As the Ravens prepare to begin interviewing head coaching candidates -- possibly by the end of this week -- the team will turn up its intensity to pursue former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert, who is one of six front-runners to replace Ted Marchibroda.
Other top candidates include Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham, Minnesota offensive coordinator Brian Billick, Jacksonville offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren and Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Seifert has become a hot commodity because the Ravens are not allowed to interview Billick, Palmer and Holmgren, all involved with playoff teams, until after their seasons end. Seifert flew to Charlotte, N.C., Monday night after the Carolina Panthers fired coach Dom Capers and spent yesterday interviewing with Panthers officials. He then flew back to San Francisco.
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson wanted to have Seifert signed before he left town, but Seifert called the meeting "exploratory." The Ravens, as well as several other teams, are interested in Seifert, and the Ravens were in contact with Seifert's agent, Steve Kay, yesterday in an attempt to set up a visit.
Thus far, no visit has been planned. "I don't have any exact plans right now. I've got some telephone calls to make. It's that zany time of the year," Seifert told a Carolina reporter. "If I do want to coach again, we'll just see where I end up as a candidate. I really can't say right now."
There is speculation that Seifert wanted to stay on the West Coast, possibly filling the coaching vacancies with Seattle or San Diego, but Seifert said he is open to any opportunity.
"I grew up on the West Coast, but I have coached in New York and Iowa," Seifert said. "My children are grown and on their own. My wife and I are adventurous people and we look forward to other areas of the United States. Coaching is a way of life, more than just a position or a job."
Holmgren's agent did not return phone calls yesterday.
The Ravens might contact Haslett soon because the Steelers ended their season with a 21-3 loss to Jacksonville on Monday night.
A league source said at one time Haslett was almost assured the vacant head coaching position in Philadelphia, but the Eagles' interest decreased in the past two weeks.
The Ravens' list of prospects began taking form the first weekend in November. That's when the Ravens committed five turnovers in the first half and were embarrassed, 45-19, by the Jaguars at Ravens stadium.
That game, more than any other, signaled the end to Marchibroda's three-year tenure with the club. The Ravens, who fired Marchibroda on Monday, said they did not contact any candidates until after the season, but the team had a ready list and a league source said Seifert was contacted for the first time Sunday night.
In the past four weeks, the Ravens have researched prospects, not just the hot ones like Palmer or Billick, but other favorites such as Willingham, Haslett, Holmgren and Seifert, plus others such as Philadelphia defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas and former Raiders coach Art Shell.
Ozzie Newsome, Ravens vice president of player personnel, said his status will not get in the way of a candidate like Holmgren, who wants to serve as both general manager and coach.
"What you're asking me is the equivalent of when I was a player and asking me if I had a problem with us signing several great players," said Newsome, a Hall of Fame candidate at tight end. "My ego is not such that I can't work under other people. I've done that before and will do it again. The priority is for us is to put a winning team out on the field."
Newsome said selecting a coach can be an arduous process. He will work with a committee of seven that originally had as many as 31 candidates.
"It should be tedious," Newsome said. "We should put as much work in this process as we did in selecting Jonathan Ogden and Peter Boulware in the draft. This is a decision that can affect the franchise for the next decade, so there can't be too much work."
The committee members were each asked to submit a list of their top prospects, and it involved such candidates as Oregon's Mike Bellotti, Oregon State's Mike Reilly and even former UCLA coach Terry Donahue.
But the Ravens whittled down the list, and then began conducting interviews about their most serious candidates.
"We talked to the media, assistant coaches, players, his college coach, almost anyone that had a connection with a candidate," Newsome said. "We tried to compile as much material as possible. We wanted to know about consistencies as well as inconsistencies. We're still compiling information, and guys that have died on the list might come back to life."
"We wanted to be as adequately prepared and educated for any situation," said David Modell, Ravens vice president of marketing, who will participate in the selection process. "We're on top of this, and we want to be thorough. We're very serious about winning. We want to be active and do what is best for this franchise."
Pub Date: 12/30/98