Billick pass picked off; Vikings' Tice rejects chance to be Ravens' offensive coordinator; New coach busy interviewing; M. Lewis offered job short of defensive head


MOBILE, Ala. -- Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Mike Tice turned down the Ravens' offensive coordinator's position yesterday, and new Ravens coach Brian Billick apparently has offered Marvin Lewis a job as a position coach, but not in his former capacity as defensive coordinator.

Later, after interviewing former Chicago Bears assistant coach Matt Cavanaugh yesterday, Billick offered him the offensive coordinator job. Billick said he expects an answer from Cavanaugh today.

Cavanaugh also interviewed with the New York Giants yesterday and is considered a candidate for St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator as well, Billick said.

Billick, hired by the Ravens Tuesday, spent the day inside a hotel suite at the Senior Bowl here yesterday. Assistant coaches throughout the league recognize this week as an annual job fair, and Billick conducted 10 face-to-face interviews yesterday. At least twice as many were done via phone.

Besides Lewis and Tice, Billick said he interviewed former Ravens assistant coach Jacob Burney, regarded as one of the most technically sound defensive line coaches in the league. Lewis and Burney are "priority" hires for Billick from the old staff. Burney has been offered a similar job with the Tennessee Titans, and Lewis has been offered the defensive coordinator's job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis also has interviewed with the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was linebackers coach before joining the Ravens three years ago.

Lewis did not return calls to his home last night.

"It's my hope that Marvin will stay on at the very least as a position coach," Billick said last night. "I have several other people I need to speak with about the coordinator's position, but I would be very comfortable with Marvin as my defensive coordinator."

Billick is waiting on the status of Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who coached with the Baltimore Colts. Cunningham is still under contract with the Chiefs, even though coach Marty Schottenheimer retired earlier this month.

Cunningham also has been interviewed by the Chicago Bears for their vacant head coaching position. If the Chiefs' new coach wants to retain Cunningham, then he must honor his contract. Kansas City officials probably wouldn't deny him the Bears' job.

"I've known Gunther Cunningham for a long time. He is a friend, but I also consider him the best defensive coordinator in the league," said Billick. "We'll wait and see what happens."

"I'm still under contract and I just got back from Chicago, so we'll see how it goes," said Cunningham, who confirmed that the Ravens had not gotten permission to speak with him from the Chiefs. "Brian is one of the great young coaches in this league. He is going to do well in Baltimore."

Several of the Ravens expressed interest in having Lewis back in either capacity.

"I think it would be good for those guys [Lewis and Burney] to come back," said strong safety Stevon Moore. "Marvin knows all the players, and he has a special relationship with a lot of them."

"I hope he stays," said free safety Kim Herring, endorsing Lewis as defensive coordinator. "I don't want to learn a whole new defense. As a player, you get comfortable with the coaches who teach you."

Billick had little success trying to raid the staff of his former team. He wanted to bring in Tice, a former University of Maryland quarterback, as an offensive line coach/coordinator. He also wanted to bring in Vikings assistant Wade Harman as tight ends coach. He got cut off by his former boss, Minnesota head coach Dennis Green.

"Brian will do well in Baltimore, but not with my staff," said Green, smiling. "I will make it hard for them to leave."

"He offered Mike some things that he wasn't able to work out before," said Billick. "Dennis is a great guy to work for. But I have some contingency plans, and hopefully the staff will be put in place by this weekend. That may be overly ambitious, but hopefully by the middle of next week."

Assistant coaches were not the only ones shopping their services yesterday. Word around the league is that the Ravens are looking for a veteran quarterback. Vikings veteran Brad Johnson's name has surfaced as an option, and agent Tony Agnone has already laid some groundwork for the team to take a look at disgruntled Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell.

"I told Brian if he was in the market, give me a call," said Agnone.

Tom Condon, agent for two Ravens free agents, center Wally Williams and right offensive tackle Orlando Brown, reported that the team has yet to contact him.

Pub Date: 1/21/99

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