Making me dizzy

League's coaching carousel really head-spinning

On the NFL

January 24, 2008|By PETER SCHMUCK

If the NFL's job-search merry-go-round got any more counterintuitive, the league might have to expand the Rooney Rule to include the top coaching talent from other sports.

Let's see. The latest strange revelation came yesterday, when unnamed sources, citing executive privilege, leaked to unspecified news outlets that Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith would soon be announced as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

The only thing missing was a player to be incarcerated later.

OK, that was a gross exaggeration of the process by which this kind of news leaks out. It apparently was first reported by ESPN (which probably would have taken credit for it either way), in a story that was written by one of the Worldwide Leader's NFL beat reporters, who happens to also be named Michael Smith.

Here's hoping it's not the same guy, but considering the recent hiring record of Falcons owner Arthur Blank, you really can't rule anything out at this point.

The NFL Mike Smith has wide-ranging football experience, including a stint on the Ravens' staff, where he split time as a defensive coach and Brian Billick's brother-in-law (and you thought nepotism was some kind of Eastern religion). He'll probably make a fine head coach, but he was barely on the radar for much of the four-way coaching search in Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Miami.

I'll have to admit, when one of my co-workers told me yesterday that the Falcons were about to hire Mike Smith - which they did last night - the first thing that popped into my mind was this: "Wow, they're down to ESPN reporters. What am I, chopped liver?"

So you can imagine what Rex Ryan was thinking. He was considered one of the top two candidates for the Falcons' job - along with Jason Garrett - and now his best option appears to be staying with the Ravens as defensive coordinator under new coach John Harbaugh.

I really thought Ryan would end up in Atlanta, and deservedly so, especially after Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti revealed Saturday that he had talked to Blank just before introducing Harbaugh to the local media. I kind of figured Bisciotti was doing a sell job for Ryan, but now I'm not so sure the conversation didn't go something like this:

Bisciotti: "Hey Art, I know you need to hire someone pretty quick, but I'd consider it a personal favor if you let me keep Rex Ryan."

Blank: "No problem. Do you know if any of Brian Billick's relatives are available?"

Poor Rex. The guy is living through his own version of 27 Dresses, the new movie starring my future wife Katherine Heigl as a pretty young woman who is doomed to always be a bridesmaid instead of a bride.

Ryan came in second for the San Diego Chargers' opening last year and was interviewed for three of the jobs that came open during the past three weeks. He might be the best defensive coordinator in the game, which doesn't leave a lot of higher rungs on the NFL coaching ladder.

He has every right to be crushed, but it's not as if your average citizen needs to feel sorry for him. If the Ravens decide to keep him - which is their prerogative because he's still under contract - they'll probably give him a consolation raise. And because top NFL coordinators generally make close to seven figures to begin with, he'll be getting some pretty nice cake.

Meanwhile, down Interstate 95, it looks as if former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel might be Daniel Snyder's choice to replace Joe Gibbs as coach of the Redskins, and who honestly saw that coming?

It hasn't been a very good year for the football pundits, many of whom had Garrett coaching the Ravens, Gregg Williams succeeding Gibbs in Washington, Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren retiring, the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl and O.J. Simpson getting a slap on the wrist in Las Vegas.

Of course, I picked Tampa Bay, so who am I to judge?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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