Ravens ready to begin interviews

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' quest to find a new head coach could begin as soon as today as they start conducting their first phase of interviews, according to a team spokesman.

In the wake of team owner Steve Bisciotti firing coach Brian Billick and his entire coaching staff Monday, the Ravens are expected to meet with Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Cowboys assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tony Sparano over the next few days.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan is scheduled to interview with Ravens team officials as soon as Sunday. He's also expected to interview with the Atlanta Falcons next week and was contacted by the Miami Dolphins for the opening they created Thursday when Bill Parcells fired coach Cam Cameron.

"Rex is in the mix," Ravens team spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "Steve talked to Rex about interviewing him and what Steve suggested to Rex, and Rex agreed 100 percent, is because we know you so well you probably shouldn't be the first interview. We will interview somebody else or some bodies before we interview Rex."

The Ravens requested permission to speak to four assistant coaches on playoff teams this week, but 31-year-old New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels resisted overtures from the Ravens and the Falcons largely because of his age and out of loyalty to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Another potential high-profile candidate apparently isn't interested in returning to the coaching ranks next season.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher isn't expected to change his stance on not wanting to pursue head-coaching opportunities for next season, according to an official with Octagon, the McLean, Va., agency that represents the former Super Bowl winning coach.

"Nothing has changed," the Octagon spokesman said. "Bill Cowher has no intention of coaching in 2008. Has he been contacted by the Ravens? I don't know anything about the Ravens' coaching search.

"Bill Cowher is an excellent coach. When he wants to return to the NFL, he'll be in heavy demand. That time isn't now."

Because Sparano and Garrett are scheduled to meet with Falcons owner Arthur Blank today, it's possible that Caldwell could receive the first interview with Baltimore as soon as today with Ravens team officials likely meeting Saturday or Sunday with the two Cowboys' assistant coaches. Caldwell, 52, was endorsed by Colts head coach Tony Dungy this week.

"I just think Jim's got a lot of the things people should be looking for,'' Dungy told Indianapolis reporters. "He's going to be a phenomenal head coach for someone."

Caldwell interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals last season and with the Minnesota Vikings the previous year. He was head coach at Wake Forest from 1993-2000, compiling a 26-63 record and defeating Arizona State in the Aloha Bowl in 1999.

Four former Dungy assistants are NFL head coaches, including the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs' Herm Edwards, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin and the Detroit Lions' Rod Marinelli.

"Atlanta would be wise to hire him, in my opinion,'' Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said of Caldwell. "Coach Dungy has proven to have a pretty good tree of head coaches. I think Jim would bring some of the Tony Dungy style, but also some of his own style and some of his own offensive ideas as well."

The Ravens' search committee comprised of Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, team president Dick Cass, director of pro personnel George Kokinis, vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty, assistant director of pro personnel Vince Newsome, director of college scouting Eric DeCosta and Byrne, the team's senior vice president of public and community relations, began with a long list of 30 names that has since been trimmed down.

The committee has been doing research on potential candidates by calling multiple contacts around the NFL.

The Ravens have until Sunday at 6 p.m. to meet with assistants on playoff teams. The interviews are expected to be conducted on the road.

"When we're not meeting, we're on the phone kind of doing the same thing we did when we hired Brian, calling as many people as we know," Byrne said. "When we come back with that information, we go around the table and say, 'I've talked these four people about this guy and this is what these four say, anybody else have anything to say?' And that's kind of how it goes."

While the Ravens plot their next move for a head coach, Billick left the team's training complex Thursday after cleaning out his office and packing up his belongings. After nine seasons in Baltimore that included a Super Bowl title and two AFC North titles, Billick was dismissed following a 5-11 injury-plagued season that began with Super Bowl ambitions.

Prior to driving away from the Ravens' headquarters, Billick declined an interview request.

"No, I'm not going to talk," Billick said. "It's just not a smart thing to do right now."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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