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Don't let Palmer get away, guys


Marty Schottenheimer would have been perfect, but if Baltimore NFL fans cried over spilled milk, they could fill the Inner Harbor with tears.

Forget Schottenheimer. Forget George Seifert. Forget Mike Holmgren.

The new head coach won't be as proven, but at least he'll be presentable.

And his name could be Chris Palmer.

Four openings remain -- Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland and Chicago. The Ravens now stand an excellent chance of hiring Palmer or Brian Billick, the other offensive coordinator they covet.

The Browns appear to be the only other team interested in Palmer and Billick.

They might not hire either. They definitely can't hire both.

For once, the math works out.

Palmer arrives today, with the Ravens finally getting the first crack at one of their top candidates now that Jacksonville is out of the playoffs.

If the interview goes well, owner Art Modell should offer Palmer the job and be done with it, rather than wait as many as three weeks for Billick's season to end in Minnesota.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect additional resumes. Do not let Palmer out the door.

Apply the Holmgren Maneuver, lest you choke.

Hiring Palmer immediately would allow him to start forming his staff before the final three jobs are filled, and remove any last risk from the equation.

Palmer could land in Cleveland. Billick could surface in Kansas City. And the Ravens could drop to their third tier of candidates -- Emmitt Thomas, Jim Haslett, Art Shell and college coaches.

Amazing, isn't it?

It always comes down to Baltimore and Cleveland.

The Browns moved to Baltimore in 1995. The Orioles and Indians met in the '96 and '97 playoffs. Roberto Alomar went from Baltimore to Cleveland, Albert Belle from Cleveland to Baltimore (via Chicago).

The NFL coaching derby is merely the latest chapter in this modern-day, all-sports version of "A Tale of Two Cities."

The Browns don't figure to pry Steve Mariucci from San Francisco. They've already interviewed Billick, former Raiders coach Shell and Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. They're also interested in Palmer.

The Chiefs? They reportedly will consider former Carolina coach Dom Capers and former UCLA coach Terry Donahue, plus Schottenheimer assistants Jimmy Raye, Gunther Cunningham and Al Saunders.

The Bears? Don't worry about the Bears. Their list of candidates bears little resemblance to any other team's. Perhaps they're looking to join the USFL.

Years from now, the Ravens might regret bypassing Shell, Capers and Ray Rhodes, all of whom have won as NFL head coaches. But team officials insist they've done their homework, and Billick and Palmer were their two most realistic candidates from the start.

Whatever happens, their choice won't be as curious as Philadelphia's. Andy Reid was the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay, not the offensive coordinator. He has never been a coordinator. He has never even been a quarterback.

Reid, a former offensive lineman at Brigham Young, worked under Packers offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis, like Mariucci and Oakland's Jon Gruden before him.

Lewis is black. Reid, Mariucci and Gruden are white.

And you wonder why black candidates get so frustrated about their failure to land head coaching jobs, even with Rhodes heading to Green Bay after a 3-13 season in Philadelphia.

The Packers' hiring of Rhodes took them out of the mix for Palmer and Billick. The Ravens could have received even better news yesterday, if Schottenheimer had merely resigned, and not retired for at least one year.

Schottenheimer left Cleveland after the 1988 season, but his differences with owner Art Modell did not seem irreconcilable. Modell wanted Schottenheimer to hire an offensive coordinator and re-assign his brother, Kurt, the Browns' special teams coach. Schottenheimer declined.

A bitter parting, it wasn't.

The Ravens ranked Schottenheimer behind only Holmgren and Seifert -- and you could argue that Schottenheimer was even more attractive than Seifert.

Schottenheimer built winning teams almost from scratch in Cleveland and Kansas City. Seifert inherited a winner in San Francisco.

One more item from the what-might-have-been dept.: Schottenheimer was the winningest active coach, with a higher career winning percentage (.630) than even Bill Parcells (.585).

His 5-11 playoff record?

The Ravens would have welcomed such problems.

There's no way to know whether Schottenheimer would have worked again for Modell. But for an organization stuck in football purgatory, he would have been manna from heaven.

All right, enough.

Chris Palmer is in the house. If he can walk, talk, chew gum and diagram a fly pattern, do not pass Go, do not collect additional resumes, do not delay this any longer.

Lock the doors. Lock out Cleveland.

Extend the offer, and hire a coach.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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