Ravens sack line coach Colletto, too

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Ravens will be searching for more than an offensive coordinator this week.

Offensive line coach Jim Colletto was fired yesterday, becoming the second member of Brian Billick's coaching staff not to be retained after the offense ranked 31st in the NFL this season.

Colletto, who had a year remaining on his contract, called his release a "mutual agreement." He asked Billick's permission to look outside of the organization when informed he would not be a candidate for the coordinator position.

"It was a request that I made and Brian agreed to honor my contract," Colletto said. "It was never a situation where he said, 'You're out of here.' "

Billick declined to comment on the removal of Colletto, the only offensive line coach in Billick's six seasons here.

The Ravens' priority remains finding a new offensive coordinator, which could come this week. Team officials want to make sure they have done a thorough evaluation and have planned a second interview with former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel. Billick talked about bringing in a couple more candidates this week but declined to name anyone.

"I'm hopeful to have resolution by the weekend," Billick said.

The Ravens had wanted to hire a replacement for Matt Cavanaugh by the middle of this week. But the top candidate, former University of Illinois coach Ron Turner, chose to become the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator over the weekend.

That left the Ravens with two publicly confirmed candidates: Neuheisel and New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard.

Neuheisel made a strong impression with Billick during the interview and might have significantly increased his stature in the search, a source said. He has been out of football since being fired by Washington in June 2003.

Before the interviews, Sheppard was believed to be the second favorite, ranking just behind Turner. But with the Saints' offensive coordinator position unsettled - Mike McCarthy's contract expires March 1 - Sheppard is not a lock to take any Ravens offer because he could be in line for the same position with New Orleans.

Another coach heavily linked to the Ravens has been Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

But if Billick wants to have someone in place by the weekend, it would push Linehan out of the picture. The NFL's anti-tampering rules state that the Ravens are barred from contacting Linehan until the Vikings are out of the playoffs.

A long shot in this search could be Jim Fassel, a consultant last season with the Ravens. With fewer head coaching openings than expected, he might re-emerge as an option. The Ravens likely would want more than a one-year deal, however.

University of Southern California offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who has long ties with Billick, is still not considered a candidate, a team official said. The Ravens had wanted to talk to Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach Mike Solari for the coordinator position but were denied permission.

As far as the opening for offensive line coach, the Ravens will interview Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chris Foerster today. Foerster, who isn't likely to be a part of Nick Saban's new staff, and Billick coached together at Stanford and with the Vikings.

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