After a week or so sabbatical mainly processing and digesting all the news surrounding the Ravens quest for a new head football coach and listening to and reading people’s opinions, I thought it might be time for a dose of the old reality.
Back in 1998 the Vikings were the highest scoring team in the league. They had a high powered offense that averaged close to 30 points per game. Their offensive coordinator was a guy named Brian Billick. NONE of us had ever heard of him at the time. The Ravens were coming off a 6-9-1 season and Ted Marchibroda was fired after that 1998 season. I think Art Modell wanted to familiarize the city with a bit of its past when he hired Ted in the first place.
So….the Ravens were without a coach. The Vikings lost to Atlanta in the NFC title game and immediately the Cleveland Browns and Ravens were going after the “hot” coordinator from the Vikings. The Ravens won out and Brian Billick became the 2nd head coach in the Ravens short history.
Billick had the task of retooling an offense that wasn’t very good. Vinnie was gone after 1997 and Jim Harbaugh was a shadow of his Captain Comeback character. Billick went out and got Scott Mitchell, who lasted all of 2 games into the 1999 season before being benched and then cut. The quarterback carousel was starting unbeknownst to us. Billick marched in 11 different starting QBs thru the 2007 season. The Raven’s offense never was retooled.
Brian Billick was fired on December 31st. The search was on once again. Who was the “hot” coordinator now? Why, Jason Garrett , a journeyman QB who happened to be in his 3rd season of coaching in the NFL. With an offense that featured up and coming hotshot QB Tony Romo, receivers Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, Jason Whitten and a decent running game with Julius Jones and Marion Barber, Garrett is credited with contributing to the Cowboys success. HE is the 2007 version of Brian Billick.
So, Jason Garrett had a chance to make his mark in the NFL as a head coach for the Ravens and he turned it down. Good riddance! I surely didn’t cry over the news.
Didn’t we do this drill once before? We HAD the “hot” offensive coordinator who came in with no consistency in the QB position in 1999 and look what happened. Yes, Brian Billick was credited with winning a Super Bowl, but did he ever gain respect as an offensive guru? NO.. You think Jason Garrett would want to leave a consistent offense for this mess? Imagine what happens next year should Dallas be among the NFL elite again. Garrett’s stock will rise even more and with an extra year under his belt.
The “hot” coordinator doesn’t necessarily mean instant success in the NFL head coaching ranks. As brilliant as Marvin Lewis was as the defensive coordinator of the Ravens, look what he had in Cincinnati. Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, TJ Houshmanzadeh. All offense and no defense. Tony Dungy was a defensive whiz in Tampa but he goes to the Colts and inherited Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerin James and company, but no defense.
You can’t have it all. We have had a top 10 defense here in Baltimore since Billick first stepped foot in Owings Mills. Yet, he was never able to put his stamp on a woeful offense. I doubt Jason Garrett could do that either.
So, who will the next coach be? Who knows? No matter who gets the job, it’s going to be lean times ahead for the fans. Ownership will ask us to be patient (as they raise prices in 2009) while the new head coach rebuilds an aging team and attempts to put his mark in Baltimore football history.
The Ravens must look toward the future and deal with the impending departure of two beloved stars in the near future. Ray Lewis and Jon Ogden, both lifelong Ravens will soon be waving goodbye, and soon to follow will be Chris McAlister, Mike Flynn, Matt Stover and Todd Heap. What will life be like without the guys we cheered our hearts out for in 2000?
Fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight. This is gonna be one helluva rough trip.