Thursday, December 06, 2007

Billick Nearing the End in Baltimore?

A few weeks ago as the Ravens prepared to get away from the game and take a little R&R during their bye week I mentioned to Bart Scott that Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin, despite the Steelers fast start, made his team practice during Pittsburgh’s bye week. I then asked Bart what he and his teammates would do if Brian Billick did the same to the Ravens.

“We might have to kill him”, Bart exclaimed.

Of course the reply was in jest but the meaning wasn’t lost. Bart went on to explain why it was different for Tomlin than for Billick. He said that if Billick was a new head coach, they may have begrudgingly accepted such a coaching decision.

That thought hung in the air awhile for me. I wondered who was really running the team.

Is Brian Billick too familiar to his players? Has he given the team so many liberties over the years that he’s reached the point of no return? Have they become the equivalent of spoiled children?

Clearly the defense has carried Billick’s teams throughout his tenure. Could he ever consider alienating them? Wouldn’t that be the equivalent of biting off the hand that feeds you?

Of course it would and the Ravens’ defenders are smart enough to know it. They control Billick and he has little to no recourse particularly when his claim to fame is on the offensive side of the football and that side is perpetually sub-standard. How else can you explain away his passiveness when his defense melts down?

From what I’ve been told, Ed Reed now heavily influences when he’s going to return a punt. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? What other coach would stand aside and allow Reed to influence these decisions and then watch without mustering the slightest whisper as Reed takes care of the football the way Britney Spears takes care of her kids?

Reed’s teammates don’t seem to mind his carelessness after a turnover or during punt returns. They justify the behavior as opportunity cost because he’s considered a playmaker. Like it or not, you take the good with the bad with Reed – at least according to them.

Does it have to be that way?

No, but Billick has no leverage and he’s beyond the point of controlling it.

Ray Lewis called out Billick publicly, criticizing the wretched play calling in key situations. How does Billick respond?

“There’s frustrations and I don’t know that he’s not right,” said Billick.

Billick added, “I certainly don’t find any fault with Ray being honest and straight-forward."

Then coach you shouldn’t mind this bit of honesty either – your players don’t respect you! They might like you, particularly when you roll the red carpet down Easy Street for them but they don’t respect you.

Did you see Corey Ivy jumping up and down in front of you, blaming you for Rex Ryan’s costly time out that prevented a turnover on downs?

No respect.

The inmates are running the asylum.

The children are reprimanding the parent.

And the sad thing is it will not change as long as Billick is around.

The only thing that could possibly change this dysfunctional team is if by some miracle Brian Billick can finally assemble an offense. But after nine years of nothingness on offense despite a stellar defense, what makes anyone think that it will ever change?

Brian Billick is a smart man. Few would argue that statement. But nine years is a substantive body of work and if after all that time a smart man like Billick can’t get it done on offense then it becomes painfully obvious to everyone except Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti that Billick is not capable of getting it done. Offensive design is clearly not a core competency of Brian Billick’s.

Many (myself included) have said that Trent Dilfer did not win Super Bowl XXXV. He was simply along for the ride. Yet the Ravens summarily dissed Dilfer the following season, the first time in NFL history that a Super Bowl winning quarterback did not return to his team the following year to defend the title.

Who’s to say that Brian Billick wasn’t along for the ride as well? As time goes on it’s looking more and more like he wasn’t much different than Dilfer. Despite a defense that is almost annually in the top 5, Billick has won but one playoff game since Super Bowl XXXV.

Against the Patriots on Monday Night, Billick had a solid offensive game plan and it took Belichick about 50 minutes of game time to adjust. And when he did, Billick lacked the courage to counteract the Patriots defense selling out. The Patriots committed their resources to stopping Willis McGahee. They dared the Ravens to try and put the game away with Kyle Boller play action passes. They double dog-dared them as Belichick sent his safeties knifing through the line like kamikazes with complete disregard for the pass.

They dared and Billick got scared. A 4-7 team with absolutely nothing to lose got scared. How ridiculous is that?

Supporters of Billick will say that Bisciotti simply needs to force an offensive coordinator and offensive system down his head coach’s throat. But can that work? It hasn’t worked too well 35 miles down the street for the Washington Redskins and Joe Gibbs. That’s not saying that it can’t work but can Billick really embrace that concept?

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Billick said in so many words just a few seasons ago that the coaching cycle almost necessitates change after seven years or so. Perhaps his fate will be somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Steve Bisciotti has stated on several occasions that he does not want to guide the Ravens through a series of opening and closing windows of opportunity. He wants to develop consistent efficiencies to produce consistently positive performances. He wants an elite team.

To get there he’ll need an elite coach.

Elite coaches win more than one playoff game in seven seasons. Elite coaches know how to put teams away. Brian Billick is not an elite coach.

