KYLE SHANAHAN ODD MAN OUT
OWINGS MILLS -- Before their precipitous decline to 2-14 in 2013, the Houston Texans had enjoyed the best four-season stretch of their short history.
The team, born as an expansion franchise 12 years ago, racked up three winning seasons -- the first in team history -- during a four-year span, winning two AFC South championships and posting a 37-27 record.
Several players from those squads have made their way to Baltimore during recent years, such as receiver/returner Jacoby Jones, safety Bernard Pollard and fullback Vonta Leach.
The Ravens may be making over their coaching staff in the same image, with the Jan. 27 appointments of ex-Houston head coach Gary Kubiak as the new offensive coordinator and Rick Dennison as the quarterbacks coach.
The hires are just part of what could be a near-total revamping of the Ravens' offensive staff.
Juan Castillo will still be the offensive line coach, but there is a vacancy at running backs coach after Wilbert Montgomery's departure, as well as possible openings at wide receivers coach and tight ends coach.
Receivers coach Jim Hostler was reportedly a front-runner for the coordinator's job and tight ends coach Wade Harman could also be departing, but head coach John Harbaugh said that those issues would be worked out within the week.
"We have a chance to build the best offensive staff in the NFL," Harbaugh said. "[Kubiak] was on our list from the beginning, but in the last week, we felt that he would be a good fit for our staff."
If a new tight ends coach is needed, the Kubiak-Dennison duo could be bringing Brian Pariani with them to fill the same position he held with the Texans for the last eight seasons.
Pariani would be the fourth tight ends coach in Ravens history; it is the position unit that has had the fewest mentors since the franchise began operations in 1996.
Pariani would be following a distinguished trio in Pat Hill, who went on to be a successful head coach at Fresno State; Ken Whisenhunt, a former Arizona Cardinals head man who is now with the Tennessee Titans; and Harman, the longest-tenured coach on the staff, who would be leaving after 15 years in Baltimore.
From 2009-12, Houston became known for a punishing running attack, complete with the same kind of zone-blocking scheme Castillo advocated.
Running in that scheme -- thought to have originated with longtime Denver assistant Alex Gibbs, one that produced numerous 1,000-yard rushers -- undrafted back Arian Foster has made three Pro Bowls during his five seasons, rushing for more than 5,000 career yards and 45 touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Last year, the Ravens averaged 3.1 yards per carry (32nd in the NFL) and 83 rushing yards per game (30th).
But the 52-year-old Kubiak, a former backup quarterback during his playing days in Denver, said the focal point of any offense lay elsewhere.
"You definitely build your offense around your quarterback," said Kubiak, who has not indicated whether he will call plays from a press-level booth, as predecessor Jim Caldwell did, or the sidelines. "We'll do whatever we can to make Joe [Flacco] the best he can be."
Kubiak, the Ravens' third offensive coordinator since the start of the 2012 season, went through a tumultuous 2013 season as head coach of the declining Texans, who had to endure quarterback Matt Schaub's injury as well as his own mini-stroke, suffered at halftime of a nationally televised prime-time game.
The Texans fired Kubiak in early December and finished with the league's worst record, earning themselves the first overall pick for the May 8-10 draft.
"I had to cut back on my hours a little bit," Kubiak said. "But today is my best day in two months. I'm very excited to be back in this league and being able to teach and coach again."
Kubiak and the 55-year-old Dennison were Broncos teammates from 1983-90; the latter served as the Texans' offensive coordinator from 2010-13.
But more than the obvious connection between them, the duo also said they had a synergy with Harbaugh as well.
"[Harbaugh] is the reason we're sitting here today," Kubiak said of himself and Dennison. "It's a chance to see football from the same perspective."
The hirings capped off a weekend of wild rumors and speculation, which seemed to center on the coordinator's job coming down to two finalists: Hostler and Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The 34-year-old Shanahan already has coordinator experience, the latest coming under his father, former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.
In that position, the younger Shanahan had to adjust his approach because of quarterback Robert Griffin III's more mobile skill set.
Shanahan, Dennison and Kubiak were among a group of about 30 candidates for the coordinator's job and quarterbacks coach position.
Harbaugh interviewed roughly half of those applicants in person while the rest of the Ravens' front office was in Alabama scouting draft prospects at the annual Senior Bowl.
Harbaugh told BaltimoreRavens.com in the middle of last week that four candidates had emerged, with Kubiak's name not among them.
Former St. Louis assistant Scott Linehan is reportedly in line to get a position on the Dallas Cowboys' staff, while former Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson -- in line to get the same job with the Ravens -- instead took the same slot in Minnesota under new head coach Mike Zimmer.
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