So, what’s the temperature in Owings Mills?

January 03, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

I’m going to cover a few items that have been in hot debate on the comments of our WNST blogs over the past 48 hours (in no particular order). This is a long blog, there’s been lots to hear and say on these issues.

Some think I’ve been particularly hard on Steve Bisciotti over the past 24 hours.

I have! He deserves it. And even though you think I won’t, I will tell him when I see him. And he knows I will.

I want to clarify my position (although some folks use the anonymity of the internet to twist the words I actually write…cracks me up! What I REALLY write is listed up here at the top. I make a point to be clear and write in the King’s English. Read it, digest it, and try comment on what I actually WRITE, not what you fabricate.).

But I digress…

I like Steve Bisciotti. I hold him in very high regard. I thought Monday’s handling of the firing of Brian Billick was bush league. He has his reasons, which he declined to share. I just know what I saw and I’ve been doing this for 25 years and Monday was one huge, unnecessary mess. By any professional standard they’ve set and enjoyed since 1996 – and at their peak, they’re BRILLIANT, mainly because of Kevin Byrne – this was a flaming fiasco.

You can scoff at me, flame me on the comments, whatever…I know this business and I’ve grown up with it. Steve Bisciotti may be worth a billion dollars, but he couldn’t afford THIS mess, not on the backside of the ownership of Peter Angelos and Bob Irsay in this town.

He had one chance to have a first firing. He flunked miserably.

I’ve seen firings in virtually every sport since 1984.

(Here’s a short list to give you the variety and number of firings I’ve covered: I was at the Terry Murray replacing his brother Bryan Murray at the Capital Centre in 1989. I was at the Davey Johnson hiring and firing. I was around for Gene Ubriaco (the first coach I covered). I covered Jim Lynam’s first game as Bullets coach, and I covered Kevin Loughery’s first game as Bullets coach. I was around when Kenny Cooper coached the original Blast. As for the Orioles’ shenanigans, I haven’t seen too many lately but I’ve admired them on MASN. But I was there for Oates, Regan, Miller, Hargrove, Mazilli, you get the picture. I’ve seen them ALL! FOR 25 YEARS!!!)

And every time they happen, if you’re good at what you do and you have any relationships at all, you get the fall out and hear the “real” story about what when down.

Since Monday, many people have reconfirmed again and again how THIS firing went down, and it was just not what we’ve come to expect from “The Ravens Way” or how business is “handled” at that level in professional sports.

If how it was handled on Monday is something Steve Bisciotti is proud of, then I “strenuously” disagree. He should, too.

Not because Billick is a “friend” of mine or a "friend" of his, and I made that clear.

Billick, on his own dignity and accomplishments alone, should have been afforded a better-planned exit strategy and a little more public consideration from Bisciotti. And knowing Billick, he really wouldn’t want Bisciotti to look as bad as he did.

(Here’s the part you shouldn’t know about. If they had any “foresight,” there would have been a resignation, a mutual parting, whatever…THAT’S understandable and Billick would have probably agreed to it and Bisciotti wouldn’t look so vicious to the public and/or his own employees.)

The Ravens are now officially saying that Bisciotti legitimately just “changed his mind.” Really, and truly. That’s the story.

And that’s not to say Billick shouldn’t have been fired. Even his closest advocates have told me that the situation was beyond his control with personalities in the locker room. Several key players were just blatantly disrespectful and Billick had no "juice" to discipline them.

When you add up the many fans’ incredible and inexplicable disdain for him, his players’ near mutiny, his team president snooping around looking for reasons to fire him after the Miami game when he didn’t go for it on 4th down, and his owner’s lack of support (in the end), well, that’s exactly when you DO get fired.

It’s like a recipe for how a Super Bowl coach gets fired.

The firing is justified in the end due to the “noise” as I called it in my Monday morning blog.

It doesn’t mean that Billick can’t coach, he just can’t coach here anymore.

In the end, Bisciotti might’ve made the only move he could’ve made for the good of his franchise and the fans of the Baltimore Ravens, but the exit strategy was woefully ill-conceived by a guy who I thought was bright enough to listen to the experts around him.

Steve Bisciotti is a BRILLIANT man.

His strategy on Monday SUCKED!

It’s like he said, “Let’s burn it down, we’ll build it back up tomorrow.”

Mistake.

You only get one chance to lose your credibility. He lost his with me, and every media person who has eyes and ears inside his organization, at least for the time being.

