Ravens need to be right, not quick

January 06, 2008|By RICK MAESE

The last papal conclave lasted just two days.

The Supreme Court needed less time than that to settle Bush vs. Gore.

And a well-placed source indicates the Earth might have been created in as few as six days.

So why is it that nearly a week has passed and the Ravens still don't have a new head coach?!

Chillax, Ravens fan. This isn't the pope or the leader of the Free World or the only planet in the universe known to sustain life. We're talking about an NFL coach here; you don't rush into these things!

As the process slowly plays out, fans, NFL observers, team officials and potential candidates should all remember that patience is the wisest of virtues in a coaching search. Put simply, a bad hire can set back a franchise several years, and since the Ravens last combed the NFL's landscape in search of a new head coach, the bad hires have outnumbered the good.

Consider this: 29 teams have had to hire a new coach since the Ravens were last involved in a head coaching search. In all, there have been 63 head coaches hired since then. Thirty-six of those coaches have already come and gone, and only 31 managed to lead their new team into the postseason.

The total number who've hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy? Just three.

Mix in the fact that this will be owner Steve Bisciotti's first head coaching hire, and no one should expect the Ravens to rush through the process. Bisciotti knows replacing a coach is hardly a cure-all for an aimless franchise. Since taking over majority ownership in 2004, he has watched fellow owners grasp at straws, hire big names, court eager assistants and chase after accomplished college coaches.

But there's no sure-fire formula. A team needs the perfect fit, and finding that typically takes time.

Even what might seem like easy decisions were hardly finger-snap deals. The New England Patriots interviewed Gary Crowton, Marvin Lewis, Steve Sidwell and Willie Shaw before talking with Bill Belichick. And before the Indianapolis Colts hired Tony Dungy, they first interviewed Ted Cottrell and considered Greg Blache.

Just think back about five dozen NFL head coaches ago, when Brian Billick brought his headset from Minnesota to Baltimore. That process dragged out for 22 days.

Ted Marchibroda was fired Dec. 28, 1998. Billick wasn't hired until Jan. 19, 1999. In between, team officials made a push for George Seifert, salivated over Mike Holmgren and gave thought to Marty Schottenheimer. Nothing panned out there, so they conducted interviews with Emmitt Thomas, Jim Haslett and Chris Palmer - all coordinators at the time - while they waited for the Vikings' postseason run to end.

Minnesota fell out of the playoffs on a Sunday, Billick was in Baltimore on Monday and accepted the job Tuesday. But the process was hardly a two-day whirlwind. Before team officials spoke with Billick, they conducted more than two dozen background interviews. By the time they finally met face-to-face with Billick, they were mostly seeking confirmation of all the rave reviews they had been hearing.

Even though the Ravens have a different owner and largely a different group heading the search this time around, expect the same meticulous and thorough approach.

There's really very little that should force the Ravens into a hasty decision. When they nabbed Billick in 1999, there were seven other teams conducting head coaching searches. This time, the Ravens are competing only against the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins. Both are less attractive jobs, and that could prove to be a luxury for the Ravens.

The landscape is different today, and the new media culture has spoiled us. Because we have access to news at all hours of the day, we too often expect news to exist at all hours of the day.

For fans, a single week of a coaching search can feel like a year, and repeatedly clicking "refresh" on your favorite sports news site is a quick path to carpal tunnel syndrome, not a new head coach. When you're measuring progress every five minutes, reports of a potential candidate bowing out of a search or another team taking aim at the same target feel much worse than they ought to.

With a long list of bad hires, history might suggest that hiring an NFL coach is akin to a coin flip, but the process is anything but. Finding the right coach takes time, and with an aging cast of stars, the Ravens' hopes of success in the near future hinge on team officials making the perfect choice - not the quickest.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

Ravens Inside

Of the three NFL head coaching positions available, the Ravens' appears to be the most attractive because of quality facilities, rabid fans, a wealthy owner hungry to win, a general manager who has a history of drafting well, a talented group of veterans and other factors. PG 12D

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