Ravens to add coaches for receivers and LBs

Former Cards Sullivan, FitzGerald may be chosen

January 14, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are planning to add two members to their coaching staff by the end of this week, coach Brian Billick said yesterday.

In a restructuring of his staff, Billick will bring in a new coach for the receivers as well as the linebackers. Sources in Arizona said last night the leading candidates to fill those positions are Jerry Sullivan and Jeff FitzGerald, both former Cardinals coaches.

Sullivan was the Cardinals' offensive coordinator last season and has long been regarded as one of the NFL's finest receiving coaches. Although he has talked with the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins about the same position, the source said Sullivan is leaning toward the Ravens because of their stability at head coach.

FitzGerald spent the last three seasons in Arizona overseeing the linebackers. Before that, he coached five years for Washington and Tampa Bay.

The hiring of a linebackers coach creates a logjam since the Ravens already have two linebackers coaches, Mike Singletary and Phil Zacharias. It is unknown how Billick will reshuffle the defensive staff.

But adding a receivers coach will allow David Shaw to concentrate primarily on the quarterbacks. If the Ravens can re-sign Anthony Wright to go along with Kyle Boller, they still will have one of the league's most inexperienced quarterback groups.

"It certainly gets the adequate attention right now, but the further development of both Kyle and Anthony is going to be pivotal," Billick said. "Allowing David Shaw to focus more on the quarterback position will free up [offensive coordinator] Matt Cavanaugh from some of that because they shared that duty to a degree. Bringing in a receivers coach can bring an isolated perspective for them to enhance that productivity. That's where my focus is right now."

None of the Ravens' coaching additions will include Jim Fassel. Billick denied reports of the former New York Giants head coach becoming the Ravens' offensive coordinator, saying it has never been a consideration.

Despite Billick's saying last week that Cavanaugh would return, Cavanaugh's job status has remained a hot topic throughout the league and the Ravens' fan base. The Ravens, who ranked 21st in offense this season, have finished in the bottom half of the NFL in four of five seasons under Billick and Cavanaugh.

One fan even sent Billick a resume to apply for the offensive coordinator job.

"I am very cognizant of the perceptions and what people think you need to do to correct your staffs," Billick said. "I do hear the fans and the talk. That is something I have to consider in the decisions I make. But I don't think anybody would want me to arbitrarily do anything in this organization based on the perception of what public opinion is. I am cognizant of that, but I am also always going to do what is in the best interest of the club."

One coach who may be leaving is secondary coach Donnie Henderson, who is in the running for the New York Jets' defensive coordinator position.

The Jets interviewed Gunther Cunningham yesterday, and the Tennessee Titans linebackers coach is believed to be the front-runner because of his experience. But if Cunningham is hired in Atlanta (where he is expected to interview later this week), Henderson could be offered the job with the Jets.

A league source said Henderson's meeting with the Jets was positive.

"There's no timetable," Henderson said.

Meanwhile, offensive line coach Jim Colletto is staying with the Ravens.

Recently hired Cardinals coach Dennis Green had set up a visit with Colletto for yesterday but called to cancel the trip Sunday, saying he was going in a different direction. At Purdue, Arizona State, Ohio State and Notre Dame, Colletto was the coordinator for offenses that averaged 26.8 points.

"I've been a coordinator for most of the 30-some odd years I've been doing this, and I want to do it again after being in this league," Colletto said. "The problem in this league is it's very hard for an offensive line coach to get that because people don't think you know anything else except blocking and pass protection. Well, I've been in this business long enough to learn something about it and do it. It's disappointing."

NOTES: A day after the Dolphins hired Dan Marino as head of football operations and promoted Rick Spielman to general manager, Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage remained optimistic about his chances of landing a general manager position in the future. "My time will come," he said. "I'm not even concerned about it, whether it's here or somewhere else. It's going to happen. I'm thankful that the Ravens have given me a chance to forge somewhat of a reputation in the field. People want to be close to a winner and we're going to win." ... During Fox's pre-game show Saturday, Buccaneers receiver Keyshawn Johnson listed the Patriots, Cowboys and Ravens as teams he'd like to play for next season. It's believed that the combination of Johnson's asking price and his skills as a possession receiver probably would not attract the Ravens. ... The Ravens will have their first personnel meetings of the offseason tomorrow and Friday.

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