The repeated offensive failures were ultimately too much to tolerate as
Baltimore (9-7) dropped to a franchise-low 31st in total offense along with
finishing 31st passing in the NFL this season and didn't make the playoffs.
Billick specifically denied firing Cavanaugh.
Regardless, the Ravens' offensive profile is undergoing a dramatic change although no immediate replacement was named.
"We had a great man-to-man conversation. Matt felt very strongly, and I concurred, that it was time to change," said Billick, who has hiring and firing power written into his contract with owner Steve Bisciotti. "I have not fired anybody, including Matt Cavanaugh.
"Matt and I had a very frank conversation about what changes we need to make in order to be more productive, particularly on the offensive side, to live up to the potential of what this team can be and be substantially better. Matt and I both agreed that part of that change would be at offensive coordinator."
Several media outlets reported last week that Cavanaugh, 48, would be fired once the season ended. It was less than a half-day following the Ravens' 30-23 win over the Miami Dolphins to end the season that Cavanaugh was gone.
Cavanaugh wasn't made available to comment, but told the Times a week ago that he understood the heat he was under. The Ravens will move on quickly and begin searching for a new coordinator with Billick saying he prefers to have a new coordinator by February.
"I wish I could mourn this," Billick said. "I take this very personally. I don't have the time to cry in my beer. It does hurt. It's very disappointing to me."
Under Cavanaugh since 1999, the Ravens' offense has never finished higher than 14th in total offense and have finished in the bottom half of the league five times. The Ravens' 24 offensive touchdowns is the fewest in the AFC.
Despite improvement from quarterback Kyle Boller, the passing game improved one notch from when it was the worst in the NFL last season.
"Matt has made close to 8,000 calls," Billick said. "That's a lot of decisions to be made, and a lot to be criticized for. To see a good man go through some of those personal attacks that this job brings about is unfortunate."
While not ruling out additional changes to his staff, Billick said he wouldn't consider them for the coordinator job. His requirements for candidates include NFL experience and/or coordinator experience, and didn't rule out college coaches.
Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, the team's senior consultant this year, will likely be a candidate if he doesn't get an NFL head coaching job.
"Jim Fassel is a natural thought," Billick said. "It's hard for me to imagine Jim not getting an opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL.
"Typically, I like to promote from within staff, but certainly in this circumstance, that's not the prudent thing to do. We need a change of focus, a change of energy and I don't think that can be accomplished on-staff, notwithstanding Jim Fassel."
Billick insisted that he had not fired quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw, but said that the staff could be affected by the new coordinator.
"No, I've heard nothing about me being let go or anything like that," Shaw said Monday night. "I'm still with the staff."
Billick and Fassel are close friends and Fassel would probably only consent to be an offensive coordinator for Baltimore, not other vacancies like Miami.
Former University of Illinois coach Ron Turner and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan are potential candidates. New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Mike Shepherd is another highly regarded assistant.
The Ravens dealt with several injuries to the offensive line and tight end Todd Heap. Running back Jamal Lewis missed two games with a sprained ankle and was suspended for two games by the NFL. He was held to 1,006 yards after gaining 2,066 last year.
Baltimore averaged 273.4 yards per game and often looked confused as to whether they should emphasize power running or give Boller more latitude.
"A lot of times, it's not all about X's and O's, it's about executing," Flynn said. "The offensive coordinator is the one who's going to get blamed, but there were a lot of execution problems.
"He's a coach, and he can only do so much. The players are the ones that have to make the catches, make the blocks, not fumble the ball, and we didn't do it all the time this season."
Cavanaugh had been a finalist for the University of Pittsburgh job that was filled by Dave Wannstedt. It's unclear what his immediate plans are.
Under Cavanaugh this season, Baltimore scored only 317 points, which includes nine touchdowns from the defense and special teams.
"You can't put everything on him," Brown said. "We got to get it together, too."
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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