The Ravens ended their thorough search for a new offensive coordinator Monday, adding two well-regarded coaches to what is starting to look to be an overhauled staff.
Baltimore named former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak its third offensive coordinator in three years while adding former Houston and Denver offensive coordinator Rick Dennison as its quarterbacks coach. Kubiak and Dennison have worked on the same staff for much of their careers, spending 1995-2005 together with the Broncos and 2010-13 together with the Texans.
Under Kubiak, the Texans posted their six highest offensive outputs in points, yards and passing yards from 2007-12, as well as their top three rushing seasons. During Dennson’s four years in Houston, the team ranked eighth in the league in total net yards, sixth in rushing and 13th in passing with an NFL-high 29 individual 100-yard rushing games.
So the two come to Baltimore with a prolific offensive pedigree, especially when it comes to scheming a rushing attack - something that could be huge for a Ravens team coming off a franchise-worst season in that area.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh seemed quite excited to have Kubiak and Dennison joining the staff.
“We had a chance to spend a weekend with coach Kubiak and coach Dennison and get this done,” Harbaugh said. “I want you to know, for the Ravens, for our coaching staff, for our players, for our organization, for our fans, it’s a great day and I’m excited about it. We’ve got a chance to build the best offensive staff in the National Football League. Coach Kubiak is a guy I have a lot of respect for as a coach over the years, playing against him and all those kind of things. We know what we’re getting.”
Harbaugh said the Texans offense is one that has always given the Ravens fits, and that was a factor in what made Kubiak and Dennison attractive.
“You always kind of in your mind, you keep a list of the guys that gave you the most trouble as coaches. And this staff, what they did offensively, what they’ve done over the years has always been just kind of a pain in our rear,” Harbaugh said. “Probably right out of the gates, that’s the first thing I thought about. It looks like all the ways that we want to look. And we talked about this, too - it’s not going to be the Texans offense or the Broncos offense or anybody’s offense. It’s going to be the Ravens. It’s going to be what we build with our players and our coaches.
“It’s going to look like Baltimore wants it to look. It’s going to be rugged, it’s going to rough, it’s going to be tough, physical, downhill, precise football - passing game and running game. And that’s what we’re looking to become. But I think there’s a really good fit here philosophically. We see football from the same perspective. I think these guys see football from the perspective of Baltimore’s fans, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
As for the Ravens’ search for a new offensive coordinator after Jim Caldwell was hired as Lions head coach, Harbaugh said he interviewed about 15 candidates and vetted at least 30 from both the professional and college ranks.
Last week, Harbaugh named four candidates for the position - Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, former Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson. On Saturday, rumors spread that the search was down to Hostler and Shanahan.
But on Monday morning, the connections with Kubiak and Dennison started to leak, and the hirings were complete by the early afternoon. Harbaugh acknowledged that things didn’t turn toward Kubiak’s addition until late in the process.
“I would say that besides the four candidates, and that’s where I was at that time because I don’t think that coach (Kubiak) and I had really come to the idea that we could work,” Harbaugh said. “At the time we talked about the four of them, I continued conversations with Gary and with Rick. But that evolved, I’d say, in the last few days, the past five or six days. But other than those four candidates, pretty much everything else that was reported was erroneous or fictitious. So we feel good about that fact that we had you on the run. We kept it quiet. ... So we’re kind of proud of that.
“It emerged here at the end. I think we did a great job with a thorough process. That was something that was important to us, to make sure we turned over every stone. We looked at college coaches. We looked at a lot of guys. Of course, Gary Kubiak was on the list from the beginning. But within the last week it became apparent this had a chance to be a fit for both coaches and the Ravens. We were able to finish it up this weekend.”
Kubiak pointed to Harbaugh as the main reason he felt the Ravens were the right fit for him.
“I have great respect for the organization, obviously, playing them many times. But it gets down to John,” said Kubiak, a 21-year NFL coaching veteran. “We had some great conversations over the course of the last couple days. For me, I’m excited about getting back in the meeting room, teaching. I’m very fortunate to be a part of this great National Football League for many years, and it gives me a chance to be part of a championship organization and work with a great young quarterback. But I believed in John. How he does things, how he runs his team, his coaching staff, what he stands for, I have great respect for him. So for me, to get back to work with him in this organization, I can’t tell you how excited I am.
“I wanted to keep working, I wanted to keep going. I was kind of looking for something that hit me and said, ‘OK, this is it.’ And that’s what happened.”
On Nov. 3, the 52-year-old Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke on the field of the Texans’ game against the Colts. He missed the following game, but was able to work until being fired on Dec. 6 with Houston 2-11.
Kubiak held that health is not an issue for him any longer.
“I’m fine. I came out of it fine,” Kubiak said. “I was my old self at the end of the season, but things didn’t work out. I feel great, been working out. I’m looking forward to getting up very early in the morning and going to work again. My wife is tired of me being around the house.”
And after an offseason where he was connected to a number of openings around the NFL, Kubiak is determined to do all he can to help get the Ravens offense turned around after a rough season that saw the unit finish 29th.
“Right now, I want to be the best offensive coordinator I can be. That’s what I want to do,” he said. “I don’t look down the road and those type of things. I told John this when he first called me, I said, ‘John, you know what? I want a chance to enjoy coaching, teaching, and I want a chance to win. And I know you would offer me all those opportunities if this thing would work out.’ So really for me it’s about getting back. It’s a tough thing to go through. But right now, this has been the best day I’ve had in two months. I’m so excited to get back in this league and get back to work.”