Billick defenders will point to the success of the 13-3 2006 season and say that 2007 is an aberration. Maybe the real aberration was the 2006 season.

The cycle has ended and it’s time to move on.

The time has come to replace Brian Billick and reclaim the asylum.


Harryos29 said...

Billick Needs to move on...
Having read your fine BLOG I must agree. Having been a manager back in my working days, I made all of the classic mistakes. Getting too chummy with some of my better workers, only to find out that it blew up in my FACE.
The Culture of the RAVENS must change and as difficult as it may be for OZZIE and the owner, they must remove Brian from the equation!!!
I know, I know , he has a huge contract; but that is chicken feed when you look at the Revenue generated by the 32 teams in the NFL.
He has let Ray Lewis , Bart Scott , ED Reed and J.O. take over the team. They dictate what uniforms the team wears on Monday night football??
Look at the Constant Penalties> ..This all demonstrates lack of concentration on the field. They say Practice Makes Perfect. There are no consequences for these constant errors.
I would think that the Ravens would suspend Bart Scott for his actions on MNF.
Arguably , out best player, ED REED constantly fumlbes after making great interceptions. He is savy enough to know to GO down when 3 members from the other Team are beginning to Drag you down. Ed should wrap up the ball and go down. Again..DISCIPLINE..
In closing, I think the Team will not improve until changes are made at the head Coaching position.
Harry O' Sykesville, MD Dec 6th

Anonymous said...

Tony --

You are obviously a bright, passionate fan and journalist. And you have to know that the key to intelligence is being able to acknowledge mistakes so you can really learn from them and really move forward, not just spout off the party line "focus/parameters/moving forward" crap. Brian Billick does NOT learn from mistakes. He denies mistakes. Hence, he is bound to keep repeating them. And you've seen that pattern year in and year out. As a result, Brian Billick is NOT an intelligent man. He is an arrogant man who fraudently poses as an uber intelligent man. His entire elitist "slapdick" crap is the perfect example. It's not that he has to deal with masses of people who either don't know or don't care. It's his pathological fear of making a mistake that is the real slapdick. And that slapdick resides within Brian Billick and nowhere else. And unless or until he faces it and deals with it, we're going to be treated to the same insanity that we've been served now for nine years. How does that add up to intelligence to you? I honestly think you're giving him too much credit.

Think back to the 2005 season, after the Detroit game. We nearly tied the league record for penalties (we had 20, the record was/is 21) and we had two players ejected on top of that. Afterwards, Billick was asked if he thought there was a discipline problem. He was adamant that there was not. Tom Matte said afterwards that any coach that mired in denial had to go. Here's a direct quote from Billick after Monday night's game (it's virtually identical to what he said back in 2005)

"But I don't think this is an undisciplined group, and I don't think we have an undisciplined structure. I think everything we have to the contrary says otherwise."

Tony -- come on, man. Brian Billick does NOT learn from the past. He thus keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over. And that is not the mark of an intelligent man.

Anonymous said...

Someone should write a book about the typical Baltimore sports fan. You know that fan; the one that must pin the blame on somebody, usually one individual when things aren't going well. The list of people to blame have run the full gamut: Matt Cavanaugh, Jim Fassel, Kyle Boller, Steve McNair, etc. It would appear that there is no one to blame except for Brian Billick.

I don't buy it. The man has had 2 losing seasons (assuming we don't miraculously win our last 4 to go 8-8)and the bloggers are ready to run him out of town. I find this amusing.

Last year at 13-3 and winning 9 of their last 10 games, Brian Billick's decision to remove Jim Fassel as Offensive Coordinator was haled as the most brilliant move the franchise ever made. Now all of a sudden 1 year removed from this, Brian Billick can no longer coach? What a crock!

Spoiled players? Maybe. But to compare this team to the Super Bowl winning group and to think that the coach was along for the ride is folly. That team had leadership in the locker room that this team cannot match. Michael McCrary, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Rob Burnett, and Tony Siragusa were real locker room leaders. The leaders on the 2007 Ravens aren't even close to being in that league. Ray Lewis, Derrick Mason, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Terrel Suggs, Chris McAlister and Bart Scott are better at complaining and whining than showing the young guys how to win. They'd rather dance and showcase their individual talent than focus on the team and creating a winning environment. I suppose that you can blame the coach for that, but I don't.

The reality is that the aging players will depart sooner rather than later, and Brian Billick will get an opportunity to forge a new team and a new identity with younger players, just like the 2002 salary cap purged Ravens. Steve Bisciotti is a smart man, and he knows that the best individual to lead a new and younger group of players is the one that he currently has under contract. He will not waste millions of dollars to terminate Billick's contract and then spend millions more to bring in a new coach. He's too smart to do that.

So, in looking forward to the future, this blogger would love to see Brian Billick remain as the Coach and lead the Ravens to future championships.

