No defense for teams bypassing Ryan

January 25, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

This is not the type of shutout that Rex Ryan is used to. Or ever should get used to.

One NFL head coaching opening remains, now that Bill Parcells has quit on another team - er, ah, retired after a trying season with the Dallas Cowboys. When the first five jobs opened up this offseason, Ryan - the Ravens' defensive coordinator, but you knew that already - got no interviews. If the early indications about the last one are true, he won't get an interview for the sixth, either.

Being the coordinator of the top-ranked defense in the NFL, the one that anchored the team tied for the second-best record in the league, apparently doesn't get you as far as it used to.

The snubs do bring two pieces of good news. One, the Ravens and the players who love him get to keep him, and more stability after a 13-3 season never hurts.

And two, the people in charge of NFL hiring remain reliably, consistently perplexing. Nonsensical. Illogical. Kind of stupid, actually.

In fact, it's refreshing, in a backward sort of way. The way the teams went decades without even glancing in a black candidate's direction when a job became available created the perception that the NFL is racist. The results were, certainly. The sight of two black coaches in the Super Bowl is tempered by the fact that it might have happened earlier had teams bothered hiring any before 1989.

No, one can make a case that the people who make the decisions aren't racist. They're just dumb. Black coaches might have been at the back of the line all these years, but it was a preposterously long line, and a lot of good men of all colors got bogarted by a bunch who didn't deserve it.

Not that there's any guarantee Ryan will be as good a head coach as it seems he would, or even close. But to not even put his name on a list of candidates - whether it's a long one, a short one or a fake one - is dumb.

So dumb that two Mondays ago, Brian Billick couldn't even conceive of the possibility. After the Ravens' playoff elimination, Billick spoke of Ryan's getting interviews as if it were just a matter of time. He said he was "very surprised" that it hadn't happened yet.

"But I have no doubt that that will happen at some point," Billick had said.

It won't happen this year.

This is not to say that the coaches who did get interviews didn't deserve them as much as Ryan did, based on their bodies of work.

OK, that's not true. Jim Mora? He got an interview with the Dolphins. Either team owner Wayne Huizenga was more impressed with the eventual hire, Cam Cameron, or he flinched at hiring someone who acted as if he were trying to get fired in his final weeks in Atlanta. But Mora got an interview.

Well, then this is not to say that the coaches who actually got hired did not earn their opportunities, didn't pay the same dues as Ryan or show equal or greater skills.

OK, that's not true. Bobby Petrino? He replaced Mora in Atlanta because of the job he did in college, at Louisville. And we all know what a sure thing college success is in the NFL.

Mike Shula, freshly fired at Alabama (maybe unfairly, but still fired), got an NFL interview, too.

Lane Kiffin is a new NFL head coach, with the Raiders. No previous head coaching experience, young (31 years old), came from a college coordinator position, son of a longtime NFL assistant coach. That's good enough for him, but being the son of a longtime NFL head coach, being young (44), being a successful NFL coordinator and being the brother of a successful NFL coordinator on the Raiders' staff wasn't good enough for Ryan to even be flown out.

Of course, it's the Raiders, but it's one of only 32 jobs like it in the world. Some teams simply have no clue about how to fill them, and end up doing it every couple of years.

The ignorance and incompetence can be staggering. On the day after he earned himself and his Colts a Super Bowl berth, Tony Dungy recalled a long-ago job interview in which he suggested a coach named Tyrone Willingham as a potential assistant. The interviewer had no idea who Willingham was, and that, Dungy said, convinced him the man didn't know what he was doing and he (Dungy) was better off without that job.

There's a lot of that going around. You'd think football people would know Ryan, would remember that Billick's staff has produced Jack Del Rio, Marvin Lewis and Mike Nolan. Ryan was next in line, and he easily lived up to the standard set.

But so far, he isn't next up the ladder. They're not even putting the ladder out for him. There doesn't seem to be any reason, either.

Except that many NFL executives are still perplexing. Nonsensical. Illogical. Kind of stupid, actually.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog

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