Fassel showing interest in Ravens

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Jim Fassel is contemplating whether to become the Ravens' offensive coordinator, a source close to the situation said last night.

The former New York Giants coach has shown interest in the job during discussions this week with Ravens coach Brian Billick, but there is no deadline for him to make a decision. If Fassel declines to take the position, the Ravens likely would offer it to former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel.

Fassel, 55, served as an offensive consultant with the Ravens this season, primarily working just two days a week during the regular season. He frequently made suggestions to the game plan but didn't draw up plays.

His main project was fine-tuning quarterback Kyle Boller's fundamentals and mechanics. With the help of Fassel, Boller improved in five major quarterback categories - completion percentage, passing yards per game, touchdowns per game, interception percentage and overall rating - from his rookie season.

Fassel had hoped to become an NFL head coach again this season, turning down inquiries from Notre Dame and Stanford in December.

But in a bizarre twist this offseason, there are more offensive coordinator jobs available in the NFL than head coaching ones. The teams seeking a new head coach - the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers - have yet to contact Fassel for an interview.

Fassel is only a couple of years removed from running the Giants' offense as their head coach. He took over play-calling duties from coordinator Sean Payton midway through the 2002 season, and New York scored 26 touchdowns in a 7-2 finish.

In the Giants' last five seasons under Fassel, they ranked in the top half of the league in offense three times. Over that span, they finished 11th or higher in passing in all but one season.

The addition of Fassel to the Ravens' search is the second twist since Matt Cavanaugh and the club parted ways on Jan. 3.

According to a source, Billick had targeted Ron Turner for the position for the past month. But the former University of Illinois coach chose the Bears last weekend, forcing the Ravens to look elsewhere.

The only candidates interviewed by the Ravens were Turner, Neuheisel and New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard.

If Fassel decides to run the Ravens' offense, the team likely will try to hire Neuheisel, perhaps as a quarterbacks coach.

Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, meanwhile, had a six-hour interview for the 49ers' head coaching job yesterday.

"He is another strong candidate," 49ers spokesman Kirk Reynolds said. "[He] obviously brings a tremendous amount of experience to the table. He was a coordinator for a long time, has been in a variety of systems for a variety of coaches and has been successful. That's appealing."

Nolan had spoken to the Browns about their opening earlier this week.

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