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OWINGS MILLS — In his bid to become the San Diego Chargersâ€™ next head coach, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan demonstrated confidence while differentiating his personality from his legendary father.
The architect of the NFLâ€™s top-ranked defense met Thursday morning with Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and team president Dean Spanos. It was Ryan’s first interview for a head-coaching position at any level.
â€œI know Iâ€™m ready,â€ Ryan told San Diego reporters. "What I would bring is a great passion. Itâ€™s something that I was born to do: to be a football coach. Iâ€™m not exactly a media darling.
â€œI know that surprises everybody by my appearance, but Iâ€™m a football coach. I love the game. Iâ€™m committed to the game. My family is committed to it, and I think that will be obvious once I do hopefully get the opportunity to be a head coach.â€
Ryanâ€™s father, Buddy Ryan, built a fiery, abrasive reputation as the defensive coordinator for the 1985 Chicago Bears and as a head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
Ryan, who taught his son the intricacies of the high-pressure 46 defense, gave his blessing.
â€œRex has been ready for a long time,â€ Buddy Ryan said in a telephone interview. â€œHe deserves a good shot.â€
The elder Ryan, who feuded with Bears coach Mike Ditka, drew notoriety for punching out fellow assistant Kevin Gilbride on the Houston Oilers’ sideline. Ironically, Gilbride used to be the Chargersâ€™ head coach.
â€œI think about growing up in the same situations that my father grew up in, he was a master sergeant in the Korean War when he was 18 years old,â€ said Ryan, adding that he would be more respectful to reporters than his gruff father. â€œI think my personality might be a little different. I think Iâ€™m just the opposite.
â€œIâ€™ve learned a great deal from my father, how to attack offenses and how to do different things in football. But Iâ€™ve also learned what not to do as well. You hope you donâ€™t punch out an assistant coach on the sideline.â€
Ryan was the second coach to interview with Chargers management, following San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach and linebackers coach Mike Singletary.
The Chargers brought in 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner on Thursday shortly after Ryan headed back to Baltimore, and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is scheduled to meet with team officials today.
â€œIt was an outstanding meeting,â€ Ryan said. â€œI had a great time here. I couldnâ€™t be more impressed with the organization. It was quite an experience. I think once you go through this process, you realize how much you really do want to be in this position."
Marty Schottenheimer was fired by San Diego earlier this week as Spanos cited a dysfunctional working relationship with Smith as the major reason behind the move. Smith won the power struggle. He’s known as a stern, unapproachable taskmaster.
When asked if he would be able to get along with Smith, Ryan replied: â€œOh, absolutely. I feel the same kind of commitment out of Dean, out of A.J., out of this whole organization, that I would have. Iâ€™m sure we would get along fine. Whatâ€™s done in the past is done in the past. I wasnâ€™t privy to why it went on.â€
Ryan would seem to fit in well with the Chargers because of his background as an aggressive, creative coach well versed in the 3-4 defense.
The Ravens had four Pro Bowl linebackers last season, and the Chargers feature athletic Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman as the centerpiece of a stout front seven.
Baltimore led the NFL in total yards of offense allowed (264.1) and points allowed per game (12.6). San Diego had the NFLâ€™s second-ranked defense.
â€œThere are some real similarities,â€ Ryan said. â€œBoth of us have outstanding personnel.â€
Ryan sported his 2000 Ravens Super Bowl ring during his trip to the West Coast, and referenced his desire to fill up his hand with more championship jewelry.
If Ryan is the Chargersâ€™ choice, he would inherit an ideal situation. The team is coming off a 14-2 season and returns All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson, promising quarterback Philip Rivers along with a sound salary-cap situation.
â€œObviously, 14-2 record, it would be a unique situation to come into as a head coach,â€ Ryan said. â€œUsually, itâ€™s reversed. The head coach is looked at as, â€˜Well, heâ€™s going to be the savior for the franchise.â€™
â€œIf I got the job, my job would be not to screw it up, quite honestly. They have things going in the right direction. I think I could add to the program and help in certain areas. Hopefully, I get the opportunity.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.