
    Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Jarrett Johnson, Ben Grubbs, Sam Koch.

    Non-Billick Team Members:
    Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Vontae Leach, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Lee Evans, Michael Oher, Matt Birk, both TEs Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta, the entire defensive secondary minus Ed Reed (L. Webb, Pollard, Jimmy Smith, etc.), Terrence Cody, Billy Cundiff, Tyrod Taylor, Ricky Williams.

    Big name roster turn-overs from the last couple of seasons:
    Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Matt Stover, Jonathan Ogden, Bart Scott, Jason Brown, Willis McGahee, Jared Gaither, Jim Leonhard, etc.

    And yet throughout, Harbs has gone 11-5, 9-7, 12-4, 12-4. This season alone proves with the massive change in roster that Harbs can handle change in roster personnel. Losing Heap, Mason, Landry, McGahee, etc. Harbs tied his best franchise record ever in his short tenure.

    watermelon1: “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

    Billick never made the playoffs 4 seasons consecutively. So even if Harbs inherited the same exact team for all these years, he would have achieved a higher level of success. Period. Your comment holds no water & has zero validity. Try again. The NYJ suck.

  43. southpaw2k says: Jan 3, 2012 1:36 PM

    charmcityravens,

    You said everything so much better than I ever could. Bravo.

  44. frankg2469 says: Jan 3, 2012 4:31 PM

    Get with the program,cuz.Marv Levy was 1 of 2 original Special Teams Coordinators when a couple of forward thinking coaches were smart enough to deem those parts of their squads important enough to need special attention and coaching.(It is,after all,truly 1/3 of a team and the game itself.)While Belichick,Cowher,and Ditka held those posts as a stepping stone to other positions on staffs(as did even Chan Gailey)and had Head Coach aspirations from day one,Marv focused on special teams,and this always remained his area of coaching expertise.John Harbaugh is the only other successful NFL Head Coach to share this distinction with Mr. Levy(Frank Gansz wasn’t remotely successful),and you don’t even mention him in your article.Marv Levy was a true pioneer in this area in the NFL,but the article would make one think that John Harbaugh is the one and only.

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