OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick was given the opportunity to return in 2006 only after agreeing with owner Steve Bisciotti to make significant changes in the way he runs the team.
The Ravens' 6-10 record this season was their worst in Billick's
seven years as the team's head coach. Billick won a Super Bowl in
2001, but Baltimore has not reached the playoffs since Bisciotti
became the principal owner in April 2004.
This year was especially disappointing because the Ravens
entered training camp with aspirations of reaching the Super Bowl.
Flanked by Billick and general manager Ozzie Newsome during a news conference on Tuesday, Bisciotti said, "We have a Super Bowl-winning coach here who never experienced anything but
overachievement from the very first time he stepped in here. This
is the first year that I think that Brian underachieved. I think
the Ravens underachieved, but this is not a trend."
Billick said he has pulled back from his unyielding support of
third-year quarterback Kyle Boller, who had more interceptions than
touchdown passes this season
"It's not in our best interest going forward to sit here and
anoint Kyle Boller as the starter," Billick said. "Competition is
Bisciotti wouldn't detail all the changes he asked Billick to
undergo, but hinted that showing less arrogance, taking a tougher
stance with the players and altering the punchless offense was very
much a part of the equation.
Before telling the players last week that Billick would be
retained, Bisciotti made sure the coach was willing to act upon
suggestions from the owner, Newsome and others within the
"We thought a new and improved Brian Billick was the best
chance for the Baltimore Ravens," Bisciotti said, "and Brian
thought that the changes we were asking him to make were not
significant enough" for him to seek employment elsewhere.
"I am confident that he understands what we need to do to
change and what he needs to do to change, because he had an option
to go elsewhere and it would have been fairly painless for him,"
Billick has a reputation for being an arrogant, do-it-my-way
coach. Although he has given HBO and author John Feinstein
unlimited access to the team in the past, he has also sharply
criticized the opinions and writing of many who cover the team on a
"I want him to focus more on the players and less on the
press," Bisciotti said.
Given the option of changing or searching for another head
coaching job, Billick chose the former.
"I've got to get back to being a head coach. That involves the
relationship with your players, albeit understanding the
relationship between player and head coach is well-defined,"
Billick said. "That doesn't mean you can't pull yourself back into
that environment more effectively. I have to be more responsive and
helpful to my assistant coaches, to give them the platform and the
resources they need to be successful."
Bisciotti said he thinks the changes will be better for
"If Ozzie and I are pleased with his growth, so will the
players," Bisciotti said. "They will be excited and inspired by
his willingness to make changes that make them happier, that make
them enjoy coming to work a little more, that make them compete a
little harder, that make them listen a little more, maybe make them
sweat a little more."
Bisciotti isn't asking for a complete makeover in Billick's
personality; a noticeable adjustment would be just fine.
"I admire him as a man, I admire his work ethic, I admire his
character," Bisciotti said. "I am always willing to work with a
man of character that is willing to grow and change. He showed a
willingness to change ... I'm very happy with the decision, and I
think we will be rewarded for that patience."
Now that Billick is coming back, the Ravens can turn their
attention toward strengthening the roster. Newsome said key
personnel decisions, including whether to retain running back Jamal Lewis, will be made in the next few months.
"I feel very good about the core of this team," Billick said.
"We have some very good athletes here. We've got some very good
character on this team. That's a good place to start, and we'll
augment it over the next six months in every way that we can."