Ravens interview Neuheisel, to meet with Sheppard

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens are searching for a creative offensive coordinator to revitalize their stagnant offense, and deposed University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel is looking to get back into football.<br><br> Neuheisel interviewed for the Ravens' offensive coordinator vacancy Thursday in his first major coaching opportunity since being fired by Washington in 2003 after an NCAA investigation into his involvement in a high-stakes college basketball pool.

 He was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, and is suing the university for wrongful termination after producing e-mails from their compliance office where he was told the pool didn't violate NCAA bylaws.

It was the Ravens' first interview of a candidate to replace Matt Cavanaugh since he resigned under pressure Monday. Neuheisel met with Ravens coach Brian Billick, general manager Ozzie Newsome, majority owner Steve Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass. Today, they will interview New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard, a receivers coach under former Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda.

"I'm thankful to coach Billick for this opportunity, the opportunities have been far and few between," said Neuheisel, a football analyst for College Sports Television who coaches quarterbacks at a Seattle high school. "I've been eager to get back into the game.

"It's frustrating, but it's where I'm at. In this situation, you have to ask yourself, 'Do you feel sorry for yourself or do you do something about it?'"

The Ravens are also expected to meet with Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and former University of Illinois coach Ron Turner.

Baltimore (9-7) finished the season ranked 31st in total offense, and was also second-to-worst in the NFL in passing offense.

"I plan on moving along very quickly," said Billick, who said he would like to make a hire as soon as next week. "In order to give this new coordinator the latitude to be successful, he has to have a huge amount of input."

Based on that time table, it would likely rule out former New York Giants coach and Ravens consultant Jim Fassel because he's looking for an NFL head-coaching job. Fassel has been mentioned as a candidate for the Cleveland Browns' vacancy, and could also draw interest from the San Francisco 49ers. He didn't return telephone calls.

"Because of Jim's focus and primary intent, Jim as the offensive coordinator is probably a difficult proposition because of the time frame involved," Billick said.

Meanwhile, Ravens offensive line coach Jim Colletto contacted Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith about his offensive coordinator opening. Billick endorsed Baltimore running backs coach Matt Simon for offensive coordinator under new Washington coach Ty Willingham.

The Ravens face competition for Turner, who is regarded as a strong candidate for the Bears' job.

"Ron Turner is a brilliant coach, so he's going to be coveted," Billick said. "This is a little bit like recruiting, and possession is nine-tenths of the law."

Billick said he has spoken with USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who coached him at BYU, recognizing that he may not want to leave the national champion Trojans.

At UCLA and Colorado, respectively, Neuheisel helped develop NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Kordell Stewart, Koy Detmer and Marques Tuiasosopo.

"He has a wealth of experience," Billick said.

Neuheisel tried to recruit Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller to Colorado, but was rebuffed as Boller chose Cal-Berkeley.

"Unfortunately, he was polite in saying no to me, but a great young man," Neuheisel said. "It would be great to be able to work with him."
Neuheisel finished 66-30 in eight seasons at Colorado and Washington.

Yet, he was plagued by controversy and is headed to court Jan. 24 regarding his dismissal from Washington.

Neuheisel said Billick didn't dwell on his brush with the NCAA, calling that a welcome change.

"Adversity is a part of life," Neuheisel said. "Mine has just been publicized. I'm anxious to rebuild, to get back to what I love doing.

"I have no animosity toward anybody. The reason I'm pursuing what I've had to pursue is so people can know what exactly happened rather than what they read."  

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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