And on the Ninth Day, the Ravens finally rested…

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It’s now been 10 mornings since the firing of Brian Billick.

While the fans on the outside have been hitting refresh on their browsers awaiting word of the next candidate (or in my case some actual honest information about what this process entails), the powers that be inside The Bellagio have been working nonstop trying to find the next coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

For virtually everyone in the room, it is a daunting task, no doubt filled with questions, answers, background checks and a series of possibilities for assistant coaches that must look like some crazy algorithm.

If they bring in more candidates next week – and the word from the inside is that there are STILL more candidates who will be brought in from current playoff teams – they might need to tear down the draft war room from last April and erect a coaching war room.

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So many names. So many possibilities.

And the worst part? No true consensus forming just yet.

“If we hire this guy, who could he bring with him for the staff?”

“What are the strengths, what are the weaknesses of each candidate?”

“What exactly are we looking for and what do we NOT want?”

“What’s truly important?”

This is typical employer-employee stuff that every company in the world struggles with every day except that most jobs don’t come with a press conference instantly marking you as the most famous man in the city.

And the immediate and weighty expectations of an entire metropolis? Whew…good luck, big guy!

This is when you realize that the Ravens’ environment is more like a college coaching job than an NFL job. The pressure here is immense, probably because it’s become a one-sport community due to the malaise of the orange birds next door (who by the way might be making some of their own noise with Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts before the day is through).

For the new coach, it’s win and win quickly or be ready to be assaulted with criticism, boos and the ire of the entire population of the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin. Hell, Billick came here, changed the entire fate of the franchise, won a Super Bowl and was STILL run out of town as the village idiot in the end.

(Of course, he’s on the beach this morning collecting $15 million while everyone in Owings Mills is scrambling, so who’s the ultimate fool, really?)

Hiring NFL coaches is a tough, inexact science – and everyone in Owings Mills is keenly aware that their rope is pretty short on the one this time around. No doubt, Steve Bisciotti and Dick Cass’ short-fuse removal of Billick put the search committee on a short leash and in a bind. 

Here are the realities:

•    The organization has only had 10 days to disseminate a LOT of information. They didn’t even have a short list 10 days ago and they’ve already been rebuffed by several candidates (Cowher, McDaniels, Chudzinski), perhaps beaten to the punch on another (Sparano) and shuttled in all of the biggest remaining name brands (Garrett, Caldwell) and some other less notables (Harbaugh, B. Schottenheimer). It appears as though local favorite Jim Schwartz will NOT get an interview at this point. In the interim, the brass is now doing a series of background checks, character calls to former employers and what can only be described as “due diligence” on all of their potential candidates.  Knowing how Ozzie Newsome’s staff approaches the draft each April, you can only imagine how thorough they’re being!

•    Many assistant coaches are simply unavailable due to contract issues, making some potential head coaching candidates limited in what they can offer to the big picture. While the fans are focused on a “name” for a head coach (or maybe what side of the ball they come from), the Ravens’ brass understands the incredible significance of what assistants any boss could lure. Many of these “head coaching” job interviews are also smokescreens to flesh out the bigger picture of an entire staff. Again, this is where Billick was truly a genius in the early going as the Ravens’ head coach. Billick delivered big time with his ability to bring quality assistants, especially on defense.

•    What makes a good candidate? The Ravens are no doubt looking for charisma, leadership, a teaching aspect (for both players and coaches) as well as someone that the players can relate to and will play hard for. If you want to see what a legitimate list of qualifications looks like for an NFL coach, here’s David Modell’s searching criteria from the 1998 job search. I can’t imagine that the current staff has lowered its expectations.

•    Keep your eyes on this weekend’s playoff games. The Ravens haven’t been allowed to seek out interviews with coaches from the staffs of San Diego, Jacksonville, Seattle or the New York Giants. If any of those teams get eliminated, more candidates could be sweeping into Owings Mills. Of course, if Jason Garrett or Jim Caldwell is truly their “guy,” a loss by Indy or Dallas would begin a process for an early-week press conference and a new coach. My opinion: I don’t think they’re done interviewing new people just yet.

•    From all accounts, the Ravens front office is treating this in almost an identical fashion to drafting in April. They’re identifying what they need, doing a ton of  background checks and picking the best available candidate. And if Ozzie Newsome is TRULY running this search, it will be handled with his famed “process.” So far, simply because there wasn’t a quick coronation of Bill Cowher or Marty Schottenheimer (who doesn’t appear to be a candidate at all), it appears as though Newsome is now running the show. (Of course, he was the guy 10 days ago who said that he “recommended” that Billick be fired, and I quite frankly think that’s a lie.) But the word is that Bisciotti is allowing Newsome to truly head up the process. Like I said, we’ll see…

•    I think the possibility of Rex Ryan remaining here begins to diminish as the interviews go along and he gets more opportunities. As I wrote yesterday, that had to be one helluva weird interview on Sunday in Owings Mills for all parties involved. Deep down, I don’t think Ryan or the club knows which way this is going to go, but it was a pretty ambitious plan to think that Billick could be fired and that Ryan would come back to coach the defense after being interviewed and subsequently passed over for the top spot. Not to mention how the new head coach would feel about having Ryan stay on board. This is a sticky, ongoing situation and some feelings are going to get hurt in the end no matter how it plays out, I’m afraid.

As I continue to get accurate information, I’ll pass it along.

I care as much as you do because I love the Ravens as much as you do.

In the meantime, I’ll watch the playoff games this weekend (hope you can join me for a cold Corona at Piv’s Pub in Cockeysville on Sunday at 1 for the Colts-Chargers game) and wait for a press conference sometime this month.

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