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BILLICK ENDORSES RYAN AS NFL HEAD COACHING CANDIDATE

Street Talk BILLICK ENDORSES RYAN AS NFL HEAD COACHING CANDIDATE

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OWINGS MILLS — A familiar scenario could be unfolding for the Baltimore Ravens’ coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the architect of the Ravens’ top-ranked, unpredictable defense, could emerge as an NFL head-coaching candidate.
 
Three former Ravens defensive assistants — Marvin Lewis, Jack Del Rio and Mike Nolan — are now NFL head coaches.
 
There are two current vacancies with the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals. Although Ryan hasn’t been scheduled for an interview as Atlanta and Arizona have already been lining up meetings with other job prospects, there could potentially be even more openings in the near future.
 
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel, Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell are reportedly on the hot seat. Plus, Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban is strongly considering the University of Alabama job and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher is expected to retire.
 
Ravens coach Brian Billick gave Ryan, the son of former Philadelphia Eagles and Cardinals head coach Buddy Ryan, a ringing endorsement Tuesday.
 
“I think he’s as ready to be a head coach as any coach I’ve been around,” Billick said. “We would love to keep Rex, but you want to do everything you can to help someone progress, and we’ll certainly be as helpful to Rex as we can in that capacity.
 
“I think one of the reasons we’ve been able to attract good people here is because they recognize that we’re an organization that’s going to nurture and help them advance in their career.”
 
If the Ravens lost Ryan, there’s no clear-cut successor although special consultant Vic Fangio has coordinator experience with the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.  Also, fiery former Baltimore secondary coach Donnie Henderson is available after being fired from his defensive coordinator spot with the Detroit Lions.
 
Billick recalled how Dennis Green, who was fired Monday by the Cardinals, supported his bid to become the Ravens’ coach in 1999 after a record-setting stint as the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator.
 
“It’s probably tough for Steve Bisciotti to get used to,” Billick said. “That was one thing he commented on when he first got into it: ‘Let me get this right? You develop great coaches so we can give them to our competitors. In my business, we’d just open another division or another section or something.’”
 
TRAINING ROOM: Billick forecasted that the team should have all of its injured players back for its second-round playoff game. That would include left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who has missed the past two games with a hyperextended toe, along with right offensive guard Keydrick Vincent, who was held out of the regular-season finale with a groin injury.
 
“I think we are relatively healthy,” Billick said. “We should have everybody available to us.”
 
DIMINISHING RETURNS: Rookie return specialist Cory Ross is averaging only 3.3 yards per punt return, and fumbled against Buffalo with special-teams ace Gary Stills recovering the loose football.
 
In place of B.J. Sams, who’s out for the year with a fractured ankle, Ross is averaging 21.6 yards on kickoff returns.
 
“We’re not quite getting the explosive returns,” Billick acknowledged. “I think he’s handled the kickoff returns very, very well and punt returns are solid. You’d like to get a little more out of that, I think he’s getting better.”
RECOGNIZED: Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister has been named by the NFL as its Defensive Player of the Week following his pivotal 31-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Bills.
 
QUICK HITS: Billick blamed the majority of the four illegal procedure penalties on referees failing to recognize the Bills’ defense calling out signals to confuse the offensive line. “They did it three times, which was irritating,” Billick said. “You bring it to the officials’ attention, but there’s nothing you can do about it if they’re not going to hear it. You’re not allowed to interfere with the snap count of the quarterback. It’s illegal.” … The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t qualify for the postseason, and Billick sounded pleased to not be potentially facing them.
 
“Jacksonville is a very good football team that would have matched up well with us,” Billick said. “Certain teams we will match up in certain areas. Other teams we will have to be mindful of the matchup they have with us.”  …. Billick praised late-season acquisition Alex Bannister, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver who excels on special teams and recorded two tackles in kick coverage against Buffalo. “We’re lucky to have a Bannister show up, he really is an elite special-teamer,” Billick said. … Billick deflected comparisons with the dominant 2000 defense that spearheaded the Ravens’ lone Super Bowl title. “If you want to [anger] my younger daughter, bring up her sister and the strengths that she has,” Billick said. “We’ve got a different coordinator, different styles. Yes, we are proud of the heritage, but they are their own group.”
 
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland
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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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