Fassel is hired as quick fix

Elway's old mentor turns his attention to Boller

Ravens

February 05, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

While the Ravens' hiring of Jim Fassel yesterday as a senior consultant may be temporary, they are banking that his impact is not.

The former New York Giants head coach built a reputation on quarterback quick fixes, needing less than one season to turn a struggling John Elway into a Most Valuable Player and transform a troubled Kerry Collins into a legitimate starter.

His next project is raw second-year starter Kyle Boller and the NFL's worst passing attack.

"With the caveat of maybe a Bill Walsh, I think Jim Fassel has been the preeminent quarterback coach in the National Football League over the last number of years," coach Brian Billick said as he turned to his good friend sitting next to him at the news conference. "His resume of quarterbacks he has worked with and their productivity is unmatched around the league.

"As we go forward with a young quarterback, his development is pivotal in terms of the success we're going to have. I can't think of a better person to bring in and help in that development than Jim Fassel."

Fassel, 54, who plans to pursue a head coaching job next year, will basically serve as the Ravens' assistant head coach. He will offer his opinions during the offseason evaluation process, lend another set of eyes every day at training camp and have a voice in the offensive scheme during the regular season.

His broad-based routine will include being heavily involved in the game planning Monday through Wednesday. Later in the week, Billick said Fassel may turn his attention to the next week's opponent and may not attend Ravens games to keep a certain perspective.

But Ravens officials believe Fassel will have a presence on the sideline for most games.

"I'm not coming here to do anybody's job," Fassel said. "I'm not coming here to do [offensive coordinator] Matt Cavanaugh's job or [quarterbacks coach] David Shaw's or Brian's. What I am here to do is assist and look at some things. I've been a decision-maker a lot in my life. Right now, I'm a suggestion-maker."

Most of those suggestions probably will be directed at the Ravens' passing attack, which averaged a league-worst 141.3 yards per game.

In five seasons under Billick and Cavanaugh, the Ravens have ranked 22nd or lower in passing in all but one season. In the past five seasons under Fassel, the Giants averaged being the eighth-best passing team in the league.

Fassel's team produced more 300-yard passing games in two years (seven) than the Ravens compiled in five years (six).

That's why Billick decided to call Fassel last month and ask him about the possibility of joining the Ravens as an adviser. Their friendship dates back 25 years when Billick was the San Francisco 49ers' assistant public relations director and Fassel was Stanford's offensive coordinator.

"Clearly, we know particularly on the offensive side of the ball, we need to take our next step forward as we evolve at the quarterback position," Billick said. "To be able to have someone of Jim Fassel's credentials to join our staff is a big thing for the Baltimore Ravens."

Those credentials are topped with the rejuvenation of Elway and the reclamation of Collins.

Before hitting the stride of his Hall of Fame career, Elway was on the decline in the early 1990s, when his statistics dropped for three straight years. He bottomed out in 1992, finishing with 10 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 65.7 quarterback rating.

In his first season as Denver's offensive coordinator, Fassel corrected Elway's mechanics, which led to his finest season. Elway earned the AFC's MVP award and topped the conference in all six major passing categories.

With Collins, the mending was more mental than physical.

After bouncing around from Carolina to the Giants, he nearly pushed himself out of the league when he told a coach he didn't have the heart for pro football and then was arrested for drunken driving.

In the past four seasons under Fassel, Collins averaged 3,639 yards passing and 18 touchdowns.

"I'm a big believer that you have to be fundamentally sound to play that position. If you don't, you've got a problem," Fassel said. "The other thing you have to understand is the difficulties of that position. I think you kind of have to be an ally. Most quarterbacks want somebody to understand what they go through."

Fassel was fired this past season when the Giants finished 4-12 and last in the NFC East. He guided New York to the playoffs in three of his seven seasons and a trip to the 2001 Super Bowl, where the Giants lost to the Ravens.

With Fassel joining the Ravens, it marks the first time in NFL history that two Super Bowl head coaches are on the same staff. If Fassel does not land a job elsewhere next year, the Ravens plan to ask him to return in the same capacity.

"The next step for us is not to advance to the playoffs but to go to the Super Bowl," Billick said. "I think I've taken substantial steps with regards to my coaching staff to enhance that possibility."

Fassel file

The NFL offensive rankings of Jim Fassel:

Yr. ........ Team ..........Pos. ...............Tot-Rush-Pass

'91 ......... NYG ...... QB coach .............. 16-6-23

'92 ......... NYG ..... Off. coord. ............. 22-6-25

'93 ......... Den. ..... Off. coord. ............... 5-18-4

'94 ......... Den. ..... Off. coord. ............... 6-23-6

'95 ......... Oak. ..... QB coach ............... 11-8-16

'96 .......... Ari. ..... Off. coord. .............. 13-25-6

'97 ........ NYG ...... Head coach ............ 27-7-28

'98 ........ NYG ...... Head coach ............ 29-12-28

'99 ........ NYG .......Head coach ............ 17-24t-8

'00..........NYG ...... Head coach ............ 13-11-13

'01 ........ NYG ..... Head coach .............. 9-15-8t

'02 .........NYG ..... Head coach ................ 6-14-6

'03 ........ NYG ......Head coach .............. 11-13-7

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