Same difference

The Baltimore Sun

In the day's biggest upset, it took nearly 30 minutes before a message board poster first posited: Maybe the Ravens should hire Joe Gibbs. Such is the nature of the 21st-century coaching search. While owners and team executives embark on meticulous searches, fans make their dream hires by pulling names from a hat. Or elsewhere.

No, Gibbs, who resigned his position yesterday as Washington Redskins coach, isn't heading this way, but the more intriguing question in these parts is this: How will the Ravens' hunt for a new coach be affected by a parallel search just an hour down the road? The short answer: probably not too much.

This is debatable, but outsiders surely consider the Redskins' post to be the more attractive opening. Though the Ravens hold an edge with a solid management team and top-notch facilities, the Redskins are a playoff team, have a loyal and passionate fan base and know who their quarterback will be six months from now. Plus, the next Redskins coach won't need to plow through the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots in the AFC to reach the Super Bowl.

If you're a coaching candidate weighing offers from both teams, it's easy to see why you might find yourself leaning toward the Redskins (assuming you can tolerate a meddlesome owner, of course). But the comparison is admittedly superficial and mostly irrelevant. The fact of the matter is it's highly unlikely any candidate will find himself weighing offers from both. The Redskins and Ravens might be seeking head coaches at the same time, but don't expect the paths of their respective search parties to cross much.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti caused ears to perk up last week when he announced his intentions to replace Billick with a "Hall of Fame coach." By that, he didn't mean that he was going to try to arrange interviews with Tom Landry, Bud Grant and Vince Lombardi. Bisciotti wants a coach whose best years are still ahead of him, whose career in Baltimore punches an eventual ticket to Canton. While early indications suggest the Ravens are leaning toward granting someone his first head coaching job, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder might take a different approach.

For the Ravens' hire, they'll be paying close attention to just how far the ripples might stretch, whereas Snyder will be focusing on the splash. That might not mean the Redskins give chase after John Madden, but it could mean they flash the cash to an established name, a coach like Bill Cowher. This is an owner who's now hiring his fourth coach since 2001. Recent hires -- Gibbs, Steve Spurrier, Marty Schottenheimer -- suggest he's attracted by the name as much as anything.

In the Ravens' first round of interviews, there was no sexy name. No Cowher. No Dennis Green. No Mike Singletary. Heck, they interviewed Brian Schottenheimer, not Marty.

The candidates the Ravens have pursued in these early stages of the hunt won't necessarily be the same ones the Redskins chase. Jim Caldwell? John Harbaugh? Jim Schwartz? If the Redskins can't make their splash and they opt to gamble on a coordinator or an assistant coach, they need look no further than their own staff. Gregg Williams, with a head coach's resume in hand, is already in position to take over the reins.

At the very least, Gibbs' resignation brings the two organizations to an interesting crossroads. Talent level, ownership and facilities aside, the Redskins and Ravens find themselves standing on common ground for one of the few times since the two teams have coexisted in the region.

They don't play each other every year, there isn't much of a tug-of-war over fans and sponsors and there haven't been notable battles over players. Though the next couple of weeks won't likely amount to a head-to-head struggle over a potential coach, the way the two teams approach their searches should tell us a bit about the direction each is going. Hiring a head coach also tells us a lot about an owner.

Snyder has plenty of experience in interviewing and hiring head coaches, and each time it has helped to mold his reputation across the league.

This is Bisciotti's first head-coach hunt, and if he's successful spotting the perfect up-and-coming candidate, he hopes it might be his last, too.

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