Much has been made of who the Ravens should hire as their next new coach now that Brian Billick has been let go and what characteristics are needed in that new coach. We’ve heard about the need for an offensive mind, a disciplinarian, and someone who can relate to the players. Clearly that is what the team needs at the coaching position based on what has happened here very recently. More importantly though, there are other things that must happen in order to make the change work successfully long term for the Ravens. Steve Bisciotti and Dick Cass need to realize that they must make some changes in their overall involvement in football matters going forward and it must be a reduced role. To be specific, their role, once they and GM Ozzie Newsome find the new coach is to provide a team budget and move out of the way and let Ozzie and the new coach do their jobs with the football aspects of the team.
What does that mean? Well, Bisciotti needs to cease and desist with any social contact he has with the players because now that the players know they can get one coach fired they surely will think that if they don’t like the next guy then they can pull off the same thing by going to the owner again with their complaints. Clearly the buddy-buddy attempts by Bisciotti with some of the players undermined Billick’s authority, not to mention the public flogging of Billick after the 2005 season. These types of things cannot happen again in this organization if the team wants to be successful. The inmates cannot run the asylum.
In addition, when you go back and look at the fact that Billick wanted to give up the play calling in the middle of the season to Rick Neuheisel but wasn’t allowed to (and Bisciotti himself brought this up at his press conference on Monday) that seems awfully fishy and again puts the Ravens organization on a slippery slope (as I alluded to in my blog on Tuesday). Bisciotti’s rationale, at the press conference at least, was that Neuheisel was too busy looking for a job. Well if I were the boss the first thing I would address is why was he looking for a job and how much time does that really take? Additionally if he was looking for a job so much then why didn’t the management say, hey, your job is here right now, let’s focus on that or you are out of here? In addition, wasn’t the head coach overloaded with two jobs already trying to manage the team and run the offense? Couldn’t that be a major contributing factor to losing some of the players in the locker room because the head coach couldn’t be totally focused on the whole team? The BIGGER question I have with the scenario is why did Billick have to even ask permission to give up the play calling? Isn’t he the head coach and solely in charge of on field matters? What do the owner and team president know about who should be calling plays and why were they even involved in that lower level football decision? If Billick wanted Neuheisel to take a shot at running the offense because he was struggling then that should have happened.
The only person who should have had the authority to prevent Billick from implementing that scenario should have been Ozzie Newsome. Now why the GM wouldn’t want to try something different with a 4-5 record and the offense struggling surely puzzles me (i.e, I bet Bisciotti and Cass shut the idea down, not Ozzie)?
Bisciotti and Cass have no business in on-field football matters, their expertise is the business side of things despite the fact that they think they can apply their business knowledge to football in certain cases (and it is starting to sound like these cases are coming more and more often). We’ve all heard Bisciotti say that he can help the football side of things because of his business experience. Well pro sports do not work like most businesses and just because Bisciotti made a fortune with his staffing business doesn’t mean he knows what is best for a football team. As much as he tries to deny it he clearly can’t keep his hands off of things. It’s his team and he can do what he wants because he is the owner but as I mentioned in Tuesday’s blogs those types of franchises (ones heavily run by non-sports related people) rarely do well on the field.
Looking at Cass’ background, he played the game a little but never at a real high level. He moved his way up in life as a lawyer and is clearly very good at that to include overseeing the overall financing of the team but in NO WAY should he be discussing on-field football related matters, he just isn’t qualified.
But neither is Dan Snyder (Cass worked for him) and it has taken Joe Gibbs almost four full years to clean up the messes created by Snyder. Cass also worked for another meddling owner, Jerry Jones, so he probably thinks that is what owners and team presidents should also be allowed to do. Jones even undercut, to a degree, the authority of a great coach like Bill Parcells last season by allowing Terrell Owens to mouth off to the media and Jones about Parcells.
The sports model that includes a meddling owner who also allows the players to undercut the authority of coach just does not work. Steve Bisciotti and Dick Cass need to realize that right now or else this situation will continue to spiral downhill no matter who they pick as the next Ravens coach. The next Ravens coach has a tough enough time already with the immature locker room not to mention the fact that this team does not have a bonafide #1 starting quarterback. Some players just may need to be jettisoned to get the situation under control long term. Let the head coach and the GM do their jobs and they’ll sink or swim on their own.
Clearly in the past the Ravens organization has done a good job with their football processes. They have developed a system where coaches and football personnel learn and really come to know the pro football game. Why else would guys like Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Jack Del Rio, Phil Savage, Donnie Henderson, etc. be raided from Baltimore to other higher level coaching and management positions in the league? You have to give credit to Newsome and Billick for that development so clearly the two of them knew a lot about what they were doing. Billick is now out of the picture due to some faults on his part and clearly also faults made by upper management. That chapter is now closed.
But going forward Bisciotti and Cass need to let Newsome, the new coach, and their staff handle the football aspect of things. If not, this organization will start looking more and more like that other pro team in town. And I don’t think any of us want that, including Bisciotti and Cass. They have the chance to be the most powerful and popular men in town, but only if they allow the people they hire to run the football aspect of the team. If not, Bisciotti and Cass may keep the power they have on paper due to their ownership and roles, but they will quickly lose their popularity and ultimately M&T Bank Stadium could end up looking like the stadium that resides next to them downtown. Right now it seems very far fetched but who in 1996 or 1997 would have ever thought that Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be this vacant on a nightly basis the last several years (and getting emptier and emptier by the year)? I certainly didn’t ever think so but that is the time period when the baseball owner permanently stepped in and began thinking that he knew more than the baseball people. Now look what it has gotten him and this city!