Coaching search parallels previous one

Commentary

January 13, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

Former Ravens president David Modell was the triggerman in the Ravens' last search to hire a head football coach after the 1998 season.

The Ravens eventually hired Brian Billick, who won a Super Bowl two years later. Modell is no longer with the team but says a good sign is that the Ravens have yet to hire a coach 12 days into the search.

The process apparently hasn't changed.

"From what I've read in your paper and heard on the radio, Ozzie [Newsome, general manager], Steve [Bisciotti, owner] and Dick [Cass, team president] have a process, and they are going to let the process play out, and that's a good thing," said Modell, now involved in several business ventures, including the film industry.

The Ravens' search committee and its goals are the same as they were in 1998. The Ravens used input from their scouts, pro personnel directors and other front-office types to develop a list of numerous candidates.

Then the Ravens spent countless hours meeting about the prospects, going over strengths and weaknesses and narrowing the field.

"Who is on the list?" Modell said. "It starts out with every assistant coach, coordinator and former head coach in the league, and also includes college coaches.

"Then you start having discussion and you start eliminating people for certain reasons from the information you have gathered. Then you get it down to a workable number of coaches you want to interview. It is very taxing, both intellectually and emotionally."

The Ravens have spoken with Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano, recently dismissed Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach John Harbaugh.

The team also has spoken with Marty Schottenheimer, the former San Diego Chargers head coach.

The Ravens have not interviewed candidates for the past four days, possibly because it's time to digest more information.

Modell said the Ravens probably are going through more evaluations.

"We had a list of everything you wanted in a head coach," he said. "Once you go through the interviews, the selection committee gets back together again to find out what we have learned, what we need to know.

"You check off on the master list of what each candidate has or lacks. You can start eliminating more candidates because of that master list."

According to Modell, though, the Ravens were concerned about having preconceived notions.

"We didn't go in saying we wanted a defensive-minded guy or an offensive-minded guy," he said. "You go in with the philosophy of finding the best football coach possible."

Modell said the Ravens had a list of "automatic qualifiers," coaches they would sign without hesitation. Four of the coaches on the list were Joe Gibbs, Mike Holmgren, George Seifert and Marty Schottenheimer.

The Seattle Seahawks, though, beat out the Ravens for Holmgren, and the Carolina Panthers took away Seifert. Billick was the No. 1 choice among the other candidates on a list that also included Emmitt Thomas and Jim Haslett.

"There was no panic," Modell said. "We prepared for hiring a coach like we prepared for the draft. We did our homework. As the candidates came off the board, we moved on to the next one."

Billick, like some of the Ravens' current candidates, was a risk. He was the hot coordinator that season, having called plays for a Minnesota Vikings offense that produced record numbers.

But he had no head coaching experience.

"When we hired Brian, it was just one of those moments in your gut when you knew this is what you had to do, and I didn't feel alone in that room when we made the decision," Modell said. "There was not one person in that room that I thought felt differently."

The Ravens' decision-making time might come again this weekend. The Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins are looking for head coaches, too, and if Dallas or Indianapolis loses today, candidates might become available for hiring.

When the Ravens hired Billick, there was a scurry among several NFL teams to get him on a plane to their respective cities after the Vikings lost the NFC championship game.

"One thing we didn't have in our committee was a Steve Bisciotti, someone who built his business from the ground level up," Modell said. "I think that is invaluable.

"I'm assuming the Ravens are using the same process we used years ago. With that process, a great GM like Ozzie and outstanding ownership in place, I think the Ravens are going to come away with a really good football coach."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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