Lynn replacing Henderson as Ravens' secondary coach

He joins team after losing bid to be Jets' coordinator

Pro Football

January 27, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Citing a desire to be geographically near his college-age children, former New York Giants defensive coordinator Johnnie Lynn has accepted the Ravens' offer to succeed Donnie Henderson as secondary coach.

Henderson was officially introduced as the New York Jets' defensive coordinator yesterday, beating out Lynn for that position. Lynn had a chance to work under Henderson as the Jets' secondary coach or go to the Buffalo Bills in the same capacity, but he chose to work with the league's fourth-ranked pass defense, in part because of the team's location.

"I do have a daughter that is at Hampton University [in Virginia] and a son that is going to start at Rutgers [in New Jersey] in the fall, and Baltimore is the midway point," said Lynn, 47. "That is an encouraging thing. Also, what the Ravens do, how they play and compete, you always want to go to a winner."

Lynn comes to the Ravens after two years as coordinator with the Giants. The Giants' defense finished 22nd overall and gave up 24.2 points a game, 29th in the league, this season. In 2002, the Giants' defense finished ninth overall and gave up 17.4 points, third in the NFL.

Former Giants coach Jim Fassel and his staff were fired after the regular season. Shortly after, Lynn was the first person to interview with the Jets.

After a number of candidates dropped out, Jets coach Herman Edwards' decision came down to Lynn and Henderson.

"It is very healthy to go through the interview process," Lynn said. "Donnie was the one that got it. I am excited for him. We go back many years, and we have been friends."

In Lynn, Ravens coach Brian Billick gets someone with 18 years of coaching experience (11 in the NFL). Lynn was the secondary coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons, the San Francisco 49ers for one and the Giants for five before becoming a coordinator.

All those credentials - plus a recommendation from Fassel - made Billick act quickly in offering Lynn the job shortly after an initial talk with him Friday and a face-to-face meeting with him in New York last weekend.

The Ravens will retain assistant secondary coach Dennis Thurman to work with Lynn.

"I view Dennis and Johnnie on equal terms," Billick said. "I've got two excellent secondary coaches. You need that nowadays, particularly in nickel and dime packages.

"I was more than willing, prepared and had planned on making Dennis the lead coach in that regard, but Johnnie's availability and the way it came about was something, given his experience as a coordinator, I didn't think I could pass up."

As for Henderson, he got a quick welcome from the New York media his first day on the job. Henderson was grilled about being a first-time coordinator and whether he planned to run a 3-4 defense similar to the Ravens'.

"I think you'll see a taste of what we did in Baltimore," he said. "You'll see a taste of what we've got here and a combination of that will give you what the Jets are going to offer you."

Henderson called members of the Ravens' secondary Saturday night to tell them of his plans. He will leave Lynn two Pro Bowl players in cornerback Chris McAlister and safety Ed Reed.

"We knew he would get a lot of calls because of what he's done with us as a secondary," safety Will Demps said. "We figured he would get some offers. For him to get promoted like this speaks volumes for what he accomplished.

"I know for me, coming in as an undrafted free agent, he taught me a lot about life skills and football."

Now it will be Lynn's turn to add to what Henderson helped build.

"I am very excited," Lynn said. "I can't screw them up. I have to be able to relate and talk to them and improve them so that they can stay at the quality level that they are at. The Ravens got this far, let's get them farther."

Billick, meanwhile, addressed The Sun's report about Fassel coming to the Ravens as an offensive consultant.

"Obviously if we can find the right parameters for him to join us, his credentials speak for themselves," Billick said. "He's probably, next to Bill Walsh, one of the preeminent quarterback coaches in the game. He obviously has one of the sharpest offensive minds. The resource he would provide me, given his experience as a head coach, would serve a great many purposes.

"But there again, we have to let this process play out. And Jim needs more time to decide what he needs to do with what I know to be his primary objective - to become a head coach next year."

Billick also said there will be no more additions or subtractions to his coaching staff. The Ravens are denying any other assistants permission to speak with teams. The Oakland Raiders had asked for permission to talk with defensive line coach Rex Ryan.

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