Ryan, 46, has been a runner-up in the past for several jobs, including last year when John Harbaugh replaced Brian Billick as the Ravens’ coach. This time, Ryan’s prospects look much brighter.
"If he doesn’t get a head coaching job somewhere, I’d be surprised," strong safety Jim Leonhard said. "He’s a tremendous guy to play for, and I think he would be a great head coach. As a player, I would love to play with him whether it’s here or somewhere else. As Ravens, we would all like him to be back."
Inside linebacker Bart Scott acknowledged that Ryan’s potential departure is part of the not-for-long aspect of the NFL.
"That’s the nature of the business," Scott said. "He’s a great coach, I think he’s due. He’s been deserving of a head coaching job, and we would all be happy for him, but right now he’s our coordinator and we’re going to go out and play hard for him."
The Ravens don’t have any doubts about where Ryan’s focus lies: solely on Sunday’s AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We know that come Sunday, we’re going to get all of Rex Ryan," Leonhard said. "He’s going to be there for us. He’s not looking ahead. He loves us, we love him."
Ryan met Sunday with Jets team owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum and made a good enough impression that the Jets are reportedly willing to wait until after the Super Bowl, if need be, to possibly hire the son of former NFL coach Buddy Ryan.
"I think he felt good about the opportunity to do it, and obviously felt good about the job he did in the interview," Harbaugh said. "Rex, I don’t think he prepared for it at all. I think he just went in there and was himself, presented a program.
"Rex will be a tremendous head coach in the NFL for whoever is smart enough to hire him right now. We’re hoping he stays. We’re hoping he’s our defensive coordinator next year, but that’s a great opportunity for him, either one of those spots."
Harbaugh wasn’t inclined to discuss potential replacements for Ryan. If the Ravens choose to promote from within, linebackers coach Greg Mattison or secondary coach Chuck Pagano would be the top candidates.
"That’s way ahead of our thinking right now," Harbaugh said. "As a head coach, you’re always formulating possibilities. Rex’s total focus and my total focus and our team’s total focus is going to be on the Pittsburgh Steelers and that’s it. Everything else can take care of itself when the time comes."
BIG WELCOME: The Ravens were thrilled at being greeted at BWI Airport when they returned from Tennessee on Saturday night by nearly 2,000 raucous fans.
"We couldn’t see the main concourse there, but all of a sudden we heard a roar and it was like being in a stadium," Harbaugh said. "It was like being in M&T Bank Stadium. It was loud. It was echoing through the halls.
"I thought our guys did a real nice job of going over and high-fiving them and signing some autographs and just being a part of it. It was a great feeling. It was neat to see the connection to the team and the fans. The fans really touched us."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.