Billick gets his man

Cavanaugh agrees to join Ravens as offensive coordinator

`Wanted to build something'

Former Bears assistant passes on Jags' offer

January 29, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- Ravens coach Brian Billick calls himself a good salesman, and he proved it yesterday by selling Matt Cavanaugh on the idea of becoming his offensive coordinator.

Billick announced at a news conference that Cavanaugh picked the Ravens over the Jaguars, even though the Jacksonville coordinator gets to call the plays and three Jacksonville assistant coaches (Kevin Gilbride, Chris Palmer and Dick Jauron) have gone on to become head coaches.

By contrast, Billick will call his own plays and he compared Cavanaugh's role to the one Gary Kubiak has in Denver under Mike Shanahan and Sherm Lewis had in Green Bay under Mike Holmgren. The lack of play-calling experience has tended to hinder Kubiak and Lewis in their search of head coaching jobs.

Billick said the difference is that Cavanaugh has had experience running an offense with the Chicago Bears in his last job.

"If we're able to be successful under that scenario, and certainly Matt Cavanaugh will be a part of that success, they're going to be able to see he has done that. I will rely on Matt very heavily," he said.

He added: "I think he wanted to tap in a little bit to the things we're doing, and I think he also recognized that by coming to Baltimore, any success that we have will be to a degree attributed to him, where in Jacksonville, he may have been just another guy they pulled in at coordinator. He's going to have a direct impact and a major role on what we do offensively."

Cavanaugh agreed that Baltimore offers more chance for recognition.

"I know the quarterback situation here has to be settled, and I wanted that challenge," he said. "I wanted to come to a place that isn't established. I wanted to help the team build something. It's a fresh start."

Also, Cavanaugh said, Billick sold him on the job.

"He's very energetic. He has good ideas and a good plan. He's someone who obviously has had success."

Although he wouldn't get into specifics, Billick said the packages that Cavanaugh and the other assistant coaches got "are as good as any in the league."

Billick said the competition for coaches is raising the level of assistant coaches' salaries.

"As a former assistant coach, that's great. The coaches ought to be paid well. Clearly, the market has gone up. As a head coach with a budget, it's not quite as exciting as on the other end," he said.

Billick said he didn't have a specific figure for a coaching budget, but worked within parameters he set with the team when he got the job.

Billick is continuing his whirlwind schedule since being named head coach. He didn't even bother to stay in Miami for the Super Bowl. Instead, he flew back to Baltimore after the news conference for a front office meeting today.

"It will be a continued discussion of our personnel, where we're at under the salary cap and the free-agent market," he said.

That will set the stage for the first meeting of his 13-man staff next Tuesday.

Billick said he didn't anticipate the Ravens would make a big plunge in the free-agent market.

"Going out and acquiring the big-priced free agent is not necessarily the way to go. You have to be an awful good team, you have to be an upper-echelon team that really thinks you're just that one player away who can be absorbed into the structure of your team. If you go out and get that high-priced player and expect him to be the immediate leader, I think you're making a mistake. People in Washington and Carolina will verify that," he said.

He was referring to Washington signing Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson and Carolina getting Sean Gilbert and Doug Evans. Both teams had losing records despite the acquisitions.

He also talked openly about acquiring Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson and possibly wide receiver Jake Reed.

He seemed to be trying to sell Minnesota on the idea of trading Johnson by saying how difficult it would be for the Vikings to have both Johnson and Randall Cunningham on their team next year. He said it wouldn't work if the Vikings simply announced that Johnson and Cunningham would compete for the starting job in camp.

"You don't want to have a scenario where either one is looking over his shoulder. That's a scenario for disaster. This is just my opinion as the head coach of the Ravens with maybe a vested interest in this. It's very difficult dynamic, that given the success both those quarterbacks have had, that they could amicably get along during the course of the season.

"And the bottom line is that somebody is probably going to make him an offer they can't refuse," he said.

Billick left little doubt that he's close to Johnson.

"Obviously, there's an emotional tie there. I have to rely on people like Ozzie Newsome and his staff to help me get past the emotional part. I have to make sure I'm a little more analytical and it's hard for me because of my ties with Brad. Certainly, it's an intriguing scenario for me," he said.

He listed the alternatives as sticking with Jim Harbaugh, looking at the other quarterbacks available and possibly drafting one.

Billick also said he'd be talking with former coach Ted Marchibroda to get his perspective on the players, the organization and the city. "Ted's been gracious enough to allow me that," he said.

He also left open the possibility of Marchibroda's joining the organization.

"I would welcome it. If Ted were interested and the Modells saw a use for Ted, I would have no problem with his presence," he said.

Sun staff writer Gary Lambrecht contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 1/29/99

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