had his back. He didn’t care what the criticism was and if he can’t bring Cam back next year he figured, ‘I might as well do it now.’
“I didn’t see it as having much of a downside.”
So what was Bisciotti’s role in this decision?
“My job is to care about how John is viewed,” Bisciotti said. “If I had strong feelings or if I thought this was desperate or there wasn’t enough to gain, I might’ve tried to turn his opinion. I think I could’ve turned him. He was 90% sure. I don’t think he was 100% sure. Really, I don’t think anyone is ever 100% sure when you make a monumental shift in personnel. I would’ve talked him out of it if I felt strong enough.”
“But after five years and Cam was one of his best friends in the profession…how do you not support John when he’s come to that tough of a decision? I said to John that night, ‘If we fall out of playoffs, I will never question your decision. I’m giving you my opinion now and it won’t change. Ozzie and I have your back if this is what you think we need to do.’ ”
It’s at these times of great decisions that the destiny of the team is shaped and the open conversation and the consideration of downside management keeps Harbaugh on his toes. He likes the partnership aspect of it and the extra ears for wisdom and feedback.
“I have made him, very reluctantly, prepare to lose,” said Bisciotti of his downside management philosophy. “It’s just like with the Cam decision – if you feel it’s the right thing to do, what’s the worst thing that can happen? ‘I believe in you, we believe in you, we believe in Joe. We’re going to pick up pieces.’ If the worst thing that can happen is that you don’t make playoffs in your fifth year, well, then you’ve earned the ability to fail. If the worst-case scenario is that we’re 9-7 and out of the playoffs, and we’re all comfortable with that scenario, then do it.”
Bisciotti does this exercise every Friday with Harbaugh.
“I always prepare to lose because that’s the worst result every week,” Bisciotti said. “If you prepare to lose and assess the aftermath of a loss, it clears your mind and makes you better prepared to win. Sometimes people fear losing so much that they alter the decision they’re making in trying to win.”
Bisciotti likened it to billiards, his personal participatory game of choice and skill.
“If I’m in a best-of-five game of pool and I have a 2-0 lead, and I take an aggressive shot trying to end the game, I’ve already assessed the downside,” he said. “If I sink the 8-ball and lose, I’m still up 2-1. And if I make this risky, incredible shot then I’ve closed it out. I’ve won. So in mentally preparing, I ask ‘Why would you take a chance?’ My argument is that if I take the chance, I still have rope left.”
Ozzie Newsome had another name for it: “We used to call it the barber shop,” the general manager said. “Now, we call it, ‘The scrimmage.’ John and I, we talk about everything. What I try and do is help John look at the downside and the upside of every decision. And, when I have to make a decision, John does the same thing for me. What is the upside on us making a trade or giving away a draft pick or something like that? And what’s the downside of not having a [former Ravens OLB] Jarret Johnson on our football team? So, what we try to do is to look at the upside and the downside. That’s what I do for John. I try to paint the picture so that he can have as much information that he has, so he can go about making that decision. It came down to when he walked into my office and told me he was going to make that decision, he had a peace about himself. That’s all I could ask from him. I said, ‘You want [to]?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I think this is the right thing to do.’
“The process of hiring [offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell was something that John [Harbaugh] and I talked about way before, and why we wanted to do it and why he wanted to do it.
“He did not just walk in my office that Monday morning and say, ‘I want to make that move.’ As a matter of fact, when we got off the bus downtown and we both were driving home from the Redskins game, John and I talked about it that night. He said, ‘I think I might have to make