Ravens hire Fassel, Neuheisel; promote Ryan to run defense
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens completed a shake-up of their coaching staff Tuesday, hiring Jim Fassel as offensive coordinator, Rick Neuheisel as quarterback coach and promoting Rex Ryan to defensive coordinator.
Fassel, who coached the New York Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl, accepted the position after realizing he wasn't going to get another head-coaching job this winter.
"Although things didn't work out the way I wanted it to this year -- there was low turnover and it just wasn't going to line up -- the last thing I thought I was going to do was go back to being a coordinator," Fassel said. "There was only one place I even considered, and that was right here."
Before working as New York's head coach from 1997-03, Fassel was an offensive coordinator with the Giants, Denver and Arizona. He worked this season as a senior consultant to the Ravens.
Fassel will now seek to improve an offense that ranked 31st in the NFL under Matt Cavanaugh, who resigned under pressure Jan. 3.
"I'll wake up in the morning excited about what I'm doing," Fassel said. "This was the right thing to do."
While Fassel merely settled for his new post, Ryan was delighted to replace Mike Nolan -- who took the head-coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers -- and Neuheisel appreciated the opportunity to end a two-year hiatus from coaching.
"I think I'm bred to coach defense," said Ryan, the son of former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan and twin brother of Rob Ryan, the Oakland Raiders' defensive coordinator. "I've always wanted to run my own show, and getting this opportunity here, especially, is huge."
Neuheisel was out of coaching since being fired by the University of Washington in June 2003 for participating in a basketball pool. After impressing the Ravens while interviewing for the job as offensive coordinator, he was hired to refine the skills of quarterback Kyle Boller, a role Fassel filled this season.
"I'm excited as I can be to be back in the game," Neuheisel said. "I don't pretend to have a wealth of experience and that I can just snap my fingers. I'm going to follow the direction of Jim Fassel, who has a great track record."
Ravens coach Brian Billick believes Fassel and Neuheisel will help Baltimore rectify the weakest facet of a team that went 9-7 and missed the playoffs this season.
"I sit here as a guy that, although exhausted, gets his cake and eats it too in getting Jim Fassel as my new offensive coordinator and Rick Neuheisel as our new quarterback coach," Billick said.
Although the Ravens now must find a new defensive line coach to replace Ryan, Billick considers the offseason shuffling of his staff to be virtually complete.
"I can't tell you how excited I am today to bring some finality to the staff structure that we've been working on the past couple of weeks," he said.
Ryan has been with the Ravens since 1999. In 2000, he helped construct a defense that set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165). Baltimore won the Super Bowl that season, beating Fassel's Giants 34-7.