Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel spent the past season with the Baltimore Ravens as a senior consultant, patiently waiting for an opportunity to become a head coach in the NFL again. When that chance didn't arise, he had to find something else to do.
Fassel was formally introduced as the Ravens' offensive coordinator yesterday, one of three changes to Baltimore's coaching staff. Rex Ryan was promoted from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator, and former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was named quarterbacks coach.
"Although things didn't work out the way I wanted it to this year, low turnover [regarding head coaches], 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 during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. "But there was only one place that I even considered, and that was right here. . . . I'm truly excited about doing this."
Ryan replaces Mike Nolan, who reached a five-year agreement to become San Francisco's coach. Ryan has spent the past six seasons in Baltimore, and is the only defensive coach who remains from the Ravens' record-setting, 2000 unit.
"I think I'm bred to coach defense," said Ryan. He is the son of former NFL coach Buddy Ryan, who was defensive coordinator of Chicago's 1985 defense, which helped the Bears win Super Bowl XX. "I've always wanted to run my own show. Getting this opportunity, here, is huge."
Fassel and Neuheisel are charged with improving an offense that ranked 31st in the NFL (a franchise low) and whose continued struggles cost Matt Cavanaugh his job as offensive coordinator.
"I would like for us to be more balanced, a lot more explosiveness to where we can move the ball quickly and have teams back up on us so that we can have our way with them," Fassel said.
Fassel was offensive coordinator with three teams -- the Giants, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals -- before becoming head coach of the Giants. Fassel led New York to Super Bowl XXXV, which it lost to the Ravens in 2001.
"For us to have Jim in this position is a huge asset for this organization," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said. "He's just the man to take on the task of creating a new direction, a new energy, offensively, of what we've been seeking."
Neuheisel, who has not coached since being fired by the University of Washington in 2003 for participating in a high-stakes NCAA basketball tournament pool, spent eight seasons as head coach at Colorado and Washington.
Kyle Boller, who finished his second season 30th in the league in passer rating, should benefit the most from the two offensive hires. Fassel worked closely with Boller, and Neuheisel is familiar with the quarterback: He unsuccessfully recruited Boller at Colorado and coached against him when California played Washington.
David Shaw, who has spent the past three seasons as the Ravens' quarterbacks-wide receivers coach, will remain with the team as receivers coach.
EAGLES: Right tackle Jon Runyan has a tough task in Sunday's NFC title game -- matching up against Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney, who ranked fourth in the NFL with 13 sacks during the regular season. And it didn't get any easier when Runyan hurt his right knee with just more than a minute to play in last weekend's triumph over the Minnesota Vikings.
Runyan has a sprained medial collateral ligament, according to Eagles Coach Andy Reid, but likely will be in the lineup for his 143rd consecutive start, counting the postseason.
Runyan was knocked into a pile by Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson at the end of a play. "It was kind of a bang-bang deal," Reid said, "and I'm not sure the official even saw it. . . . I just think that it wasn't necessary."
PATRIOTS: Coach Bill Belichick -- typically -- is offering no clues about whether defensive end Richard Seymour will be available for Sunday's AFC championship game at Pittsburgh. Seymour has a knee injury -- thought to be a sprained medial collateral ligament -- that kept him out of last weekend's win over the Indianapolis Colts.
FOOTNOTES: New York Jets Coach Herman Edwards likely will dismiss offensive coordinator Paul Hackett in the coming days. . . . The Cincinnati Bengals seem prepared to promote defensive assistant Chuck Bresnahan, formerly Oakland's defensive coordinator, to succeed ousted defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. . . . Miami and Jacksonville apparently are among the teams interested in Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, whose contract with Minnesota expires at the end of the month.
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.