It’s crunch time…give it to the professionals

January 18, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Har-Ball.  Marty-Ball.  Rex-Ball.

Do any of those make the MOST sense at this point?

It all depends on who you’re asking.

(Sidenote: If nothing else, this Ravens coaching-saga is ultra-interesting.  And, it’s lots more fun than talking about how the Orioles still aren’t allowing any of their players and/or employess to appear on WNST as part of their obvious effort to put the station out of business.)

Back to the Ravens and their hiring quandry.

For starters, let me say this to make sure the truth is posted.  If you choose to believe it, that’s fine.  If not, God speed to you.

The Ravens weren’t “played” by Jason Garrett or Rob Chudzinski, as many have been suggesting today both on the radio and in cyberspace.

Make no mistake about it, the Ravens lost to Jerry Jones.  There are a select few owners in the NFL that you probably shouldn’t go toe-to-toe with and Jones is one of those.  If he WANTS to win, he’s going to win.  He clearly didn’t want to lose Jason Garrett.  Had he been OK with Garrett’s departure, guess where Garrett would be right now?  Interviewing coaching staff candidates at his new office in Owings Mills, that’s where.

And Chudzinski didn’t “use” the Ravens either.  The Browns got smart about 30 minutes after they granted “Chud” permission to interview with the Ravens for their head coach vacancy.  As one Browns official said to me today, “We said to ourselves, ‘Baltimore is a mess right now.  Why would we allow Chud to go there and maybe help turn them around and make life tough for us at the same time?'”

So, Phil Savage decided it would be worth some extra coin and a new deal for Chudzinski to help keep the Ravens down for a while.  Can’t say that I blame him, can you?

The Ravens didn’t lose to Chudzinski and Garrett.  They lost to the Browns and Cowboys.  Sure, it is looking more and more like the word is out that now might not be the best time to dip your toes into the purple pond.  There’s no hiding the fact that the manner in which Billick and his staff were throat-slashed has rippled its way across the NFL.  But, had Dallas and Cleveland both given their full approval to their employees to sign on in Baltimore, one of those two guys would be the team’s coach by now.

If the Ravens wind up hiring John Harbaugh away from the Eagles, it will be partly because Harbaugh wants to be a Head Coach.  But, Philadelphia could be scurrying around right now trying to figure out a way to make him “happy” if they really, really, really didn’t want to lose him.

OK, now that we’ve taken care of that piece of business, let’s move on to the real meat of the issue.

The Ravens have a decision to make.  And someone’s NOT gonna be happy when the dust settles.

John Harbaugh is apparently waiting in Philadelphia for the 2nd interview call. 

Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer both interviewed with the club and haven’t heard anything since. 

Meanwhile, the players are going out of their way to make their wishes known, publicly – for sure – and privately, we assume. 

Yesterday on ESPNews, Terrell Suggs made his position VERY clear:  “I want Rex Ryan to be my coach,” Suggs said.  “He knows everyone on the defensive side of the ball and we respect him a great deal.  He’s the guy I want.”

Tuesday night on a local radio show, Chris McAlister didn’t say who he wanted or didn’t want, but he made one thing quite clear.  He doesn’t want his off-season downtime to be altered by a new, ambitious coach who comes to town and suddenly wants his players to actually work.  “I’m hearing we might have to come in in March and have a camp to start learning a new system,” CMac said.  “Well, I’ll come in, but I’m not going to be happy about it.  Just give me the playbook and I’ll study it and learn what I need to learn and I’ll see you in training camp.  But if we do have to come in this March, I’ll need some time off on the back-end in late June.  I can’t have my summer wrecked.”

And, no, before you ask…he wasn’t joking around.

So, Suggs won’t be happy unless Rex is hired and CMac won’t be happy if he has to work a little extra this spring.  I have to imagine they’re not the only two guys in the locker room with their own agenda.

I talked briefly with a Ravens vet today who said, “Anytime you change coaches, this is what you get.  You get guys who want certain coaches because it fits their style best.  For me, I really don’t care who gets the job.  But some guys are going to throw a fit if their guy doesn’t get the job.” 

I asked that player about Rex Ryan, specifically:  “Rex would be the one guy that would be the easiest sell because everyone knows him.  That would keep the players happy and it would probably seem almost like business as usual next summer when training camp starts.”

I finished up by throwing Marty Schottenheimer’s name out there.  “I like Marty, personally, so I’d be fine with that,” the player said.  “But of all the guys we’re hearing about, he’s the one guy most players would be nervous about because he’d probably shake things up right away.”

The Ravens are in a tough spot.

Garrett would have been a logical hire for several reasons.  First, he would have given Steve Bisciotti an Ivy League-trophy to show off around town, take to Caves Valley for Saturday afternoon golf with the big-wigs and, in general, would have been the “sexy hire” that would have made people say, “See, Steve knew what he was doing all along when he fired Billick.”

Garrett could have been sold to the players – even the ones who want Rex – as an obvious effort to beef up the team’s offense, something that the defensive players have been whining about for a long time.  Kind of tough for the guys to bitch about not having any offensive creativity if you just brought Jason Garrett into the mix, huh?

Now that Garrett is OUT, the Ravens are facing a crucial 4th and 1 play.

Do they give in to the players and hire Rex now?  There’s certainly an argument that between the three remaining candidates who’ve been interviewed – Rex, Harbaugh and Brian Schottenheimer, that Ryan is the most uniquely qualified both via his resume and his synergy with the current roster of players.  But, they passed on Rex and chased after Garrett.  Can Rex handle that and put it behind him?

Is giving in to the players the right way to go now?  They half-fired the previous coach and his staff.  Who’s not to say if they start out 3-9 next year that Mutiny ’08 won’t occur?

What happens if the Ravens change course and back up the Brinks truck in front of Marty Schottenheimer?  Clearly, MSchott’s price just went up today with Garrett’s decision to stay in Dallas.  Would Bisciotti go for a $20 million 4-year deal for Marty-Ball when he has to send Billick a $5 million check – with gritted teeth, I’m sure  – every year through 2010?

If Marty gets the gig, how long will the complaint line be in front of Owings Mills the day he’s hired?

Unhappy players aren’t good for team chemistry.

Or, should Bisciotti simply do this:  Bring Ozzie, DeCosta, Kokinis, Byrne and Moriarty into a room and say, “Guys, go hire the coach YOU think is the best fit for us GOING FORWARD.” 

Would that be best?

Give your professionals – the experts if you will – the freedom to go out and hire the guy they think is the best fit.

They’ll make the right call.

I’d bet on THEM – the football professionals – way before I’d bet on anyone else in the organization making the call.

And I’d bet on Ozzie, Eric, George, Kevin and Pat way before I’d bet on Ray, CMac, Suggs, J.O. and any other players who want to play GM in the off-season.

It’s time for the professionals to take over.

So far, having the amateurs involved hasn’t yielded any results.