Billick quickly goes on attack

New Ravens boss asks Tice, then Cavanaugh to head his offense

Interviews abound in Ala.

M. Lewis offered job, but not def. coordinator

January 21, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Ravens offered former Chicago Bears assistant coach Matt Cavanaugh their offensive coordinator's position yesterday, and new Ravens coach Brian Billick apparently has offered Marvin Lewis a job as a position coach, but not his former position as defensive coordinator.

Earlier yesterday, Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Mike Tice turned down the Ravens' offensive coordinator's post, Billick said.

Billick, hired by the Ravens on Tuesday, spent the day inside a hotel suite here at the Senior Bowl yesterday. Assistant coaches throughout the league recognize this week as an annual job fair, and Billick conducted 10 face-to-face interviews. At least twice as many were done via phone.

Billick said he also interviewed former Ravens assistant coach Jacob Burney, regarded as one of the most technically sound defensive line coaches in the league. Lewis and Burney are "priority" hires for Billick from the old staff.

Billick said he expects an answer from Cavanaugh today.

Cavanaugh, who was the Bears' offensive coordinator this season, also interviewed with the New York Giants yesterday and is considered a candidate for St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator as well, Billick said.

"He's looking at several things right now. He's got some options, but I'd very much like to have him on my staff," Billick said.

Cavanaugh spent 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback, mostly as a backup, with four teams. He was a member of Super Bowl teams with the Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Cavanaugh started coaching in 1993, as an assistant at Pittsburgh, his alma mater, before moving into the NFL the next year with the Arizona Cardinals. After a season on the 49ers' staff, he became the Bears' offensive coordinator in 1997.

Burney has been offered a defensive line job with the Tennessee Titans, and Lewis has been offered the defensive coordinator's job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis also has interviewed with the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was linebackers coach before joining the Ravens three years ago.

Lewis did not return calls to his home last night.

"It's my hope that Marvin will stay on at the very least as a position coach," Billick said last night. "I have several other people I need to speak with about the coordinator's position, but I would be very comfortable with Marvin as my defensive coordinator."

Billick is waiting on the status of Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who coached with the Baltimore Colts. Cunningham is still under contract with the Chiefs, even though coach Marty Schottenheimer retired earlier this month.

Cunningham also has been interviewed by the Bears for their vacant head coaching position. If the Chiefs' new coach wants to retain Cunningham, then he must honor his contract. Kansas City officials probably wouldn't deny him the Bears' job.

"I've known Gunther Cunningham for a long time. He is a friend, but I also consider him the best defensive coordinator in the league," said Billick. "We'll wait and see what happens."

"I'm still under contract and I just got back from Chicago, so we'll see how it goes," said Cunningham. "Brian is one of the great young coaches in this league. He is going to do well in Baltimore."

Several of the Ravens expressed interest in having Lewis back in either capacity.

"I think it would be good for those guys [Lewis and Burney] to come back," said strong safety Stevon Moore. "Marvin knows all the players, and he has a special relationship with a lot of them."

"I hope he stays," said free safety Kim Herring, endorsing Lewis as defensive coordinator. "I don't want to learn a whole new defense."

Billick had little success trying to raid the staff of his former team. He wanted to bring in Tice, a former University of Maryland quarterback, as an offensive line coach/coordinator. He also wanted to bring in Vikings assistant Wade Harman as tight ends coach. He got cut off by his former boss, Minnesota head coach Dennis Green.

"Brian will do well in Baltimore, but not with my staff," said Green, smiling. "I will make it hard for them to leave."

"He offered Mike some things that he wasn't able to work out before," said Billick. " But I have some contingency plans, and hopefully the staff will be put in place by this weekend."

Assistant coaches were not the only ones shopping their services yesterday. Word around the league is that the Ravens are looking for a veteran quarterback. Vikings veteran Brad Johnson's name has surfaced as an option, and agent Tony Agnone has already laid some groundwork for the team to take a look at disgruntled Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell.

"I told Brian if he was in the market, give me a call," said Agnone.

Pub Date: 1/21/99

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