The Baltimore Ravens announced this evening they have hired Brian Billick to be their head coach. Billick, who had been the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator, signed a six-year contract worth an estimated $9 million. He and owner Art Modell said they are confident the team can reverse three straight losing seasons very quickly. "I am very comfortable with the talent level on this team," Billick, 44, said during a news conference at the team's stadium. "Fate takes a hand at times, but I'm impressed with the schematic approach and {vice president of player personnel} Ozzie Newsome's ability to take the talent to a higher level." Said Modell: "I expect a winning record every year. . . . I don't throw {six-year contracts} around. He's a fine, fine man." The hiring comes about three weeks after Modell chose not to retain Ted Marchibroda, when his three-year contract expired. Marchibroda's record with the team was 16-31-1. However, the Ravens' defense became quite good during that period and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis may well return either in his present position or as linebackers coach. Later this evening, Billick and Newsome flew to Mobile, Ala., for this weekend's Senior Bowl. Billick will use his time there to interview prospective assistants, and he and Newsome will evaluate the players. Billick and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Chris Palmer were the Ravens' top choices after former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert and Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren signed with the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, respectively, without making a visit here. During their background check on Billick, Ravens officials talked with more than two dozen colleagues, former employers, friends and even the best man at Billick's wedding. NFL rules kept Ravens officials from talking with him until after the Vikings lost in the playoffs. That happened Sunday -- and the Ravens acted. Billick, his wife, Kim, and their daughters, Aubree, 14, and Keegan, 9, flew here Monday and had dinner with Modell and two other top officials that night. The expansion Cleveland Browns also courted Billick. The Browns were the only team the league allowed to talk with Billick while the Vikings still were playing, but while he was en route to Baltimore, they suddenly announced they no longer considered him a candidate. Billick was the Vikings' offensive coordinator for most of the past five seasons, a period in which they almost always were among the NFL leaders in the major offensive categories. This season, they averaged 34.8 points while winning 15 of 16 regular season games. The Vikings beat the Arizona Cardinals in their first playoff game, but were upset at home by the Atlanta Falcons for the conference championship. By contrast, the Ravens' offense was among the NFL's worst this season. A combination of injuries, most notably to quarterback Jim Harbaugh, frequent lack of imagination in play calling and ineffective work by the offensive line caused the Ravens to score 14 or fewer points nine times. Ravens players complained about communication problems with Marchibroda and his staff. Billick said his receivers at Minnesota developed many of their pass routes, the blockers had input in their assignments and he was able to produce a running game that took advantage of speedster Robert Smith and slasher Leroy Hoard. "I was not an offensive genius or mastermind," Billick said. "I coordinated the efforts of the coaches and players. Now, I'll have to step back and coordinate the defense and special teams." In conversations while still with the Vikings, Billick said he was excited about the Ravens' core of young talent. The Brian Billick File Born: Feb. 28, 1954. College: Brigham Young. Billick was an honorable mention all-American tight end at BYU in 1976. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 11th Round in 1977. Highlights: Billick took over as offensive coordinator for the Vikings three games into the '93 season. Three times since, the Vikings have produced the top offensive yard totals in team history ('94, '95, '98). This season the Vikings scored more points than any team in NFL history. Prior to joining Minnesota in 1992 as tight ends coach, Billick served as an assistant coach at Stanford ('88-'91) and offensive coordinator at Utah State ('86-'88). Vikings under Billick's offenses: '93: 9-7 '94: 10-6 '95: 8-8 '96: 9-7 '97: 9-7 '98: 15-1 CAPTION: Owner Art Modell, right, introduces new coach Brian Billick, who takes over for Ted Marchibroda and becomes the Ravens' second head coach. ec