Anonymous said...

Someone should write a book about the typical Brian Billick homer apologist. You know the one I'm talking about: s/he spouts off things like: "But we went 13-3 in 2006", "But Brian Billick has only had 2 losing seasons", "Brian Billick's got the best home winning record in the NFL over the past 10 years", "Brian Billick's never had a franchise QB to work with", "Brian Billick's never had a deep threat WR", "The O-line is no good", "Be happy you're not a Lions/Raiders/Cards fan", "Look at how the great Marvin Lewis is doing with his defense in Cincy", "There were too many injuries this year to expect any better results", "Brian Billick doesn't run a hard training camp so the players will be ready in November and December", "Brian Billick isn't the one out there fumbling or throwing interceptions", "Don't blame Brian Billick, it's Ozzie's fault for not bringing in enough offensive talent", "Look at all the great things former players say about Brian Billick", "You're a lousy fan if you criticize Brian Billick", "Look at how many other NFL head coaches have gotten their start under Brian Billick", "There aren't any better coaches out there than Brian Billick -- look at Norv Turner and how he's ruining the Chargers", "Brian Billick's not going anywhere because the owner gave him a big contract extension so don't waste your time talking about him being gone after this season".

Yeah. You know the one I'm talking about. All the while, these clowns ignore, twist, and distort reality, just like their hero. In nine years -- not just this year -- Brian Billick-led offenses have ranked 17th at best, while usually falling down into the 20's. Red zone success -- even in the 2006 season -- is even worse, while the defense -- which he stays away from -- is always close to the top. Penalties are perpetually among the highest in the NFL, year in and year out, indicating a poorly coached, poorly disciplined team. Billick's inability to manage the clock in critical situations is legendary. His inability to adjust his offsnsive game plans during critcal parts of games is equally legendary.

It was funny to hear the homer apologists yammer on last year: "But at least we're winning", all the while ignoring the fundamental flaws that lay just beneath the surface of the over-inflated 13-3 W/L record. This year, all they can say is: "It's the INJURIES that are the problem here, not Brian Billick". No. The problem was, is, and always will be Brian Billick. He's a fraud. And so is everyone who continues to play the "Emperor's New Clothes" illusion/delusion game, insisting that he's not. It makes one wonder just how many dim-witted relatives he has who keep posting this incessant nonsense week in, week out; year in, year out.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah...I forgot: "You can't expect to have a good offense AND defense in this era of salary cap limits". " you band wagon fans expect Brian Billick to win a Super Bowl EVERY YEAR?".

Anonymous said...

I suppose it was Billick's fault that Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle couldn't suit up last night. All of you that think Billick should go don't understand that having a stable structure in place keys success, the players come and go.

Chew on this: During Brian Billick's tenure, the Ravens have the 10th best overall record in the league, and only 6 other teams have more playoff appearances. I think that's a pretty good record. He can be my team's coach any time.

Anonymous said...

"Chew on this: During Brian Billick's tenure, the Ravens have the 10th best overall record in the league, and only 6 other teams have more playoff appearances. I think that's a pretty good record. He can be my team's coach any time."

Chew on this: Not good enough. Period.

The success that Billick enjoyed during his tenure was based primarily on the defense (which he mercifully stayed the hell away from) and special teams. Madden made a very astute comment last night. He said that while Dungy was in Indy, even though his coaching strength was defense, he inherited an offensive juggernaut. And though it took a while, eventually he built up Indy's D to the point that they were solid on both sides of the ball.

That's exactly what Brian Billick has failed to do. He came here primarily for his offensive strengths, and he inherited a defensive powerhouse. The entire time he's been here, however -- despite a cavalcade of QBs and other offensive personnel, coaches, etc. -- he's done NOTHING to improve the offense ONE IOTA.

And the excuses have worn thin for just about everyone except the most purple homers. Give it up, man. Nobody's buying what you're selling anymore. Nobody. Not even the Billick supporters. Even they are calling for significant changes, including forcing him to either accept a REAL OC, or leave, because nine years of this nonsense and his arrogant denial is more than enough. He had a second Super Bowl sitting on the bench, in the person of Randall Cunningham, but he stuck with Grbac, despite the fact that it was obvious to the entire world that Cunningham should have been brought in. THAT'S the problem with Brian Billick. It has less to do with the available personnel than it does with his inept game, clock, personnel management, and total inability to instill discipline on this team. And if that's not clear to you, then enjoy the Purple Kool-Aid for as long as that loser Brian Billick remains the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Because there isn't going to be much else to enjoy. Most fans shudder at the thought of Billick getting his hands on a potential franchise QB, because it's obvious Billick will ruin him with his "play not to lose" mentality. Again, if that's not clear to you, then you clearly have been watching another team and another head coach for the past nine years.