The situation room: Jason Garrett and Steve Bisciotti

January 17, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

So, today the Ravens might have a new coach, and as we’ve seen over the past 72 hours,  maybe they WON’T.

Predictions are out this window at this point, and there are as many “scenarios” as there are coaching candidates.

Below I will try to give you the flavor of what I’ve been sifting through as a 24-year journalist over the past few days. (I’ve gone old school here, calling upon every resource I have in the league trying to figure out what’s happening here!)

Everyone in the league is buzzing about all of the changes on the coaching carousel and the six days off between games in mid-January usually lend themselves to the rumorama that comes with owners, coaches, agents and executives all jockeying for seats in the boardrooms of 32 NFL teams.

Incidentally, almost unanimously my sources say that the stunt that Garrett pulled on Tuesday was very against the “etiquette” of how these job situations are handled. The whole notion of a “second interview” means that you’re coming to take the job. No doubt, Bisciotti talked money with Garrett’s team before he got on the plane Monday night. Garrett, and his slippery agent David Dunn, apparently didn’t get that memo, as Dunn leaked information on both sides of the ball, playing all of the potential suitors against each other with a trigger-happy media flood that only served to garner Garrett some perceived leverage..

The truth is pretty simple: As a first-time head coach, Garrett will get somewhere between $2 and $3 million per year – maybe a little more because he’s “hot” right now, but the money will not be the issue holding up his coronation.

How Steve Bisciotti  actually feels about Tuesday’s “charade” will come out in the wash. If the Ravens didn’t think they still had a chance with Garrett, they would’ve “removed” his name from consideration right around 6 p.m. on Monday night when the limo made the turn outta The Bellagio for BWI.

My sources tell me that the Ravens are patiently waiting on Garrett, whom they believe is honorable and is simply taking a few days to mull his many options. So, while you and I might feel like walking away from the Ravens’ job offer is insulting to Bisciotti, apparently he doesn’t feel that way. He sees it as Garrett “doing business.”

Let’s take some of the people and situations one at a time:

Jason Garrett

Garrett is apparently back in Dallas this morning mulling over the THREE offers he has to make in excess of $2 million per season next year, with two head coaching jobs there for the taking: Atlanta and Baltimore.

There are as many opinions on Garrett as there are people to call. The consensus among the people I know is that Jerry Jones will make him an offer he can’t refuse, because what he REALLY wants to be is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, not the Falcons or Ravens. (Shouldn’t this make Bisciotti nervous to begin with?) And Jones can make Garrett’s second season as an offensive coordinator a very profitable one, holding him in reserve and putting Wade Phillips into “lame duck” status. Jones has done this before, so it’s almost expected, especially with a groomed guy who won a pair of Super Bowl rings working for Jones in Dallas.

Many, many people I’ve chatted with believe that Garrett isn’t ready to be a head coach in the NFL, just three years removed from being a player. Some don’t believe he’ll ever be a great coach. Many don’t understand why the buzz is so white hot on a one-year coordinator, whom Jerry Jones has turned into the hottest chick at the dance.

A handful of people I spoke with yesterday believe that HE now believes he’s not ready to be a head coach just yet. Just based on the look of shock on his face meeting with the “Baltimore stakeout” on Tuesday worried me a bit if he’s the guy. He looked like a deer in the headlights and his first “act” as a potential head coach in Baltimore was to issue a silly statement, avoid all questions and jump in a limo and flee the scene.

We’ll learn a lot more about Garrett today, it appears.


John Harbaugh

A spirited guy, and another football lifer with roots all over the league, the knock on Harbaugh will be that he’s never been on the offensive side of the ball, only did the past year on defense and spent the overwhelming majority of his time in the NFL coaching special teams.

But he’s been at this game a long time, at virtually every level of the game, and could be bringing Cam Cameron with him as well to run the offense. He worked for Cameron at Indiana.

There have been many successful NFL coaches with special teams backgrounds (Cowher, Schottenheimer, etc.) so that’s not really an issue, although the local media will surely have a field day if Harbaugh is named the team’s third coach.

He might look like a “dark horse” to many in Baltimore, but all of my sources tell me that John Harbaugh is a great football man and will be an outstanding NFL head coach.

Harbaugh’s bio is here…quite impressive.

