Scoring jobs with offense

Team's coaching search reflects pattern

results iffy

January 05, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

The Ravens seem to be following the trend of last year's coaching searches, focusing on offensive-minded coaches.

If the Ravens continue that route, they can only hope they will be more successful.

Last offseason, five of the seven teams that hired new coaches went with ones with offensive backgrounds. Only one (the San Diego Chargers' Norv Turner) had a winning season.

Since firing Brian Billick on Monday, the emphasis of the Ravens' coaching hunt has been on offense. Besides Rex Ryan and Bill Cowher, the most popular names linked to the Ravens' opening are offensive-minded coaches.

The Ravens are scheduled to meet with two Dallas Cowboys assistants - offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and assistant head coach-offensive line Tony Sparano - today. They interviewed Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach/quarterbacks Jim Caldwell yesterday.

Next week, the Ravens likely will talk with Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. It was confirmed late Thursday that the Ravens requested permission to speak to the first-year coordinator, who turned the Browns' offense into one of the most explosive in the NFL.

Those four coaches - Garrett, Sparano, Caldwell and Chudzinski - were involved in offenses that ranked in the NFL's top eight in 2007.

When it comes to naming an offensive coach to take over a team, the track record was miserable last season.

The five new coaches with offensive backgrounds - Turner, the Arizona Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt, Atlanta Falcons' Bobby Petrino, Miami Dolphins' Cam Cameron and Oakland Raiders' Lane Kiffin - went a combined 27-50 (.351 winning percentage) this past season. After going 3-10 with the Falcons, Petrino resigned to become coach at the University of Arkansas.

The two new coaches with defensive backgrounds - the Cowboys' Wade Phillips and Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin - were 23-9 (.718) and made the playoffs.

Phillips, though, said Garrett and Sparano are more than offensive coaches.

"People are looking for different kinds of head coaches," Phillips said. "They are looking for their own criteria. Some want motivational people. These guys have a little bit of everything. That's what makes them attractive."

The Falcons, one of the three teams searching for a new coach, interviewed Garrett and Sparano yesterday. Sparano is scheduled to interview with the Dolphins today, The Miami Herald reported.

Colts coach Tony Dungy offered a similar endorsement of Caldwell, who spoke with Falcons officials Thursday.

"I just think Jim's got a lot of the things people should be looking for," Dungy said. "He's going to be a phenomenal head coach for someone."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Sun columnist Mike Preston contributed to this article.

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