Cavanaugh could be closing in on Pitt job

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh is a finalist for the University of Pittsburgh head coaching job, and could be hired as soon as Wednesday depending on negotiations.

A former Pitt quarterback, Cavanaugh is the only candidate to interview twice, meeting Monday night with Pitt athletic director Jeff Long at the Ravens' training complex with Long heading back to Pittsburgh to finalize his decision. Cavanaugh faces strong competition from Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads.

Carolina Panthers defensive line coach Sal Sunseri and Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini are secondary options.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cited a source close to the situation quoting Long as saying to Cavanaugh, "If I come to Baltimore to talk with you, it means we're very serious about you."

If Cavanaugh is offered and accepts the job -- a likely scenario judging from Ravens coach Brian Billick's enthusiastic stance Monday -- he would likely be introduced Wednesday because Long has said he wants to have a new coach in place before the players go home for Christmas break.

Cavanaugh declined to elaborate on his status Tuesday afternoon, saying, "I don't want to talk about it, not at this point. This is my focus right now."
Long didn't return telephone calls, and Pitt athletic department officials declined to comment on the coaching search until it's concluded.

The Pitt football team leaves for the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix on Sunday morning and will be coached by Walt Harris, who resigned and accepted the Stanford job after it became clear the school wouldn't offer him a contract extension.

Cavanaugh turned down the Panthers' head job in 1996 when Johnny Majors retired, not wanting to take on a major rebuilding project. He led Pitt to its last national championship in 1976 as the MVP of the Sugar Bowl, engineering a 27-3 win over Georgia.

Cavanaugh, 48, played in the NFL for four different teams, acting as Joe Montana's backup with the San Francisco 49ers and winning his second Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants.

He began his coaching career in 1993 at Pitt after a 14-year NFL career, then coached quarterbacks in Arizona for the next two years.

A Youngstown, Ohio native, Cavanaugh was the Ravens' offensive coordinator when it won Super Bowl XXXV. He has drawn criticism for his offense, which is currently ranked 31st in the NFL largely because of an inconsistent passing game.

Since Cavanaugh's tenure began in Baltimore six seasons ago, the Ravens have had multiple quarterbacks and wide receiver groupings and haven't had an established go-to wide receiver. They have relied heavily on the running game, ranking first in rushing last season as Jamal Lewis gained 2,066 yards, and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap.

It's unclear what the Ravens will do if Cavanaugh is hired. Offensive line coach Jim Colletto has coordinator experience and was a head coach at Purdue. Cavanaugh could also continue with Baltimore, splitting his time with recruiting and coaching the Ravens until after the NFL season.

In Pittsburgh, Cavanaugh is highly regarded as a distinguished alum with established college and NFL credentials. However, he has never been a head coach before.

"I've had the good fortune of being around a lot of first-time head coaches from my days in Minnesota with Tony Dungy, Ty Willingham, Mike Tice and here with Marvin Lewis and Jack Del Rio," Billick said. "Those are outstanding coaches, but I've never been around a coach any more ready to be a head coach than Matt Cavanaugh."

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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