Ravens interview Sparano, Garrett

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' hunt for a new head coach took a Texas turn Saturday as their search committee interviewed Dallas Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano and Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

During his first year running the Cowboys' high-scoring offense, Garrett's stock has skyrocketed to the point where the former Ivy League quarterback is regarded as one of the top candidates available outside of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher who has repeatedly claimed he has no intentions of coaching next season.

A former backup to Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, Garrett, 41, has only been coaching for three seasons.

Yet, his low profile was boosted significantly by directing a Cowboys offense that scored 455 points this year as quarterback Tony Romo set franchise records with 36 touchdown passes and 4,211 yards. Both wide receiver Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark.

"I learned a long time ago, and I learned it in this organization as a player, when you win and you have the kind of year we've had, these kinds of opportunities are going to come up for lots of different people," Garrett told Dallas reporters this week. "When something concrete comes from it, we'll address it."

Garrett has received several strong endorsements, including one from Aikman while he was broadcasting a game for FOX last month.

"If he's not a head coach next year, it's only because he chose not to be one," Aikman said of his friend.

The son of retired NFL assistant coach and scout Jim Garrett, Garrett received strong consideration by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for the head coaching position that ultimately went to Wade Phillips last year when Bill Parcells resigned before resurfacing as the Miami Dolphins' top football executive.

His brother, John Garrett, coaches the Cowboys' tight ends, and another brother, Judd Garrett, coaches the St. Louis Rams' tight ends. Garrett's father coached Ravens vice president of football operations Pat Moriarty in 1979 when he was a running back for the Cleveland Browns.

The potential dilemma for Garrett is whether he should stay in Dallas or pursue vacancies with the Ravens or the Atlanta Falcons after meeting Friday at a Dallas hotel with Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Blank also interviewed Sparano on Friday, who met with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland on Saturday morning.

If Garrett remains with the Cowboys, there's already heavy speculation that the former Ivy League Player of the Year from Princeton would receive a hefty raise from Jones and perhaps a promotion to assistant head coach if Sparano takes the Dolphins' job that he's been billed as the frontrunner for.

"For every moment that you and I have spent talking about what's best for Jason, you can imagine, with that good brain of his, that he's addressing that," Jones told reporters earlier this week. "You and I don't need to go there. He'll cover all those bases for himself."

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan is on deck to meet with team officials today at the team's training complex.

Ryan, who was fired Monday along with the entire staff when team owner Steve Bisciotti dismissed coach Brian Billick after nine seasons in Baltimore, has engineered aggressive defenses that have ranked fifth, first and sixth overall under three years of his direction.

Ryan is also expected to be interviewed by the Falcons early next week and has been contacted by the Dolphins.

If Ryan follows in the footsteps of his legendary father, Buddy Ryan, as an NFL head coach, it would be a popular move with the Ravens' players.

"I'd love it," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "Not to disrespect coach Billick or anything, but I'm sure everybody around here would love that."

The Ravens interviewed Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell on Friday, and have requested permission to interview Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski next week.

The search is expected to expand next week for the Ravens, who plummeted to 5-11 after launching last season with Super Bowl aspirations.

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

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