After the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV it was no small secret that the key to the team’s success CLEARLY was found on the defensive side of the football.
During the 2000 season head coach Brian Billick fielded arguably the greatest defense of all time and the maestro of the unit was none other than Marvin Lewis.
Predictably, Lewis was courted by a few organizations to be their new head coach, but it’s often difficult for teams to wait on Super Bowl winners. Many clubs just believe that there’s not enough time to get a new head coach up to speed in an efficient way. Plus the challenges of hiring capable assistants that late can be steep.
Sensing that perhaps he wouldn’t be lucky enough to retain Lewis following the 2001 campaign, Brian Billick developed a back up plan. He hired Mike Nolan to be his wide receivers coach. The move raised an eyebrow or two since never during his 18+ seasons as a coach did Nolan have anything to do with offense.
Yet a wide receivers coach he remained during the 2001 campaign.
When the Ravens were knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round during the ’01 season, teams called upon Lewis once again. And although he didn’t land a head coaching position he did accept a head coach’s salary as the new defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.
Perhaps in part the move was driven by money. But more likely, Lewis’ exit was motivated by the club’s salary cap purge. He knew the defense would be torn down and after a few years at the top of the defensive food chain, he more than likely thought a bad year could tarnish his resume and hurt his chances at becoming a head coach.
The following season Lewis became the skipper of the Cincinnati Bengals and his first draft pick was Carson Palmer.
Fast forward to this offseason.
John Harbaugh, on the heels the organization’s second Super Bowl Championship and like his coaching predecessor, decided to add to his coaching staff by hiring former St. Louis Rams head coach and two-time defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “Spags” coached with Harbs in Philadelphia from ’99-’06.
Now incumbent defensive coordinator Dean Pees isn’t a head-coaching candidate in the NFL. He is however going to be 64 at the start of the 2013 season and it’s certainly within the realm of reason that the Dunkirk, OH native, father of six and grandfather of another six, could be considering retirement.
Once again, the Ravens are forward thinking, and should that somewhat expected retirement announcement come from Pees at the close of the 2013 season, the Ravens will be supremely prepared for the transition.
The attention to detail is in part what keeps the Ravens among the league’s premier franchises.
The move to get Spags is yet another example.