But I don’t know how I ever look at him the same way again.

I gave him waaaaay more credit than this.

And believe me, that’s a sentiment that is WIDELY-HELD throughout the building. People are diving under desks and there’s an awful corporate culture creeping into The Bellagio and it’s very dangerous. And if he doesn’t know about it, he should.

This is EXACTLY what happened with the Orioles when Peter Angelos got involved at The Warehouse. It became a bad place to work.

Bisciotti can learn about his own corporate culture by reading my blog or by spending more time in his own building, a recommendation that seems to be a common sentiment amongst his employees, many of whom have great admiration for him.

I want the Ravens to be great and strong and they can’t be strong with a house divided (which, I think, was the whole point of the Billick firing).
The people who work for the Ravens love the team as much as you and I do.
But many, many people from throughout the organization have come to me over the past two months and said: “This place is really screwed up.”

That’s just a fact! It’s Bisciotti’s company and his role to fix it.

As for my wilting credibility…

Perhaps, after 25 years of doing nothing for a living but covering sports and wanting to get every story “right,” I’ve lost YOUR faith and my credibility because as my blog shows (and yes, I left it up there…I have a gallows sense of humor, I suppose), every source I chatted with from Sunday morning on – and I’d say there were 10 people I came in direct contact with — assured me Billick was “safe.” Several said the “safest man in the building.”

So I wrote a “Billick is safe piece” at 8:36 a.m. on Monday.

If you think that I think it’s cool that I had bad information on a story this big, well…if I DIDN’T care, I wouldn’t have an ounce of pride to do what I’ve done in building my career and helping people like Drew Forrester, Bob Haynie, Rob Long, Casey Willett and Ray Bachman and down the WNST line in building theirs.

The reason you’re reading these words on this website is because for 25 years I’ve taken immense pride in what I do.

We take our jobs in bringing you the best and most accurate information possible VERY seriously. We’ve built a proud team at WNST. In general, we care more than most of our competitors and we want things done the right way.

And, now that everyone in the media as well as virtually every employee in the building will attest, NOBODY knew the Billick firing was going down like it did – well, I suppose it makes me feel better, professionally, but it still sucks that the “information” we gave was compromised.

We always intend to give you honest and well-sourced information.

When we’re lied to, you’re lied to. That’s truly been the Orioles Way for well over a decade and continues to this day.

By the way, NO, I haven’t chatted with Brian Billick. We exchanged an email. He’s gonna live. He’s got his health and a lot of money. He’s going to have a pending media career. I’m sure he’s strategizing something.

I don’t feel sorry or cry for him, believe me. Based on the public sentiment, he’s in a better place anyway.

I have no idea what he’s thinking and he’s used his own best strategy by going “in the basement” for a couple days. Good for him. At least he’s showing more restraint and strategy in how he’s handling it, knowing that he’d like to stay in town and enjoy his post-football career.

I know he loves Maryland. I’ve had many, many long conversations about life and football with Brian Billick and he’s never indicated to me he’d consider coaching elsewhere. My guess: I don’t think he’ll coach again, but after a few months away, who knows?

(Given my week, now that I’ve said that, he’ll be on the podium in Atlanta or Miami by 5 o’clock. LOL!)

I can tell you this: I don’t think he ever put his head on a pillow over the last 30 days actually believing he was getting fired because Bisciotti told him all along the exact opposite.

So, he’ll probably have some interesting observations about what it’s like to go into instant unemployment in the most unexpected way possible.

He’ll surface at some point, no doubt.

When he does, we’ll catch up with him and see what’s on his mind.

*******

The real story here isn’t Billick’s firing anymore – that’s over and they can’t wash the blood off their hands now – it’s now moved to the hiring process and who will be hiring whom, and who is truly making all of the football decisions in Owings Mills. After sitting at the press conference on Monday, I’m less comfortable than I’ve ever been in regard to the organization having a plan and sticking with it. (I called it “wishy-washy,” something the Ravens haven’t been in more than a decade.)

Ultimately, Bisciotti has unwittingly made himself both a part-time “meddler” and a “hands-on” owner with this strategy. He even sorta doubted himself in the press conference, but I truly like his bravado on taking the risk.

Who knows how this is gonna turn out?

And the juicy part is that this decision is almost certain to have extreme and long-lasting ramifications – for better or worse.  I don’t think there can be a middle ground. Anything short of a Super Bowl win for the next coach will be a step down from Billick.

