Coach, team differ on terms of split-up

Out: The Ravens' former offensive coordinator says he `wasn't given the opportunity to stay.'

Matt Cavanaugh

Ravens Coaching Transition

July 29, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Addressing his departure from the Ravens for the first time, Matt Cavanaugh made it clear that he did not quit, saying he knew he would be removed as offensive coordinator for the last month of the 2004 season.

"I had some conversations with [head coach] Brian [Billick] toward the end of the season where we weren't making the improvement we thought we needed to make in our passing game," Cavanaugh said from the University of Pittsburgh, where he has taken over as offensive coordinator.

"It became evident that it was going to be tough for the organization to go through another offseason of me still being there and people viewing that as us not doing anything different. It became evident that a change was going to have to be made."

When the Ravens announced Jan. 3 that Cavanaugh was not returning, Billick insisted he neither fired Cavanaugh nor asked him to step down.

Asked if his parting was as "mutual" as the Ravens described it, Cavanaugh said: "I wasn't given the opportunity to stay. I just want to make sure people know I didn't quit. I think it was mutual from the standpoint that they knew they wanted me to go, and I know they wanted me to go. So I left. There was no way I was going to walk away from anything. I've never done that and I never will do that."

Pressure to remove Cavanaugh escalated over the past two seasons, when the Ravens finished last in the NFL in passing in 2003 and second-to-last in 2004.

"Matt did not quit per se," Billick said. "Everybody wants to focus on whether he was fired or did he quit. The bottom line is Matt recognized that it would have been very uncomfortable for him to come back, both for us and for him. Matt saw that as readily as I did, and we took the appropriate steps."

The Ravens' greatest offensive achievement under Cavanaugh was Jamal Lewis rushing for the second-most yards in NFL history (2,066) in 2003. That year, the Ravens also set a franchise record for points per game (24.7).

But consistently reaching the end zone was a major problem ever since the Ravens endured a five-game touchdown drought in their 2000 Super Bowl season. In six seasons under Cavanaugh, the offense failed to score a touchdown in 17 of 96 games under him (17.7 percent).

That prompted the Ravens to replace Cavanaugh with Jim Fassel.

"It wasn't a shock to me, or a heartbreaker," Cavanaugh said. "I've been cut, traded and fired. I know what it's like to go through some tough times and have to be the guy on the way out."

Cavanaugh admitted thinking whether his fate would have been different if he had a legitimate NFL receiver like Derrick Mason, the Ravens' big free-agent acquisition in March.

"I think everybody in town probably knew that's what they needed to do, and they went out and did it," Cavanaugh said.

Despite his split with the team, Cavanaugh said he would root for the Ravens this season and remained upbeat about quarterback Kyle Boller's future.

"Offensively, I think they're ready to explode," he said. "I'm hoping for Kyle that happens because he deserves it. He works hard at it. He takes it serious. He wants to be a good one. And I think he's in good hands."

NOTE: Team officials remain confident that agreements will be reached with all four unsigned draft picks (Mark Clayton, Dan Cody, Adam Terry and Jason Brown) before the Ravens report to training camp Sunday night. According to a source, the Ravens are nearing a deal with Clayton, the team's first-round selection, but the sides hit a snag yesterday over the final details. Clayton's agent did not return phone calls.

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