Time for change

ON THE RAVENS

With tweaking, coach's approach would suit team

On Marty Schottenheimer

January 08, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

Some time soon, the Ravens should huddle with Marty Schottenheimer and try to reach an agreement for him to become their new coach.

Schottenheimer has what this franchise needs. He's a good leader, a proven winner and has a strong overall knowledge of the game.

But here's what the Ravens, and other teams Schottenheimer has worked for, don't like: He's too old-school, a control freak and a divisive force among the coaching staff, front office and players.

He's like the old Tom Coughlin, the New York Giants coach. But Coughlin has modified his ways the past two years, and if Schottenheimer could do the same, the Ravens might have the ideal candidate.

Right now, in the early stages, the Ravens' job search isn't going well. Three candidates have declined to be interviewed, but only one was a serious contender, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz.

The Ravens have other exciting prospects, but not if you take a closer look. Indianapolis Colts assistant coach Jim Caldwell would be a great hire, but he's soft, and there is speculation he'll replace Tony Dungy as the Colts' boss if Dungy retires in a year or two.

Two prospects from the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Sparano and Jason Garrett, also seem destined for other places. Most NFL observers believe Sparano will join Bill Parcells in Miami as the Dolphins' coach when Dallas' season is over, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has intimated Garrett will one day replace head coach Wade Phillips.

All of which brings us back to recently dismissed Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and Schottenheimer as the top two candidates. We already know about Ryan, but Schottenheimer has impressive credentials, too. He brings much more discipline than his predecessor -- oh, what's his name? -- Brian Billick.

Schottenheimer can have a large presence in the locker room. So when offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden calls Schottenheimer about his personal practice schedule during training camp, Schottenheimer can tell him to get with the rest of the team or get lost.

Or when No. 52 asks for three lockers in the locker room, Schottenheimer can say: "No. It's my team, Ray-Ray, not yours. By the way, lose the pre-game dance and come out of the tunnel like everybody else."

That's what I want to see. I don't want to see the Ravens practice indoors in the air conditioning because it's too hot outside or turn on the heat because it's too cold.

I want to see a coach jump in a player's face as Schottenheimer did two years ago when an offensive lineman jumped offside twice in a row. I want to see a disciplined team not have penalty-filled meltdowns on national television.

I'm tired of hearing Ravens fans say about their team: "They're thugs, but at least they're our thugs."

It's time to get away from that image, and Schottenheimer is someone who can bring about that change.

But, at the same time, Schottenheimer has to mellow a little because that "my way or the highway" approach keeps getting him the highway. There is no need to have three-hour practices. Teams no longer do those Oklahoma tackling drills and run bull-in-the-ring sessions.

It's 2008, Marty, not 1978.

The Ravens have a fine front office in place with general manager Ozzie Newsome, director of college scouting Eric DeCosta and director of pro personnel George Kokinis, so they don't need Schottenheimer to tell them how to do their jobs.

Newsome and Billick had their differences through the years, but overall, they got along well.

Schottenheimer can change. Two seasons ago, he came to Baltimore as the coach of the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers, in their fourth game of the season, jumped out to a 13-7 lead, but then Schottenheimer started playing "Marty Ball" in the second half, when he continued to run the ball without passing.

The Ravens pulled out the win, but Schottenheimer adjusted. After that game, he opened up the Chargers' offense. In 2006, San Diego was No. 4 in total offense, scoring 30.8 points a game.

If Schottenheimer gets the job here, there is speculation he could bring former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron with him as offensive coordinator. Cameron called plays for Schottenheimer in San Diego.

Also, if Schottenheimer gets the job, he might be able to persuade Ryan to stay as defensive coordinator if Ryan doesn't become a coach elsewhere, and Ryan might be able to hire Donnie Henderson as secondary coach.

Hmm. That's the beginning of a pretty good staff.

The Ravens are probably going to need a head coach with experience. A young guy like Garrett might not be able to handle a locker room filled with tough veterans.

But Schottenheimer could. He could handle them in 2008 and clean house for the next season, when most of their contracts expire.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, the Ravens have a lot more interviewing to do. But of all the candidates who have publicly expressed an interest in the job, Schottenheimer is the most interesting.

He just needs to make a few adjustments.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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