Ravens `D' now rests with Nolan

Receivers coach replaces M. Lewis as def. coordinator

Defense a work in progress

Three other coaches named to team's reconfigured staff

Pro Football

February 12, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When their tumultuous 72-hour ordeal had ended, the Ravens put angst behind them yesterday and embraced change. This was a time for new beginnings, fond farewells and a dash of humor.

"Take a snapshot because this is probably good for about 10 minutes," Ravens coach Brian Billick said, tongue in cheek, as his reconfigured staff assembled behind him for a news conference at the team's Owings Mills complex.

The new names belonged to special teams coordinator Gary Zauner, who arrives from the Minnesota Vikings; quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw, who comes from the Oakland Raiders; and defensive assistant Phil Zacharias, who spent the past seven years working on Stanford's staff.

Conspicuous by his absence was Marvin Lewis, the architect of the Ravens' Super Bowl defense who would resurface two hours later as defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.

The man on the hot seat - Mike Nolan - was the Ravens' new defensive coordinator and former receivers coach.

In his first day on the job, Nolan was hard-pressed to identify which players he'll have, what strategy he'll favor, or what defense he'll employ.

Instead, he talked about the framework for success.

"I think the structure that was put in place by Marvin and the defensive staff is what was critical," Nolan said. "There are a lot of teams with talent on defense or offense. I think it's up to the coaches to put that talent in some sort of structure so it creates success. That's the thing I think Marvin did a very good job of. That will be our job. As you all know, some of those parts are going to change."

Free agency, the salary cap, and to a lesser extent, the expansion draft next week will rob the Ravens of some of their best defensive players. Cornerback Duane Starks could be lost to free agency. Defensive linemen Michael McCrary, Rob Burnett and Sam Adams could be salary cap casualties. Linebacker Jamie Sharper could be a Houston Texan by Monday.

Depending on who goes and who stays, the Ravens could wind up in a 4-3 defense or a 3-4. In his 20 years as a coach, Nolan said he has divided his time evenly: 10 years in a four-man front, 10 in a three-man front.

For now, the Ravens will operate on contingencies. Retaining McCrary, for instance, would dictate a 4-3 look because he is not big enough to play as a 3-4 end. Billick said he isn't concerned over what defensive front the Ravens use.

"This game is not about X's and O's," he said. "It's about managing that talent. It's about chemistry. It's about providing the optimum environment to get the most out of your players."

It's about using the players you have to their best value, Nolan said.

"You have to adapt to your guys," he said. "If you've got somebody who can blitz, let them blitz."

With the departure of Jack Del Rio (as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers) and Steve Shafer (to retirement), the Ravens will tweak their defensive staff. Mike Smith moves up from defensive assistant to coach the linebackers. Donnie Henderson, who coached defensive backs with Shafer the last three years, takes over the secondary.

Henderson was invited to join Lewis in Washington, but turned down a more lucrative contract because, he said, he had already told Billick he'd return.

"My word is what it came down to," Henderson said. "I had given it to Brian two weeks ago, when we talked about Steve retiring and expanding my role. I agreed to it at that time, and I stuck with it."

Henderson said he has an agreement in principle to stay with the Ravens, but was still negotiating the length of the contract. "We're talking about three years," he said.

Likewise, Nolan didn't have a signed contract yesterday, either. Or a definitive length of contract. "But I have a contract," he said.

Yesterday's unveiling came after a whirlwind weekend that read more like a soap opera than a football timeline.

On Friday, Lewis was rejected as a head coaching candidate by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being told the job was his. On Saturday, he told Billick, team owner Art Modell and The Sun that he would return to the Ravens. On Sunday, he was swept off his feet by the Redskins, who made him the highest-paid assistant coach in the league with a three-year contract worth $850,000 a year.

Billick dismissed published reports that the Ravens offered Lewis $800,000 to stay as wildly inaccurate. Billick also said he refused to be drawn into a negotiating war with the Redskins.

"The fact they [the Redskins] upped their own offer ... I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that because we weren't part of the process," he said.

It became apparent afterward that even as Lewis was telling the Ravens he'd stay, his agent, Ray Anderson, continued to negotiate with the Redskins.

"The thing I regret the most through this whole process is the sequencing for everybody involved - Marvin, the Ravens, my staff - and what they had to go through emotionally," said Billick, who, incidentally, is also represented by Anderson.

Billick said Lewis told him Friday night and again Saturday morning he wanted to return to the Ravens and forego the Redskins' offer. Billick, who was on an anniversary retreat with his wife, Kim, in Annapolis, told Lewis both times to give it more consideration.

By the time Billick returned home Sunday, Lewis had had a change of heart.

"When I got back from my supposed anniversary weekend, Marvin came over to the house and laid out certain parameters for me that had existed, and I suggested that was probably something he needed to do," Billick said. "At that point, he chose to accept the job down in Washington."

Billick said he harbored no ill will toward the only defensive coordinator the Ravens have had in their six seasons in Baltimore.

"I wish Marvin well," he said. "I think the world of him. Nothing that has transpired will lessen my opinion of Marvin professionally or personally. I wish the sequence of events would have transpired a little bit differently."

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