Savage likely to get job as Jags GM

Noted for draft success, college scouting director key in building of Ravens

January 17, 2003|By Jamison Hensley and Brent Jones | Jamison Hensley and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Jacksonville Jaguars' new look has a familiar ring for the Ravens.

A league source said yesterday the club is expected to name Ravens director of college scouting Phil Savage as general manager by the end of the week.

With the Jaguars, Savage would join former Ravens linebackers coach Jack Del Rio, who was hired as the team's head coach last night.

The Jaguars have set up a news conference today to introduce Del Rio and could announce Savage at the same time, though Savage might not be hired until tomorrow.

Savage, 37, who has played a pivotal role in the Ravens' draft success, drove to Jacksonville, Fla., last night for a second interview this morning with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver. Savage said there was no agreement in place as of last night, but a league source said he will be offered the job today.

To fill Savage's position, the Ravens probably would promote from within the organization. One possibility is the team's Midwest scout, Eric DeCosta, a league source said.

Regarded as one of the league's top draft experts, Savage likely will beat out Ravens pro personnel director James Harris, Buffalo Bills director of football operations Tom Modrak and the Jaguars' director of player personnel, Rick Reiprish.

"That would be a natural combination," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Savage and Del Rio. "Again, we'd applaud that for Phil. That would be a great move. The two of them working together, the combination of the two and the potential that presented becomes attractive if it goes down that way."

In seven drafts with Savage as director of college scouting, the Ravens have selected seven Pro Bowl players, including perennial All-Pros in linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. Of the 22 starters on this season's Ravens team, 17 were drafted by the team or signed as undrafted rookie free agents.

The Jaguars' GM job was the first opening that had intrigued Savage over the past three years. He had been a finalist for front-office positions with the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears two years ago before pulling his name from consideration.

Savage's first round of talks with Jacksonville on Saturday led to the hiring of Del Rio.

In that interview, Savage strongly recommended Del Rio, the Ravens' linebackers coach from 1999 to 2001 before becoming the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator last season. Del Rio, 39, will be the second-youngest coach in the league, just a few months older than Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden.

One of the youngest front offices in the league will have its work cut out with the Jaguars, who have had a losing record the past three seasons.

If the Jacksonville deal were to fall through for Savage, he has a Monday meeting scheduled with the Seattle Seahawks for their GM position. Harris, who interviewed for the Jaguars' personnel vacancy last week, also is scheduled to talk with the Seahawks next week about the job.

As for Del Rio, he becomes the second former member of Billick's coaching staff to become a head coach this week, following the Cincinnati Bengals' hiring of past defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

While it appears Lewis will not lure away anyone from the Ravens' current staff, Del Rio is rumored to be interested in defensive line coach Rex Ryan or linebackers coach Mike Smith to possibly become his defensive coordinator.

"He's very capable," Billick said of Del Rio. "He'll do a great job. Whatever inexperience he has will be overcome with the passion and commitment he has for this game.

"I'm sure Jack will consider a couple of my guys for his coordinator position. I'll have to wait and hear from Jack on that."

In order for either coach to become coordinator, Billick would have to grant permission, something he said he would do. But it is highly unlikely Billick would allow Ryan or Smith to leave for any other position except defensive coordinator, and both are probably long shots.

"I'm flattered that my staff is thought of as highly as it is," Billick said. "But they ain't going anywhere."

Meanwhile, Lewis reportedly has turned to Atlanta Falcons secondary coach Emmitt Thomas to be his defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Thomas was picked over Ravens secondary coach Donnie Henderson largely because of his seven years experience as coordinator with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Minnesota.

Henderson, 45, who has spent the past four seasons with the Ravens, has never been an NFL defensive coordinator. The Ravens, with three new starters in the secondary and two rookie safeties for most of the season, led the AFC with 25 interceptions and gave up 224.4 passing yards a game, 26th in the NFL.

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