Ravens' search heating up

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens are headed to Texas today, hoping to round up a new head coach as members of their search committee are scheduled to interview a pair of Dallas Cowboys assistants. The Ravens interviewed Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell on Friday to kick off their first phase of interviews.

Now, a Ravens delegation will meet this afternoon with Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Cowboys assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

Garrett and Sparano met with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Friday at a Dallas hotel regarding the Falcons' head coaching vacancy, and Sparano is scheduled to meet with Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland this morning prior to his planned meeting with Ravens team officials.

By interviewing during the bye week, Caldwell, Sparano and Garrett could be available for a second round of interviews between the title game weekend and the Super Bowl if the Colts and Cowboys advance that far.

Sparano, 46, is regarded as a frontrunner for the Dolphins' job due to his connections with Bill Parcells. Prior to Wade Phillips' arrival, Sparano called plays for Parcells as the Cowboys piled up 425 points, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher.

Garrett, 41, has only been coaching for three years after working as a backup quarterback for a dozen years.

This season, the Cowboys offense scored 455 points as seven players made the Pro Bowl.

Quarterback Tony Romo established single-season records with 36 touchdown passes and 4,211 yards.

Through his father, Jim Garrett, Garrett has a connection to Ravens vice president of football operations Pat Moriarty, who's part of the search committee. When Moriarty was a Cleveland Browns running back in 1979, the future salary-cap expert was coached by Jim Garrett.

Both Sparano and Garrett have received strong endorsements from their boss.

"People are looking for different kinds of head coaches," Phillips told Dallas reporters. "They are looking for their own criteria. Some want motivational people.

"These guys have a little bit of everything. That's what makes them attractive. They can handle the team well. Their players play well for them. They are disciplined. They are detailed. All positive things."

The Ravens are still scheduled to interview defensive coordinator Rex Ryan on Sunday. Ryan is also expected to interview with the Falcons and Dolphins next week, too.

Plus, the Ravens requested permission to Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage on Thursday night to interview Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski next week.

Chudzinski, 39, revitalized the Browns' offense during his first season in Cleveland as Browns quarterback Derek Anderson threw 29 touchdown passes, Jamal Lewis rushed for 1,000 yards and both Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark.

The Browns averaged 25.1 points and 351.3 yards per game under Chudzinski, a former San Diego Chargers tight ends coach.

Meanwhile, University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz isn't expected to pursue the Ravens' opening.

Ferentz has several ties to the Ravens having worked as an offensive line coach under Bill Belichick when the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns and he coached All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden in Baltimore.

However, an Iowa athletic department official stated Friday that the two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year is intent on staying at Iowa for professional and family reasons.

Several of Kirk and Mary Ferentz's five children are still in high school or attend college at Iowa.

Ferentz is also under contract through 2012 and is reportedly the highest paid coach in the Big Ten with a $2.7 million annual salary. Whenever he has been asked about NFL jobs in the past, Ferentz has repeatedly replied, "I've got a great job right here."

That rote answer isn't expected to change. With the exception of Ryan and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who has declined overtures so far from NFL teams, every candidate that has been linked to the Ravens so far has a top-flight offensive background. That includes 31-year-old New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who declined interview requests from the Ravens and Falcons.

NOTES: Brian Billick, who was fired Monday by Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti after nine seasons as head coach, has already had his name linked to a job opening. San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, said in a radio interview that he's interested in Billick as a potential offensive coordinator candidate along with Cam Cameron and Mike Martz. Billick, who declined to comment Thursday while leaving the team's training complex, is also expected to have television opportunities. .... An Arizona Cardinals team official said the Ravens haven't requested permission to speak with assistant head coach Russ Grimm.

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


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