Billick and Fassel go way back, may be reunited.

OWINGS MILLS – Twenty-five years after Brian Billick and Jim Fassel met at a Stanford cocktail party, the two friends are on the verge of coaching together for the first time. Billick has been attempting to convince the former New York Giants coach to join the Ravens coaching staff in some capacity. He hopes to formally announce Fassel's addition as soon as today.

A noted tutor of quarterbacks, including newly-minted Hall of Fame passer John Elway, Fassel could be a significant asset to upgrade an offense whose last-ranked passing game was dwarfed by its top-ranked rushing attack last season.

"Hopefully, we can get that done in the near future, maybe as early as [today]," Billick said of hiring Fassel, who recruited and coached Elway at Stanford and with the Denver Broncos. "We still have some things to work through, me and Jim, and we're hopeful that can happen. 

"We're not changing our offensive structure, but Jim will affect us in multiple ways and we will outline that at the appropriate time. He'll be a great resource to us on several different levels."

It was 1979 when Billick and Fassel first became acquainted in Palo Alto, Calif.

Billick was the San Francisco 49ers' assistant director of public relations, and Fassel was the Stanford offensive coordinator.

They have an oft-cited common tie: Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh.

"Because of Bill Walsh's Stanford connections, we had a lot in common that way," Billick said. "Jim and I just kind of struck up a friendship."

It's a friendship that has endured the rivalry of chasing the same recruits, a flurry of moves up the coaching ranks and the Ravens' 34-7 victory over Fassel's Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

When Billick, a former BYU tight end and a 49ers draft pick, was the offensive coordinator for the Utah State Aggies from 1986 to 1988, Fassel was the head coach of the Utah Utes.

They crossed paths again in the NFL when Fassel left the Giants to become the Denver Broncos' assistant head coach and offensive coordinator in 1993. 

By then, Billick was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator. The two coaches often talked shop about the West Coast offense.

Today, their families are extremely close to the point where Billick's wife, Kim, quickly called Fassel's wife, Kitty, to console her when Fassel was fired by the Giants in the midst of a 4-12 season and a last-place finish in the NFC East.

"I have no better friend in the profession," Fassel told reporters before his Giants faced the Ravens in the Super Bowl. "We like exchanging ideas, going to dinner together."

Billick is looking to tap into Fassel's offensive expertise. And Fassel, who didn't return a telephone call for this article, has built a reputation for offense.

In 1993, Elway led the AFC in all six major passing categories and was named the AFC Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

In 2002, Fassel assumed play-calling duties from assistant Sean Payton for the final 10 games. Under Fassel's direction, the Giants averaged 26.9 points, 394.2 total yards, 136.7 rushing yards, 257.5 passing yards and 22.5 first downs a contest.

They earned a wild-card berth after a 3-4 start that included only seven touchdowns.

Fassel also resuscitated Giants quarterback Kerry Collins' languishing career after controversial, mediocre stints with the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints

As the Arizona Cardinals' offensive coordinator in 1996, Fassel was able to coax production out of journeyman Kent Graham and veteran Boomer Esiason.

"Jim's maybe the best mentor of quarterbacks, outside of Bill Walsh, giving the master his due, that I've ever been around," Billick said.

If Fassel joins the Ravens, it would strictly be on a one-year basis as he will pursue an NFL head-coaching job. This winter, he interviewed with the Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills

Fassel wouldn't act as a replacement for Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, though.

"Jim needed some down time before he specifically decides what's next for him," Billick said. "We've been able to work through that, as we would as friends anyway. Hopefully, we can bring some definition to this soon."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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