And the odds of the Ravens winning a championship over the next three years is less than 10% vs. the 32-team field. The odds are STACKED against the “futures odds” of this decision working out, especially considering the aging roster and the environment the next coach will inherit.

First, if Rex Ryan isn’t involved, MANY players who were already involved in the insurrection will be even MORE pissed that their guys didn’t get picked. A young offensive coordinator might want the relief of having a defensive staff in place. He might not. Who knows?

But the word is, the Ravens want to offer Ryan’s defense to the new guy.

“Hey new head coach, meet your defensive coordinator, his name is Rex Ryan.”

It might work, but maybe not?

Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs might like this arrangement more than Rex Ryan would.

Of course, you have to KNOW that Rex Ryan wants the head coaching job here. I’m getting the feeling he’s not their lead choice right now because if he were, he’d already have the job.

(I guess…)

If I were a betting man (and I know, I’m in a DEEP 0-and-1 hole this week), I’d be shocked if Rex Ryan isn’t back as the defensive coordinator here next year. I’ll write more on this later.

Second, there are so many questions about personnel next season that I don’t know where to begin.

Here’s a few:

Will Terrell Suggs respond favorably to a franchise tag, a real possibility?

What will Jon Ogden do and who will replace him?
 
Who is the quarterback? A free agent, Steve McNair, Troy Smith, Kyle Boller?

Can any of the young offensive line players step up and become “elite” players at the NFL level, a necessity if they’re EVER going to score points consistently and win?

Chris McAlister makes a fortune. Which guy are we getting next year – the “good” Chris or the “bad” Chris?

Samari Rolle must be listed as a question mark moving forward, considering his physical ailments and age?

Bart Scott had a sub-par year. How do we get the Scott of 2005 and 2006 back?

Will a new coaching staff find the supposed talent we have at the wide receiver position (and of course, this is linked to the line and QB and the running game)?

Can Trevor Pryce return to 2006 form at 33 and give the quarterback the chase we saw in a 13-3 season?

With so many “needs,” where to begin in April with the draft (one thing we’ve ALWAYS trusted Ozzie Newsome and staff to do with aplomb in the past)?

And finally, where does Ray Lewis, with one year left on his deal, fit into this deal after ending another season in a winter jacket on the sidelines screaming support from the sidelines?

The “star” players who have privately picked sides (most of us in the locker room know who had whose back, etc.) will now be exposed. The coach was fired, they’ve been spared, so let’s see how the marriage of new coach, old coordinator and old players goes.

BTW: I’m absolutely positive that there will be a resurgence of temporary energy by bringing in a new coach no matter who the coach is or what his background. For that, Bisciotti most certainly took the quickest path toward some kind of change. Once again: I’m NOT strictly against Billick’s firing. There was most certainly merit in the outcome.

It’s like the backup quarterback thing: the new coach will be the savior!
Until the next loss…

Change will be good in the short term. That is, until they lose and the offense doesn’t move the ball. More than anything, the new coach will be judged on offensive production in the early going.

*********

The fans are divided…and this website is a testament to that.

Everyone will be picking sides over the coming days and weeks moving forward, from the fans to the media to the players.

Some will want Marty Schottenheimer. Some expect Bill Cowher to come here and bring Mike Mularkey and they’ll keep Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator. Some think Kirk Ferentz will come back to Baltimore and keep Jon Ogden around for another season based on their relationship. It might even keep Mike Flynn here, whose original “NFL sponsor” was Ferentz. Some will want someone from far outside the organization like Jason Garrett. Many on the defensive side of the ball here – led by Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and company – will want Rex Ryan to be promoted to head coach.

I will openly campaign for Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz (yes, they’re my friends in the hunt…full disclosure!). At this point, any campaigning I would do would be used against my friends anyway. I’m not real popular in Owings Mills this week, as you can imagine.

Kirk Ferentz would be an interesting choice. He’s a good dude as well!

Once again, Bisciotti will get caught in the crossfire of the hiring process, and have to choose between what his players want and/or need and what his “hiring committee” recommends. And Dick Cass is on the committee, so beware. Apparently, he has Bisciotti’s ear.

And last, I find it very hard to believe that Ozzie Newsome “recommended” that Brian Billick be fired. I have no information on that, but that’s just my gut.

I’d hate to think that anyone was lying to us in Owings Mills…

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