Give Steve Bisciotti credit for this move.
As he alluded to in the press conference, this wasn’t a hasty, overnight decision to fire the ONLY Super Bowl winning Head Coach in Baltimore Ravens history. Bisciotti and Ozzie Newsome both discussed the fact that Brian Billick’s future had been a primary subject of conversation between them for a few weeks, if not longer.
But when Bisciotti spoke of his "gut instincts" telling him it was time for a change, I have to admit, I admired his simple honesty. Because no matter the $15 million still due Billick, Bisciotti was savvy enough to recognize that another year of the ramblings and pontifications would be disastrous to the long-term best interests of this franchise.
So he listened to his gut.
I wrote here two weeks ago that trying to justify bringing back Billick solely because of the money owed him made no business sense. The organization was then, and is even moreso now, at a potentially historic crossroads. The need to change the culture and concepts is always best completed in the off-season. If Bisciotti had waited and the ’08 campaign had begun 2-5, with a "new" offensive coordinator and Billick firmly on the hot seat, it would have prevented Bisciotti and Newsome from having every option available.
Let the record speak for itself. Brian Billick was 80-64 as Head Coach. He won Super Bowl XXXV. He will always remain a larger-than-life sports figure in the annals of Baltimore sports history. He was contentious, verbose, loyal to a fault and decidedly stubborn. His legacy is one of success tinged with the unanswerable bitterness of "What Ifs?". What If he’d retained Trent Dilfer? What If he could have built a more consistent offense to couple with that ferocious D? What If he hadn’t thrown on all those 3rd and 2’s over the years?
But I’m not trying to be critical as much as I am realistic. I’m grateful to Brian Billick for his successes here. I wish him continued success in whatever field he works in (but with $15 mil coming my way, you wouldn’t see me on an NFL sideline again!). The time was right to make a change for this team. The offense, the message, the system – all of it had grown obviously stale.
Perhaps the most telling moment of this miserable ’07 Ravens season came in Miami, at the half-yard line, with 12 seconds left, down by 3 to a winless Dolphins team. Instead of making the gutsy call, with his own team at 4-9, in the midst of a then seven game losing streak, Brian Billick kicked the field goal to tie. With absolutely nothing to play for, he took the "textbook" call and ultimately lost the game. And that’s when it hit me: "Playing the percentages" was more important to him than playing to win. Being aggressive. Staying positive. And most importantly, not being afraid to fail. Because that’s always going to happen, in sports as well as life.
At that point I realized that Brian Billick would rather take the well-traveled path than risk failure by making a "gutsy" move.
Today, Steve Bisciotti made the "gutsy" call. Time will tell whether or not it’s the right call.
But I, for one, salute him for making it.