Billick wants Fassel for '06

He can return to Ravens if not hired as coach

December 30, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

A day after being retained as coach, Brian Billick assured there would be continuity elsewhere.

Billick said yesterday that Jim Fassel would "absolutely" return as the team's offensive coordinator next season unless he receives a head coaching job this offseason.

There had been speculation that Fassel was among the coaches who could be leaving after the Ravens' disappointing season.

"We're going to be very supportive of Jim's looking and hopefully being able to procure a head coaching job. If indeed that doesn't happen, Jim will be back next year," Billick said. "Some of the speculation I've seen is just that because Jim and I have already had discussions about some of the things we need to do [for next season]."

According to a league source, the Minnesota Vikings likely would show interest in Fassel if they decide to fire coach Mike Tice. The Oakland Raiders, who probably would want an established offensive coach if they part ways with Norv Turner, could be another logical fit.

There is a possibility that Fassel could explore offers from colleges, which he refused to do last season.

Fassel declined to talk after practice, saying he wants to focus on Sunday's season finale in Cleveland before discussing his future plans.

If Fassel is able to land a head coaching job, Billick indicated that quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel would be promoted to coordinator. Neuheisel is finishing his first season in the NFL, but he was 66-30 over eight college seasons at Colorado and Washington.

"One of the reasons I brought Rick in is that continuity could be sustained because he has been here for a year," Billick said. "We've made it clear that Rick will be the coordinator for that very reason."

After seven seasons as head coach of the New York Giants, Fassel joined the Ravens as a consultant in 2004 before replacing Matt Cavanaugh as offensive coordinator this season.

The Ravens, which had ranked last in the NFL in scoring for a bulk of the season, have jumped up to No. 25 after putting up 78 points in the past two games.

Under Fassel, the biggest improvement has been the passing game. After finishing 31st last season, the Ravens have moved to No. 21.

Overall, the Ravens are averaging 21.6 yards more than last season but 3.2 fewer points.

"Jim was brought in to make the changes that needed to be made schematically, emotionally, strategically and fundamentally for us to go forward in conjunction with some very good coaches," Billick said. "They collectively and Jim individually deserve all the credit for the improvements that we've seen. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

NOTES -- There were no changes to the Ravens' injury report. Tight end Daniel Wilcox and linebacker Mike Smith, both of whom remain doubtful, are the two most likely players to miss Sunday's game. ... In a vote among local print and broadcast media, linebacker Adalius Thomas won the team Most Valuable Player and running back Jamal Lewis received the "Good Guy" award for his cooperation with reporters.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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