- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

The firing of coach Cam Cameron yesterday by new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells after a 1-15 season was no surprise.

The same can’t be said of the dismissal of coach Brian Billick by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti on Monday. Billick won the Super Bowl in 2000, finished 13-3 just a year ago and compiled a 85-67 overall record in his tenure with the club.

Bisciotti, after all, gave Billick a four-year contract extension last January, enabling him to walk away with $15 million. And the Baltimore Sun reported less than three weeks ago that Bisciotti told Billick he would be retained despite the Ravens’ nosedive to what would be a 5-11 finish, the worst of his nine seasons.

Bisciotti, one of the most private NFL owners, struggled at a news conference to explain his move other than by saying, “I believed that it was time for a change.” However, Bisciotti did note that the night before he informed Billick of his decision, he told his wife, “There’s a Hall of Fame coach out there. It’s our job to find him.”

Some players are pushing for the promotion of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who continued the tradition of excellence on that side of the ball set by predecessors Marvin Lewis and Mike Nolan.

The Ravens, however, need someone who can run an offense. That was supposed to be Billick’s forte, but his Ravens never succeeded in that area even in their best seasons. The Ravens didn’t score a touchdown in five straight games the year they won the Super Bowl. They ranked 22nd on offense this season and 17th last season, when they won the AFC North.

The Ravens apparently have their eyes on the two hot Cowboys assistants, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, 41, and assistant head coach Tony Sparano, 46. But Garrett also is a prime candidate for the Falcons job, which became vacant when coach Bobby Petrino quit in December. Sparano is the favorite to be hired by his old boss, Parcells, in Miami.

Another name that surfaced was 31-year-old New England offensive cordinator Josh McDaniels, but McDaniels took himself out of the running for head coaching jobs last night. His decision could help two older candidates: Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, the only minority name to surface; and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, Baltimore’s assistant head coach offense from 1996-98 under general manager Ozzie Newsome.

The appeal of Ferentz has cooled along with the Hawkeyes’ performance, and Caldwell didn’t succeed at Wake Forest. There is another negative factor: Both Caldwell and Ferentz are 52, a full decade older than the average age of the 12 first-time head coaches hired the past two years.

The big names getting mentioned for every job are Bill Cowher, 50, who led the Steelers to the playoffs 10 times and won two AFC titles and a Super Bowl, and his mentor, Marty Schottenheimer, 64. Schottenheimer ranks sixth all time with 205 victories in his 21 years with the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers. He has been, however, a 5-13 flop in postseason.

Both men are enjoying semi-retirement in North Carolina. Schottenheimer could be a candidate in Atlanta, which needs a disciplinarian in the wake of Petrino’s abdication and the ill effects of Michael Vick’s prison sentence. Cowher seems likely to remain with CBS, then ponder his NFL options after his youngest child graduates from high school this spring.

Another suggestion? Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. He’s just 41, a Baltimore native and has guided one of the NFL’s top five run defenses during four of his seven seasons in the job.

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