Fassel officially joins Ravens as a senior consult

OWINGS MILLS – During the Baltimore Ravens' quest to create a full-dimensional offense, they have plotted several solutions over several years.<br> <br> Ravens coach Brian Billick has auditioned a series of quarterbacks. The personnel at wide receiver and right tackle have practically rotated through a revolving door. Game plans and playbooks have been extensively doctored.<br> <br>

Yet, the construction of a productive passing game is something that has consistently eluded the Ravens' grasp.

Following a season where Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis gained 2,066 yards and the passing game ranked last in the league, the AFC North champions are trying another alternative.

Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, Billick's close friend who is credited with the development of Hall of Fame passer John Elway, was introduced Wednesday as a senior consultant for the Ravens' coaching staff.

"We know clearly that we have to upgrade what we do in the passing game," Billick said. "To be able to have someone of Jim Fassel's credentials join our staff is a big thing for the Baltimore Ravens. Outside of Bill Walsh, I think Jim is the best quarterback teacher I know."

Fired by the Giants after a 4-12 season and last-place finish in the NFC East, Fassel received a one-year contract and will likely be one of the top candidates for head-coaching vacancies after next season. He interviewed with the Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills this winter.

Three years ago, the Ravens defeated Fassel's Giants, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV. His addition represents the first time in league history that two Super Bowl head coaches have worked on the same staff.

Fassel's duties will include assisting with the progression of young quarterback Kyle Boller, helping draw up game plans and advising Billick, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw.

"I'm not coming here to do anybody's job," Fassel said. "What I'm here to do is assist, give experience, look at some things and make suggestions. I've been a decision-maker a lot of my life, and right now I'm a suggestion-maker."

Under Fassel, 54, the Giants ranked 13th, ninth, sixth and 20th in total offense over the last four years. The Giants made the playoffs three times in his seven years as coach, winning two NFC East titles. 

The Ravens ranked 21st in total offense last season.

"My immediate goal is to help the Ravens win another Super Bowl," Fassel said. "My longer-term goal is to return to the NFL as a head coach and help another team reach the championship level."

Fassel has known Billick since 1979 when he was Stanford's offensive coordinator and Billick was the San Francisco 49ers' assistant director of public relations.

"Our friendship has been well-documented," Billick said. "There are very few things that I've done that I didn't pick up the phone and call Jim to say, ‘What do you think? What have you done in this situation? What's your observation?'

"To literally be able to get up and walk down the hall and solicit that advice is going to be a huge asset to me and this organization."

Fassel's background as a tutor of quarterbacks was the primary credential that Billick cited most often in trumpeting his friend's arrival.

Fassel recruited and coached Elway at Stanford, helping Elway to his best season in 1993 when he was the Denver Broncos' assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. Elway led the NFL in all six major passing categories.

Shaw said he welcomes Fassel's input.

"He has pumped a little life into all of us," Shaw said. "He'll give me another viewpoint in my approach to Kyle."

Fassel revived quarterback Kerry Collins' career with the Giants after controversial stints with Carolina and New Orleans. Perhaps most impressively, the Arizona Cardinals ranked sixth in passing offense in 1996 with Fassel as their offensive coordinator and Kent Graham and Boomer Esiason under center.

"I'm excited," Boller said. "He worked with one of the guys I grew up watching, Elway."

During the season, Fassel will help orchestrate game plans on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and may spend the latter portion of the week concentrating on the upcoming opponent. Fassel will be with the team on a daily basis in training camp, but might not necessarily attend the Ravens' games and will travel back and forth from Baltimore to his New York-area home. Billick emphasized that the plan is flexible.

Fassel remains under contract to the Giants. New York owes him a total of $2.7 million, but that total will be deducted from his one-year pact with Baltimore.

"Listening to you talk, I was thinking that it wasn't that many years ago that we went head-to-head in the Super Bowl and you waxed us good," said Fassel while turning toward Billick at a press conference. "I figured, ‘If you can't beat them, you better join them.'"

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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