There’s No Success Like Failure

January 18, 2008 |

These words from Steve Bisciotti have been bothering me for 19 days now, ever since he uttered them at the press conference following the firing of Brian Billick:
 
“How much blame you put on different people, and how much you hold yourself responsible, is new to me.”
 
Now I’ll admit right off the bat that I do not have an intimate knowledge of Steve Bisciotti’s business background. I only know the Reader’s Digest version of his rise to fame and fortune: C student at Salisbury State starts a staffing business in his basement that grows into the second largest privately held staffing company in the United States.
 
That’s very admirable, but it shows me two things: he’s apparently never had a major failure (unless you count that press conference in 2005 when he couldn’t get out of his own way) and he’s never really had to answer to anyone – his company is not publicly traded, so he has been able to operate in a virtual vacuum, without his words and actions being magnified, dissected and criticized by stock holders or investment experts.
 
So are we to assume that Jason Garrett’s Heisman-like stiff-arm was Bisciotti’s first real brush with failure? I wouldn’t think anyone who’s reached Bisciotti’s level of success wouldn’t have countless stories of stumbles, setbacks and defeats. William Hershey, for instance, had four failed businesses before his chocolate company took off – now’s there’s a freakin’ town named after him. Do you think he never wondered, in Bisciotti’s words, how much blame to put on different people and how much to hold himself responsible?
 
If we are to believe Bisciotti – that these are truly uncharted waters for him – I wonder how the Garrett debacle will affect things going forward. I’m sure he’s learning from the experience of the past few weeks; I just hope the lesson doesn’t produce several years of lame football.
 
As Bob Dylan (no doubt a big Ravens fan) sang, “My love she speaks softly. She knows there’s no success like failure. And that failure’s no success at all.”
 
Be Careful What You Wish For
 
A lot of people are now beating the drum for Marty Schottenheimer, and that’s fine. The guy is a proven commodity and many fans (and maybe some Ravens’ personnel people) think it will be poetic justice for a disciplinarian to be thrust onto the players who orchestrated Billick’s dismissal.
 
But let’s put some things in perspective. Schottenheimer’s overall winning percentage (including the postseason) is 59.5%, while the coach he would be replacing has a 55.9% winning percentage. Over a 16-game schedule that translates to 9.52 wins vs. Billick’s 8.94 wins, so he has basically averaged half a win more than Billick during their careers. Anyone else think the team went through a lot of trouble to gain half a win (what’s that, a tie?) for the next couple of years?
 
Also, conventional wisdom suggests that the struggles of the passing game are what got Billick fired. Well, in 21 seasons, Schottenheimer has presided over only five teams with offenses that ranked in the top 10 in the league in passing. That means that in 76% of his seasons, his teams have ranked in the bottom two-thirds of the league in passing. You can write that off as a meaningless statistic, but just prepare yourself for a lot of three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football, something people grew quite tired of during Billick’s reign.
 
I’m also hearing how Marty’s tougher training camps will be a needed change after nine years of, as one local scribe likes to say, Camp Cream Puff. Excuse me, but if our fragile veteran team couldn’t make it through half the season after Billick’s light practice schedule, how many of them are going to be standing after full-pad, full-contact practices all year? Maybe that’s why Schottenheimer has a 5-13 record in the postseason – his players can barely walk by January.
 
Silence is Golden
 
For someone who was often branded as a loquacious egomaniac, Brian Billick, without saying a word, couldn’t have played the past three weeks any better. The guy takes the high road by issuing a statement complimenting the organization, his players and even the man who fired him, then disappears with his $15 million.
 
Say what you want about Billick, but I just can’t imagine a Bill Parcells or a Mike Ditka or any of the other tough-guy coaches this town seems to crave, having enough brains to realize that staying out of the way (i.e. no t.v. or radio appearances, no inquiries for open coaching positions, etc.) and letting the predictable train wreck play out is the best way to handle an unceremonious sacking. As they say in those Guinness commercials, Brilliant!

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