Out of focus

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

The hardest part of Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick's decision to fire offensive coordinator Jim Fassel was the uncomfortableness of telling a friend that he simply wasn't working very hard.

The word coming out of Baltimore these days is that Fassel spent much more of his time over the past year angling for a new job rather than focusing on his current one.

Time and again, other members of the offensive staff would walk to Fassel's office with a question or comment, only to be turned away as Fassel spent time on the phone networking rather than focusing on the game plan.

Or as one person in the building said this week: "I've never seen an offensive coordinator who watched less tape than Jim did this year."

That's harsh, but it comes laced with great anguish. Many of Fassel's former cohorts on the Ravens' staff are friends from years gone by.

Over the past year, those friends had hoped that Fassel would break out of the funk that has afflicted him since he was fired as head coach of the New York Giants in 2003. Since then, Fassel has felt a sense of entitlement, thinking he deserved another chance to be a head coach.

"Jim kept telling everybody all the things he had done as head coach of the Giants and asking, 'How can Nick Saban [Dolphins] get a job before me? How can Scott Linehan [Rams] get a job before me?'" a source said. "Instead of that, he should have been concentrating on doing a good job."

After the 2004 season, Fassel was approached by numerous donors at Stanford about taking over its head coaching job. Fassel still has strong ties to the school from his days as the program's offensive coordinator in the early 1980s when he tutored John Elway.

At the time, Fassel said he politely told the folks at Stanford that he wanted to wait for another NFL opportunity. Right now, Fassel might want to reconsider that option and he might get another chance at The Farm as Walt Harris continues to flounder at Stanford.

While it's somewhat unusual for an NFL team to fire its offensive coordinator during the season, both Billick and Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green did it on the same day this week.

They hope to have the same type of success that Minnesota had in 1993 when Green made the same move three games into the season. The Vikings took three games to get the hang of their new offensive coordinator and then proceeded to average 59 more yards a game over the final 10 contests of the season.

The new offensive coordinator Green hired: Billick.

"It was difficult, no question," Billick recalled last year. "The fortunate part is that I had been there for a year before that and the players knew me and trusted me. At least I think they did. If they didn't, they faked it pretty well."

People who pay close attention to body language might not have been completely surprised by the late-game, two-yard touchdown pass from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to wide receiver Terrell Owens against the Texans on Sunday. Romo has been cultivating a relationship with Owens for many weeks. In fact, when Owens was upset during the Cowboys' loss at Philadelphia, Romo went to Owens on the sideline to encourage him.

But going back to the touchdown, which came with 2:24 remaining in the contest, why was Owens still in the game at that point? At last check, Owens was still recovering from a broken hand. He also already had two scores on the day. Was a third really necessary at the risk of Owens suffering further injury? Probably not, but the Cowboys do have to tend to Owens' ego.

Still, the decision to have Owens in the game was curious. Then again, with the Cowboys wondering whether to bench Drew Bledsoe and make Romo the starter, having him work with Owens a little might be a wise idea.


  • Seattle Seahawks kicker Josh Brown had an important first in the game against St. Louis and it wasn't the 54-yarder he made to win it as time ran out. Rather, it was on a missed attempt from 34 yards. The ball hit the left goalpost first, then the right and then fell to the crossbar. Said Brown: "I've hit both of them before, but never all three. You should get some points for that."

  • Another note from ST. Louis: Rams left tackle Orlando Pace doesn't look good as he deals with playing through injury. Pace was beaten for two sacks by Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher in one-on-one situations.

  • Profootballtalk.com circulated a report this week that former Chicago Bears and Miami Doplhins head coach Dave Wannstedt, who is currently toiling at Pitt, could get some consideration for the Steelers job if, as expected, Bill Cowher leaves after this season. While Wannstedt has done a wonderful job of cultivating his aw-shucks, Mr. Nice Guy approach over the years, he is simply a terrible NFL head coach. The evidence is ample, including one botched draft after another. But the proof is his career sub-.500 record (82-87 in the regular season) as an NFL coach over 10-plus years (he resigned from the Dolphins nine games into the 2004 season). Consider that at the time of his firing, 45 men had been head coaches in the NFL for at least 10 years. Of that group, 27 had either won an NFL Championship, a Super Bowl or had been in a Super Bowl. Only eight had records below .500. You already know which category Wannstedt belongs.

  • Want to know one of the big problems with franchise movement in the NFL? Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle and CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf was inducted into the Cardinals' Ring of Honor on Monday night at halftime of the game against Chicago. The problem is that Dierdorf already was on the team's Ring of Honor … from the Cardinals' days in St. Louis. Dierdorf's name is already up in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Furthermore, Dierdorf has no connection with the Arizona community.

  • Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino wasn't happy when Florida congresswoman Susan Goldstein used his name and image in recent political ads. Marino, who is about as guarded about his politics as it gets, had Goldstein cease using his likeness even though it was used in reference to his support of causes regarding autism.

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