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News » Unconventional wisdom: Surprising hires abound

Unconventional wisdom: Surprising hires abound

Unconventional wisdom: Surprising hires abound
WESTMINSTER, Md. - John Harbaugh says that Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis "probably had no idea who I was" before his hiring as head coach.

Many NFL fans didn't either.

Harbaugh toiled in relative obscurity for nine of the past 10 seasons as Philadelphia's special teams coach. Harbaugh switched to the secondary in 2007 believing the experience would put him on a faster tract to become an NFL head coach.

"I figured I'd do that for two or three years and maybe get a chance to become a defensive coordinator," Harbaugh said.

He skipped that step. Baltimore signed Harbaugh to replace the fired Brian Billick after Jason Garrett decided to remain Dallas' offensive coordinator.

Here's a look at five other surprising NFL hires or promotions from this offseason:

  • Atlanta head coach Mike Smith: After the Bobby Petrino debacle, Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted a replacement with strong personal character. He found one in the 49-year-old Smith, who drew raves for his work as Jacksonville's defensive coordinator the past six seasons.

    Smith has never served as a head coach at any level and inherits a roster still being overhauled by new general manager Thomas Dimitroff. But he may already have a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, who has looked extremely sharp during the preseason.

  • Washington head coach Jim Zorn: At least Smith has served as an NFL play-caller before. The same can't be said of Zorn, who was Seattle's quarterbacks coach the past seven seasons.

    Initially hired as Washington's offensive coordinator, Zorn was promoted when the Redskins weren't satisfied with other potential replacements for the retiring Joe Gibbs. In retrospect, Redskins general manager Vinny Cerrato said Zorn initially should have been atop the head-coaching wish list.

    "When he came out to interview, I didn't realize how detailed and organized he really was," Cerrato said. "He has a plan and idea for everything."

  • Buffalo Bills Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon: Giving someone without an "Xs and Os" background the final say on personnel moves sounds crazy. But when general manager Marv Levy retired after the 2007 season, Bills owner Ralph Wilson split the position between his pro and college scouting directors.

    John Guy and Tom Modrak now report to Brandon, a former baseball marketing executive who oversees decisions made by the football staff. If that group can't reach a consensus, Brandon makes the call.

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    Judging by the early impact being made by rookies Leodis McKelvin and James Hardy, the arrangement is running smoothly.

  • New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ed Orgeron: The high number of NFL defensive linemen being produced when Orgeron was Southern Cal's position coach led to his Dec. 2004 hiring as Mississippi's head coach.

    Fired by the Rebels at the end of last season, Orgeron made the jump to the pro ranks. In New Orleans, Orgeron is being reunited with a stud defensive tackle he once recruited to USC — 2008 first-round pick Sedrick Ellis.

  • New England secondary coach/special assistant Dom Capers: With 16 years of experience as either an NFL head coach or defensive coordinator, it was surprising to see Capers take a lesser role with the Patriots. New England coach Bill Belichick will still run the defense with coordinator Dean Pees, but Capers' can offer plenty of valuable suggestions from his expertise with 3-4 schemes.

  • Author:Fox Sports
    Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: August 16, 2008

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