Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is Bisciotti part of the solution or problem?


For the longest time I was a big supporter of Brian Billick. In 2002 he skillfully led the Ravens and kept a salary cap ravaged team competing throughout the season, hanging on to playoff hopes through 15 games.

In 2006 he responded to Steve Bisciotti’s woodshed beating from 2005 and guided his club to a 13-3 regular season.

And of course his defining season – 2000. Then he was masterful in the way he handled the touchdown drought, successfully keeping his team together. And who could forget the proverbial bullet he took for Ray Lewis when the national media did its best to dredge up the murder trial that took place less than one year earlier?

But today’s Brian Billick has outworn his usefulness. His message is lost on his players and nowadays they openly disrespect his decision making while on the field and along the sidelines.

Veteran players will tell you how great it is to play for Billick yet what would you expect them to say? During the twilight of their careers, why would players like Trevor Pryce and Gary Stills and Mike Flynn say anything but positive things about a man who helps sustain their careers and place millions more in their pockets?

That is not the way you want your football team managed Baltimore. The situation is toeing the line of the fat cat style embraced by Orioles’ management in the late ‘90’s and it is a recipe for mediocrity if not disaster.

Billick’s decision making is too influenced by fear. He’s afraid to reprimand the veterans or call them out publicly. He’s afraid to challenge the team’s veteran leadership, continually massaging their egos with expressions like, “he played very, very well” when we all know “he” didn’t. Or Billick will mention his high degree of comfort with the team’s collective character yet they throw in the towel against the Colts.

And then there’s the fearful play calling, time management and decision making that unfortunately has become a staple of Brian Billick’s.

Steve Bisciotti has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to manage the team through short cycles of windows of opportunity opening and closing. He prefers instead to keep that window permanently wedged open but under Billick’s guiding hand, one has to wonder if that window might remain permanently shut.

Off the record players are suggesting that they aren’t buying into Billick’s message any more and the doubters appear to be growing. So what will happen if 2008 gets off to a slow start? What will happen if Kyle Boller is Billick’s man under center again?

The NFL has changed since Super Bowl XXXV. It is a league far more offensively oriented. The Billick formula doesn’t work any more and unless he can think outside of his own heavily armored box or stretch the parameters or pacing or metrics of his deeply entrenched management style, at worst he will continue to fail in Baltimore and at best the team will experience the up and down seasons like they have since 2004.

There’s little evidence suggesting that Billick will change and that is something that Bisciotti is obviously banking on again.

The Ravens’ owner has a chance to be part of the team’s solution by admitting Billick’s four year extension was a mistake. Instead Bisciotti is closer to becoming part of the problem. Billick has shown his stubbornness far too often over the years, particularly in 2007. Is that stubbornness contagious? It’s beginning to look a lot like Bisciotti is pulling an Angelos and wants to prove the world wrong by sticking with Billick and hoping that his coach can turn it around.

But that is a dangerous proposition.

What if he doesn’t turn it around?

There will be fewer fans attending. Fewer concessions sold; fewer corporate sponsors and advertisers; fewer t-shirts and hoodies and hats sold as a result of waning interest and the lack of national exposure. Once again M&T will be invaded by Steelers’ fans as Ravens PSL owners look to salvage something in the way of personal gain as tickets will surely flood Ebay. M&T will then become the equivalent of Camden Yards during an O’s v. Yankees or O’s v. Red Sox.

Is all this worth sacrificing just because there’s 15 million more out there due to Billick over the next three years? Isn’t it time for Bisciotti to cut his losses?

To borrow from Billick, clearly that would be the prudent thing to do – unless of course Bisciotti knows something about Brian Billick that the rest of us don’t know.

Let’s all hope so.

5 comments :

Anonymous said...

"Let's all hope so"?

I think not, Tony. You hope for whatever you want to hope for. I'll continute to see reality the way it is, and hope Bisciotti begins to see reality the way it is as well. And Ravens reality is very simple: Brian Billick will NOT change, and the Ravens will continue to suffer under him until he's gone.

