Harbaugh 'planning' on Kubiak returning, says team has 'solid foundation'

The Ravens expect Gary Kubiak to stay and hope for little coaching staff turnover.

Three days after the Ravens' season ended with a divisional round playoff loss to the New England Patriots, John Harbaugh expressed confidence in the organization's future, and the chances of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak remaining part of it.

Speculation has persisted since the Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox parted ways on Monday that Kubiak, who had said Sunday night he would remain with the Ravens, could reconsider and interview for the Broncos' head coaching vacancy.

But Harbaugh said the Broncos haven't asked for permission to interview Kubiak, and as far as he knew, the offensive play caller remained committed to the Ravens.

"I haven't sat down with Gary and interrogated him about it. Maybe I should. That might be my next move," Harbaugh said jokingly. "Out of respect, he's told me he's planning on being here. Denver hasn't reached out in any way at this time. That isn't to say it couldn't change at some point in time. If that happens, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. But I don't want to put anybody on the spot like that. I want to be respectful. I'm planning on Gary being back. If that changes, we'll deal with it if it comes up. But I don't anticipate that at this time."

Kubiak, who was also a candidate for the Chicago Bears' and New York Jets' head coaching vacancies, informed Harbaugh on Sunday that he planned to remain with the Ravens and wasn't interested in interviewing elsewhere.

Harbaugh called the news "music to my ears." However, Kubiak's pledge came a day before the Broncos suddenly had an opening for a head coach. Kubiak spent 20 seasons in the Denver organization as a player and assistant coach, and Broncos general manager John Elway was his former teammate and roommate.

Kubiak has not responded to requests for comment since the Broncos job came open.

Elway said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon that he has yet to ask for permission from teams to interview certain candidates, but it's widely expected around the league that he'll contact the Ravens about Kubiak and try to make a pitch to his close friend.

"We are looking at everybody," Elway told reporters. "There are a bunch of growing, top candidates out there so we are going to go through the process, we are going to look at everyone, look at everybody's run and whether or not they will fit and make the best decision for the Denver Broncos. It's hard to say anything right now. I'm not going to get into the relationship I have with different people — there are some options out there that I know a lot about."

Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio are also reportedly candidates.

Several people within the organization expressed hope that Kubiak is focused on staying and running the Ravens offense, though Elway is known to be persuasive.

"He's very happy here. His family is happy here," Harbaugh said of Kubiak. "All the coaches really feel good about where they're at right now. So, as far as I know, nothing has changed along those lines."

In Kubiak's first season calling the plays, the offense set franchise records for points (409) and yards (5,838), and put up 61 total points in two playoff games. Quarterback Joe Flacco had the best season of his career, statistically, and the running game went from near the bottom of the league to near the top.

The Ravens have had three offensive coordinators in as many seasons, so retaining Kubiak was considered an important step toward providing continuity on Harbaugh's staff. Last offseason, Harbaugh added six new primary position coaches, plus Kubiak.

Harbaugh said he's hoping for minimal to no change to his staff this offseason, though he did acknowledge that secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo plans to interview on Wednesday for the New York Giants' defensive coordinator job. Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin during their Super Bowl XLII-winning season and is viewed as a favorite to land the job.

"We'll see how that plays out," Harbaugh said. "Steve is a great coach. He's done a great job with the guys throughout the course of the season. He's been a head coach, been a coordinator, and that's not something that we would want to hold him back from as an opportunity."

Harbaugh, his staff and other team officials will have personnel meetings Wednesday in which they'll review every player on their roster. Next week, Harbaugh's staff has agreed to coach one of the Pro Bowl teams. The all-star game will be played Jan. 25 in Glendale, Ariz., the week before Super Bowl XLIX.

Following the Pro Bowl, Harbaugh, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta and senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty will travel to Florida and meet at owner Steve Bisciotti's home to continue discussions about the team's salary cap situation and their free agent plans.

Harbaugh was hesitant to address where the team stands under the cap, but said he gets the feeling the Ravens may have a little more flexibility than in past offseasons.

"Until I see the hard numbers, I really don't want to trust a feeling on that, but it might be a little better in that sense," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens could have as many as 20 unrestricted or restricted free agents, with the four biggest names being running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith, tight end Owen Daniels and outside linebacker-defensive end Pernell McPhee. Harbaugh was asked specifically about Forsett and Smith and said he'd like to have them both back.

The organization might also have to address the contracts of longtime defensive standouts Haloti Ngata and Lardarius Webb, but overall, Harbaugh sounded excited and optimistic about where the Ravens stand after a season in which they won 10 regular season games and advanced to the playoffs for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, despite dealing with a plethora of injuries and off-the-field issues.

There are some areas of concern. The Ravens' secondary needs to be overhauled and the team could use additions at running back and tight end. But the nucleus, in Harbaugh's view, remains strong.

"Talking to the team the day after the game and even in the locker room after the game, this is something that you always have your mind on as a coach. 'OK, where are we, but where are we going?,'" he said. "And it's pretty clear cut some areas that we have to improve in, and those areas are areas that guys that are already on the team can help us with and guys that we can potentially bring in to be a part of what we're doing, and things we can do coaching-wise, obviously, to improve.

"We have a solid foundation of a football team underneath us right now … and that's very exciting."

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
65°