If Garrett backs out (as expected), Harbaugh might be the new Ravens coach by the end of the day.

Rex Ryan

His untimely entry into The Bellagio on Tuesday while Garrett was in the building interviewing for the head coaching job notwithstanding (he still has an office there, as strange as that sounds), Ryan is very much the man in limbo and is literally a hostage to Jason Garrett’s whims.

If Garrett stays in Dallas (still the best bet, but in no way a lock), Ryan could be named Atlanta’s head coach by tomorrow.

If Garrett comes to Baltimore, he STILL could be named head coach of the Falcons by tomorrow.

Of course, Atlanta might be blowing smoke. All you need to do is read ANY story on how the Falcons have handled their football business and you’ll see that they have become the worst franchise in the league, right up there with Oakland, Cincinnati and Arizona for whack-job ownership.

If the Falcons go back to the drawing board on their search, Ryan STILL could wind up running the defense here in Baltimore under Garrett and/or Harbaugh. Ryan has NOT been officially fired, is still under contract to the Ravens and has an office on the second floor of The Bellagio.

Overview of The 2008 Ravens

Being an inside observer to this “mating dance” several times since the Ravens came to town in 1995, I have my own opinions and observations that have been reached — not with rumors or conjecture — but with facts that the many league sources and friends have educated me about over the years.

First, the current state of the Ravens is a mess from virtually anyone on the outside. As one observer told me yesterday: “It’s not like the Ravens have leprosy, but it’s not far off.”

The Ravens are a franchise that:

1.    Has a team full of disgruntled and very well-paid players who basically instituted a mutiny on their nine-year, Super Bowl-winning coach a year removed from a 13-3 season.
2.    Has an owner who told a Super Bowl-winning coach repeatedly that he was “safe” and then “Corleoned” him quite publicly less than 12 hours after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers to end the season, reportedly owing him $15 million.
3.    Has a tremendously distressful salary cap situation and an aging roster. (People around the league look at McAlister, Lewis, Ogden, McNair, Pryce and Rolle as ALL having played their best football in the rearview mirror.)
4.    Has a management structure that appears in upheaval (if not poisonous), especially once word got around that GM Ozzie Newsome didn’t endorse, approve of or even know about Billick’s firing until it essentially had been determined/endorsed by the team’s attorney/president.
5.    Has a VERY agitated fan base with tremendously unrealistic expectations for this to be turned around on a dime. Baltimore is among the most “collegiate” coaching experiences in the league (and that’s not a compliment if you consider what Alabama, Notre Dame and most SEC coaches deal with). Some believe the fans’ voices contributed greatly to Bisciotti’s decision to fire Billick.
6.    Oh, and there’s the biggest problem of all in many eyes: the franchise has no quarterback. At least when Marvin Lewis and Mike Nolan inherited turd franchises, they had the No. 1 pick and a quarterback was there to take. The Ravens’ new coach won’t be so lucky.

In the end, there are only 32 jobs in the world like it. It still pays in excess of $2 million per year and there are thousands of coaches who would line up to be the Ravens’ head coach. (Hell, Rex Ryan is salivating at the opportunity to take over the Falcons, so you KNOW plenty of guys covet these jobs.)

The question here isn’t totally about salary or control or years or even football knowledge. It’s a blend.

In almost every instance, here are the relevant questions that smart people around the league would ask:

1.    Can it be fixed and quickly? (Most say, “Yes, it can be fixed, but NOT quickly given the amount of money, age and personalities involved.” Every source I spoke with told me that a housecleaning is mandatory.)
2.    What is the strategy/remedy and who is really making the decisions on the 53-man roster. Does Ozzie Newsome pick the players or does the coach?
3.    Will the owner hit the eject button and fire me if the 2008 Ravens go 2-14, which is a realistic scenario, especially if they “clean house” with the current players.

Everyone I talked to said this is the KEY factor in a coach taking the job:

“If Chris McAlister quits or mouths off to me, or if Bart Scott throws flags at officials or if Ray Lewis goes on a radio show and blasts my coaching acumen, am I empowered to do anything about it? And who will have my back, especially considering they ALL make more money than I do and essentially got Billick fired?”

This is what I know…as Billick would say, “Have at it!”

Comments might be a little slow to be posted today. I’m doing a lot of running around. Thanks!

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