Views from inside ‘1 Winning Drive’ yesterday

January 01, 2008 |

So yesterday was what I was expecting to be a pretty quick and easy day at 1 Winning Drive…boy was I wrong!

It was going to be the day that we got to talk to the players on the “last day of school,” the day when they cleaned out their lockers. We were supposed to meet with them before and after the meeting, and then come back Wednesday for the end of season press conference with Steve Bisciotti.

As it was scheduled, we would meet with the players at 1:30ish, then again after the 2 p.m. team meeting.

Around 1:25ish we were told by someone from the Ravens P.R. staff that we would not get to go to the locker room until a little bit later because the individual (tight ends, linebackers,etc.) meetings were taking a little longer than planned. Within a couple of minutes the very brief whisper that Brian was fired started to make its way around the media room at the facility.

I then spoke to someone in the building, and then someone outside of it and everyone was confirming what Jay Glazer of Fox Sports was by now reporting at 1:45 (he was right all along): Brian Billick got fired!

A few minutes later the front office brass of the Ravens walked by, going to what we assumed was the room where the weekly press conferences take place, to address the team of the decision that Brian was fired.

Members of the media, which began as about 6-to-10 people being there  on a "normal" Monday quickly turned into about 20 and the lobby was as busy as Grand Central Station.

Everyone was making phone calls, cross checking info with each other, trying to reach people in the building, outside the building, etc.

Soon we were watching Robert Smith who played for Brian in Minnesota on ESPN talking about the firing, with the headline of "Brian Billick fired" in big bold letters underneath it.

We would be told around 2:05 that we were ready to go the locker room and that there would be a 3:30 p.m. press conference.

Walking into the locker room, there were only a couple of players in there at the time. They were quickly told by a veteran player on the team to get out of the locker room because “we have a meeting to go to,” although the coach of that unit was in the locker room just five seconds earlier.

As guys started to trickle in, some would see the media in the locker room and turn back around and leave, which I totally get. Others said they would rather not say anything, while a couple seemed like they wanted to pull up a podium and do a sound check before they started talking.

Todd Heap was clearly upset as Brian is the only NFL coach he has ever known. Todd showed great concern for his position coach, Wade Harman, and his family who Todd said were now "out of a job."

Samari Rolle talked about how this is the first coach that he ever played for (Jeff Fisher being the only other one), that was fired and that he never had to deal with it before. Come to think of it, Samari had Bobby Bowden, Jeff Fisher and Brian Billick — a pretty remarkable run of coaching tenure.

Terrell Suggs, Matt Stover, Jon Ogden, Mike Flynn, Derrick Mason, Troy Smith and a couple of other players, all commented on the coaching change. Several players and staff talked to a couple of us who are there every day "off the record" and shared how things went down and what concerns they had moving forward.

I won’t get into great detail about what happened during the press conference, mainly because it has been and will continue to be sliced, diced, and dissected 100 different ways. I did that on a previous blog.

Everyone has their opinion about what was said and what happened during the press conference. There are those in the building, outside the building, and in the media, who either liked Brian or didn’t like Brian for whatever reason.

In the end, Steve did what he felt like he had to do and as the owner has every right to do that.

He fired one of his employees.

I am not saying that it was a bad move or that I disagree with it. I just think it could have been handled a little bit differently. I think yesterday was a day that will go down in Baltimore football history — maybe for good, maybe for bad. That is yet to be determined.

This time next year, if we are talking about the Ravens getting ready for a playoff run, or the AFC Championship game, then Steve will look like he did the right thing. If in four years we are talking about only one playoff appearance, then we will see what changes will be made next. (Even though I’m sure Ozzie will get to stick around).

I will get into this more later, but if I was hiring the next head coach for the Ravens, my search would begin and end with Bill Cowher.

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out and what becomes of it, but I think Bill makes sense on so many levels. Plus the way that Steve flat out shot down that rumor when it was not even brought up during the pres conference is a little odd to me.

One thing for sure: this will be the most interesting offseason in Ravens history.