Sports Outside the Beltway

The Billick enigma

I was surprised yesterday when a friend e-mailed me that the Ravens were going to announce the firing of longtime coach Brian Billick.

Rick Maese writes “Firing Billick was Right Move

In the beginning, the Ravens had no choice. Brian Billick was fresh off orchestrating an offensive miracle in Minnesota. He whisked into town, met with Ravens owner Art Modell and vice presidents David Modell and Ozzie Newsome at a downtown steakhouse, and before long, the opening passages of the most exciting chapter of the team’s young history were being written.

In the end, though, the Ravens again had no choice. For the better part of nine seasons, Billick had orchestrated an offensive disaster here in Baltimore. The crescendo — the 2007 season — was long and painful, and it ends today with the news that the Ravens are parting ways with the best coach the franchise has ever known.

It’s a bold move for team owner, Steve Bisciotti, but a move that he had to make. The slips, falls and missteps over the entirety of the 2007 season made it clear that Billick’s effectiveness in Baltimore had expired.

Without diminishing Billick’s accomplishments Maese writes that Billick’s “shelf-life” had expired. This is a sentiment I heard on a sports talk show last night.

Read those paragraphs again. Billick was hired after engineering “an offensive miracle” but in Baltimore he was in charge of “an offensive disaster.” Even in the Ravens Super Bowl year, the teams strength hasn’t been the offense during the Billick era. In 2000 it was defense and special teams that carried the Ravens to their one Super Bowl championship. I never quite understood how someone who had been known for his offensive acumen, never put together sustained offensive success as a head coach.

The Sun’s Ravens beat writer Jamison Hensley wrote Billick got one last win as coach, then lost his job

Several players said Billick lost the confidence of the locker room with his questionable play calling and stale message. According to two players, they were asked by some staff members – presumably prompted by Bisciotti – whether Billick had lost the team.

Bisciotti declined to discuss the reasons for his decision, saying it boiled down to a “gut feeling.” Newsome and team president Dick Cass recommended to Bisciotti that Billick be fired.

“I just changed my mind,” Bisciotti said. “I can’t explain to you how tough a decision it is. It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

Asked whether he had specifically told Billick earlier that he would return, Bisciotti said, “There were indications but no promises.”

Finally there are names being bandied about right now

The team is expected to focus its search on NFL coaches. Potential candidates could include Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, former San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, University of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

Newsome said Ryan would be interviewed for the vacancy, and several players expressed support for him yesterday.

I assumed that Ryan would be the team’s first choice. If he doesn’t get the job in Baltimore, he’ll likely head elsewhere. Still on a talk show last night, Hensley said that based on Bisciotti’s statement, he figured that the team would be looking for a head coach from outside the organization.

The Raven website
has reactions from Todd Heap and (likely retiring) Jonathan Ogden.

The biggest concern I have is that the problem wasn’t Billick but the talent. The team suffered a lot of injuries this year. Given that it’s an older team that’s a problem that’s not likely to go away. Firing Billick may solve one problem but it may fail to address a more significant one.

See James Joyner.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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