Harryos29 said...

Harry o 29 Dec 19th
Tony this is possibly the BEST blog you have ever written. My small band of friends and I email similar thoughts on a weekly basis.
If you don't think that OTHERS feel this way; Let me refer you to the Fine Article in todays SUNPAPERS Sports section, written by RICK MAESE. Let me end with this thought ..GMTA
Harry O 29 in Sykesville

RavenManiac said...

Tony,
As Harry has stated, this is all we talk about now and you have hit the nail right on the head. Peter Angelos seems to be loosening up after all these winless years and realizes the time is now even though it's very late in the game. I think Steve needs to let the $$$ go along with Billick before it's too late and we see the same result on this side of the ball.

RavenManiac

Anonymous said...

If/when you strip away all the emotion, and boil it down to dollars and cents (not to mention simple, basic common sense) there's really only one question that Steve Bisciotti needs to ask/answer for himself:

Does keeping Brian Billick increase, or decrease, the value of the Baltimore Ravens?

Some things to consider:

1. The Ravens have been one of THE MOST embarrassing teams on national TV. Mel Blount called the Ravens offense "pathetic". Steve Young called Brian Billick a "fraud". Announcers all across the country are laughing out loud at the Ravens as a direct result of Brian Billick's inane play calling, Twilight Zone clock management, bizarre personnel management, and total lack of discipline across the board. If Mr. Bisciotti thinks that's going in translate into more revenue for the Baltimore Ravens, his brain has turned to hair gel.

2. Long time fans have lost patience with Brian Billick, and that's going to translate into more tickets being sold on E-bay, and more fans from other teams packing the stands during the precious few 8 home games -- which are the bread and butter of the beer, parking, and souvenir sales revenue.

3. Players have lost faith in Brian Billick's message (aside from, or even including, the ones who seem to love his Club Med training camps, endorsement of their radio shows, lax "I'm treating them like men" non-discipline bull crap, etc.). As a result, the team is in such disarray, they're not playing up to their potential, resulting in a palpable drop in the overall quality of your product. Furthermore, I would imagine that the Ravens are hardly the team other players want to come to these days. It's going to be harder to get quality players to come here as long as Brian Billick remains the head coach, further decreasing the overall quality and value of your team/product.

The bottom line, Mr. Bisciotti, is that you are putting out a clearly inferior product, and people are smart enough to not buy (or buy into) that inferior product any longer. And it's only a matter of time before that inferior product ends up hitting you very hard in your pocket book. If that's ok with you, keep doing what you've been doing. If it's not ok, make the necessary changes to right this sinking ship. The longer you wait, the more it's going to cost you in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Anyone think Andre will be drafted by the Ravens?

I read this on a Andre Woodson site.

There are rumors swirling that the Ravens may lose franchise left OT Jonathan Ogden to retirement. If that happens, it's possible that the Ravens may look to the draft to add a high-end tackle, though they landed Maryland OT Jared Gaither in the 2007 Supplemental Draft, and if he has developed as they hoped he would, it's possible that Gaither may be starting at left offensive tackle in 2008.

The Ravens only have one major free agent to be in Terrell Suggs. They could go with a linebacker here, since in this mock the big names (Dan Connor, James Laurinaitis, etc.) would all be on the board. But, with the Ravens having so much difficulty performing on offense, and Steve McNair turning 35 this upcoming February, a quarterback like Woodson would be a great addition to the team. Brian Brohm would be a consideration here as well, but I'd think that Woodson would get the nod over Brohm with his pinpoint accuracy. We shall see.

Kyle Boller played a great game against the Patriots two weeks ago, but he came off of that game with a three interception debacle against Indianapolis on Sunday night. I strongly suspect that Boller will not be in the team's long-term future.

An "X Factor" is the presence of Troy Smith on the roster, and how the team evaluates his development will also play a role in what they do in this spot.

Is this possible? I think he would be great for the Ravens.