Fassel ready to consult Ravens

OWINGS MILLS - The Gambler has taken a sabbatical from Gotham. <br><br> Jim Fassel is commuting from his New Jersey home as a senior consultant tasked with breathing life into the Baltimore Ravens' dormant passing game.<br><br> His primary mission: tutoring young quarterback Kyle Boller while biding his time in anticipation of pursuing head-coaching positions that arise after the season.<br><br>

The former New York Giants coach still has country and western icon Kenny Rogers' ode to cardplayers, "The Gambler," featured on his answering machine in suburban New York. The Ravens' passing game ranked last in the league last season, proof of the adage about the house usually emerging victorious.

After being fired by the Giants in December after a 4-12 campaign, Fassel, 54, doesn't consider working a few days a week for Ravens coach Brian Billick, a longtime friend and fellow Bill Walsh disciple, as a risk.  Twenty-five years ago, Billick and Fassel, 54, met at Stanford where Fassel recruited and coached John Elway back when Billick was the San Francisco 49ers' assistant director of public relations.

"My ego can't get in the way and neither can Brian's, and it won't because we know each other," said Fassel, who interviewed for head-coaching positions with the Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals after being replaced by Tom Coughlin. "So far, it has worked very well. It really is an unusual situation.

"It takes a real respect between Brian and I. I couldn't work for a guy I don't respect and he couldn't bring a guy in under those circumstances. It's very delicate, but I think they know I'm here to help them."

Instead of taking the year off to spend more time with his wife, Kitty, play golf or work as a television analyst, Fassel takes the train to Baltimore. The team supplied him with a rail pass along with a car and an apartment for overnight stays.
He's also developing a manual for how to run a football team.

"I look at it like a professor taking a sabbatical," Fassel said. "The goal is for me to get a head coaching job and I've been given a year to improve. It keeps me involved. I know in the fall if I wasn't doing anything, I would go crazy."

Fassel counsels Boller on his fundamentals while helping develop game plans and doing advance scouting. The current plan isn't for him to attend many games.

Primarily, Fassel is valued as a quarterback guru who aided Elway's development and resuscitated the careers of Kerry Collins and Boomer Esiason. "He's one of the best quarterback coaches in the league, a proven offensive mind and a guy that knows what my seat is about and can give me that type of perspective," Billick said of Fassel who went 60-56-1, including a Super Bowl loss to Baltimore, with the Giants.

Fassel cautious about not overwhelming Boller considering the second-year pro already receives input from offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, Billick and quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw. "He has pumped a little life into all of us," Shaw said. "He'll give me another viewpoint in my approach to Kyle."

Boller ranked last in the AFC last season with a 62.4 quarterback rating, going 5-4 as a starter who mostly handed off to NFL Offensive Player of the Year Jamal Lewis. "I remind myself not to smother him," Fassel said. "I'm very sensitive that you can't have a whole bunch of people in the quarterback's ear. I throw him little tidbits, little jewels that might help him play quarterback."

Fassel emphasizes that he's not here to revamp the playbook. He views this as a year for him to gain as much knowledge from the Ravens, if not more, than he imparts. "This manual is going to have everything from soup to nuts, about drafting, learning from Ozzie Newsome and Phil Savage, about salary-cap management, about hiring coaches," Fassel said. "I'm looking at redefining all of my philosophies about everything in an organization."

The Giants are paying Fassel the difference between his $2.7 million salary from the last year of his contract and his consulting deal with the Ravens. "It's an offset for the Giants, but I don't make the nickel," Fassel said. "That's not what it's about. It's a learning experience for me and for them."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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