Foerster hired, Ravens still considering Neuheisel

OWINGS MILLS -- Brian Billick reached into his past to address the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line vacancy, and he granted his choice the additional lofty title of assistant head coach.<br><br> Chris Foerster, the former Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator who coached under Billick with the Minnesota Vikings and at Stanford, was hired Wednesday to replace fired offensive line coach Jim Colletto and will serve as assistant head coach.

The clear indication: Foerster will oversee more than blocking schemes. He'll act as Billick's right-hand man and confidante.

"That was something that when I came in here was not part of the deal, Brian and I started talking and it was something he wanted to do," Foerster said regarding his dual capacity. "He wanted to give me a little more clout within the offensive staff.

"When I was in Tampa, Herman Edwards did that for Tony Dungy. What did that title really do for Herm? He was a sounding board for Tony, and hopefully I can be the same for Brian."

There's less clarity about the offensive coordinator posting, although former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel appears to be closing in on the job with no imminent announcement on the horizon. Neuheisel met with Billick again over the last few days, and is the only candidate to interview twice.

Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh resigned under pressure the day after a season where Baltimore plummeted to a franchise-low 31st in total offense and missed the playoffs.

It's unclear whether Jim Fassel, the team's senior consultant last season, is going to be a top candidate for NFL head-coaching vacancies as he hasn't interviewed for any jobs and isn't scheduled for any at this point.

If Fassel did become the Ravens' offensive coordinator it might only be for one year, which Billick has acknowledged wouldn't grant him the continuity he's seeking. The former New York Giants head coach has been friends with Billick for the last 26 years.

There are scenarios where Neuheisel, who has a strong background in developing quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Kordell Stewart, could be hired as a quarterbacks coach. Then, Fassel or perhaps New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard, would be hired as offensive coordinator.

Neuheisel made a good impression on Billick and other team officials in meetings that began last Thursday when he was the first candidate to interview. Neuheisel was 66-30 at Colorado and Washington, but was fired in the summer of 2003 for participating in a high-stakes NCAA basketball pool that reportedly netted him $11,000. Neuheisel was ultimately cleared after an NCAA investigation and is suing the university for wrongful termination in a case set for trial Jan. 24.
The process has been drawn out by Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan remaining in the playoffs. The Ravens also interviewed Ron Turner, but he chose the same post with the Chicago Bears.

Meanwhile, Foerster is accustomed to dealing with crises.
He was promoted to coordinator last summer when Joel Collier stepped down, citing exhaustion and personal reasons.

Pro Bowl running back Ricky Williams retired days before training camp in a cloud of marijuana smoke. The Dolphins constantly wavered between quarterbacks between Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley. And wideout David Boston missed the entire season after blowing out his knee.

In a season where coach Dave Wannstedt ultimately resigned, Miami finished a franchise-worst 29th in total offense and allowed 52 sacks.
"When you lose your best player on the offensive side of the ball, that's huge," Foerster said. "We were playing with practice-squad runners. We had a quarterback controversy going on.

"We had too much of those things going on and on top of that the pressure that was on coach Wannstedt to succeed. It just all added up to a formula unfortunately for disaster."

For Foerster, who worked with Billick in Minnesota (1993 to 1995) and Stanford (1989 to 1991), it's a chance to work for a friend. Plus, he wasn't going to be retained by the Dolphins.

Instead of unemployment, he became assistant head coach.
"It's good to be with people you know and trust and like," said Foerster, who has prior stints coaching the Indianapolis Colts' tight ends and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line. "I was just looking for a job."

Foerster and Neuheisel were teammates on an Arizona high school all-star team as the center and quarterback, respectively.
"We had a real close relationship going way back when," Foerster quipped. "I really haven't talked much with Rick since then. I guess that's an indication of something."

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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