Newsome said that an essential part of the Ravens' interview process for their head coach vacancies was finding out who the potential hire would bring along as assistants. Marchibroda's first staff in 2006 included Lewis, Ferentz, Hill, Schwartz and Eric Mangini, who would later have stints as the head coach of the Jets and Cleveland Browns.
Billick's first staff in 1999 was almost an embarrassment of riches as far as defensive minds with Lewis, Del Rio, Ryan and Smith. Two seasons later, Mike Nolan joined the staff, and two years after that, Billick and the Ravens hired Mike Singletary as linebackers coach. Nolan and Singletary both went on to coach the San Francisco 49ers.
"You have to have a group, starting with ownership and going down to the general manager and head coach, that embrace that," said Billick, now an analyst with both FOX Sports and NFL Network. "It sounds odd but not everybody does it in terms of wanting to help nurture the talents of the coaches on the staff. It basically says that you're willing to let them grow and progress and go elsewhere and have success. A lot of clubs don't do that.
"It comes down to giving them the responsibility, giving them the access to the media to show that they can lead and develop those skills across the board. We tried to do that when I was there and the guys beyond me have continued it on, and [Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti] very much believes in it as well. I think you can attribute it to the overall structure at the top, and their willingness to let coaches grow that way."
Billick cited Lewis' ability as the defensive coordinator to manage so many strong-willed personalities and allow them to be individuals for the betterment of the team and their coaching futures.
"There were a lot of opinions in there, a lot of personalities. It takes a lot to manage that and I give Marvin a lot of credit for being able to do that," Billick said. "You look at the personalities of these guys — a Rex Ryan versus Mike Nolan, a Mike Smith versus a Jack Del Rio. Those are very distinct and different personalities which underscores that it takes different types to be a coach in the National Football League or even a college coach. It shows that you have to be able to work with that diversity, not only to be good but to help nurture those personalities going forward. They each are going to do it a little differently."
Stability, leadership key
Harbaugh has often discussed the lessons that he learned while working for nearly a decade under Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, who has formed quite a coaching tree of his own. During his time as an assistant with the Eagles, Harbaugh coached with St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
Harbaugh has found — and tried to foster — a similar atmosphere in Baltimore.
"I think this is a great environment for anybody to grow professionally," Harbaugh said. "We have tremendous leadership in Steve Bisciotti at the top. He creates an environment where you can really grow and learn, and he's a teacher. You've got [president] Dick Cass, who is a tremendous person and tremendous leader, and you've got Ozzie Newsome, obviously. So it just permeates the organization. People are able to take the values of this organization to other places and do well."
Newsome has spent hours with Ravens assistants — both past and present — breaking down film and observing practice and meetings. Speaking specifically about the ones that went on to become head coaches, Newsome, long lauded for his ability to judge and unearth playing talent, said that he saw their potential early.
"You saw their work ethic, you saw their passion for football. You saw how they were able to work within a structure and be a team player," Newsome said. "We would always joke because during the spring, they would get a chance to evaluate players and go out on college campuses. We would always say, 'Boy, we'd love to have Mike Smith as a scout. Pat Hill would be a great scout.' They not only showed their work ethic, but the passion that they had for their jobs."
That is made easier while working under the backdrop of a winning and stable organization with talent on the field and experience on the coaching staff. However, that wasn't always the case. Schwartz remembers how much the Ravens' defense struggled in 1996, and how hard Lewis and the staff had to work to build a defense that carried a team to the Super Bowl four years ago.
To Schwartz, it seems so long ago, at least until so many of the former Ravens' assistants and now head coaches get together each offseason at the scouting combines. When the conversations start and the stories begin, it seems like it was just yesterday.
"We're all sort of too busy working, but you know you are good friends with someone when you don't talk to them for a few months or a half year, and then when you do get together, it's like you're never apart," Schwartz said. "Coaches work typically 90 to 100 hours a week. You're doing everything with that group of guys that you're working with. There's a bond that is developed there and you always remember that, even with guys that you haven't seen in a while. You can pick up things quickly. It's like you've never been apart."
Here is a list of former Baltimore assistants who got — and still hold — head coaching positions in the NFL or college after leaving the Ravens.
|Name||Coaching Position with Ravens, Years||Current head-coaching job|
|Jack Del Rio||Linebackers, 1999-01||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Kirk Ferentz||Asst. head coach/offense, 1996-98||Iowa|
|Pat Hill||Tight ends, 1996||Fresno State|
|Hue Jackson||Quarterbacks,2008-09||Oakland Raiders|
|Marvin Lewis||Def. coordinator, 1996-01||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Rick Neuheisel||QBs/off. Coordinator, 2005-07||UCLA|
|Rex Ryan||Def. coordinator/def. line, 1999-08||New York Jets|
|Jim Schwartz||Def. quality control, 1996-98||Detroit Lions|
|David Shaw||QBs/wide receivers, 2002-05||Stanford|
|Mike Smith||Linebackers/def. assistant, 1999-02||Atlanta Falcons|
|Ken Whisenhunt||Tight ends, 1997-98||Arizona Cardinals|
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