Ryan, now the New York Jets' coach, was the Ravens' defensive coordinator at the time, and a favorite of many players to replace the departed Brain Billick in the top spot. But the job instead went to Harbaugh, who had been part of Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff.
"From a chemistry standpoint ... we really liked John and we thought it was going to be tougher for Rex to bring the whole team together after him spending 10 years on one side of the ball that was the dominant side of the ball," Bisciotti told season-ticket holders Tuesday night in an hourlong conference call.
"I've known Rex for an awful long time," Bisciotti explained. "We had struggled for so long on the offensive side of the ball, and we were so dominant on the defensive side of the ball. Through no fault of Rex's, I think it created a little bit of the haves and have-nots, kind of a big brother/little brother syndrome here."
"(Ryan was) like a dad, like a brother, man," Reed said. "We wanted Rex as the head coach in Baltimore. We did not want him to leave. It hurt when he left (in 2009). We knew he was a great coach. There was a reason why that defense was the way it was.
"I would play anywhere with Rex -- in a dark alley, on the street, in high school football, sandlot, anywhere -- because he makes it fun," Reed said. "He loves this game. He truly loves this game, and there's a reason why those guys in New York back him the way they do."
Things have worked out pretty well for both coaches: Harbaugh has led the Ravens to three consecutive playoff appearances, and Ryan has piloted the Jets to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row.
"I will always be second-guessed," Bisciotti said of hiring Harbaugh over Ryan. "Some people will agree with me and some people won't. I just had to make a gut decision, and so far it's worked out pretty well. I hope it gets us to the Super Bowl and brings back a couple of trophies to Baltimore."