Chapter 1: Meet the new boss, not the same as the old boss

January 12, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

soon-to-be-fired-himself Cam Cameron and the losing streak reached nine games by Christmas week.

There was tension inside the walls of the Ravens’ facility in Owings Mills. Billick was getting second-guessed at every turn and factions were building to oust him. This was a turning point for the franchise and a clear direction moving forward wasn’t as clear to Bisciotti, who was privately second-guessing and agonizing over his decision to give Billick a four-year extension earlier in 2007.

There had long been rumored friction between the two dominant personalities and Bisciotti famously demanded changes from Billick in front of reporters in early 2006 during one of his first forays with the media as the full-time owner of the Ravens.

To understand how the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in January 2013 you must first understand Bisciotti’s situation with the team.

Bisciotti, who has now been a part of two Super Bowl wins in 14 seasons as an NFL owner, is a very approachable figure in Owings Mills, where the Ravens practice in the state-of-the-art Under Armour Performance Training Center that the team entered in 2004. In a building that looks more like a Castle than a workplace, he knows virtually everyone in the building and while he’s not an “everyday to practice” or “9-5” owner, he’s a presence within the company and most everyone calls him “Steve” because that’s the way he likes it.

Despite originally being hired by Art Modell and his staff in the 1990’s, many holdovers continue from the Cleveland Browns days as well as “first in” hires of the Baltimore Ravens in 1995-96. Bisciotti hasn’t made or mandated one change anywhere on the scouting or player personnel side of the Ravens that Ozzie Newsome essentially founded when the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996. Over the last 25 years, the Ravens might be the most stable office staff in the NFL, especially given the move from Cleveland to Baltimore in November 1995.

And while Steve Bisciotti did ink his coach to a four-year, $24 million extension, he didn’t originally hire or pick Brian Billick. He inherited him. And Bisciotti didn’t like what he was seeing in December 2007 and clearly didn’t have the right feeling about Billick moving forward.

In 2004, Bisciotti and Billick made an offer to longtime Washington Post sportswriter John Feinstein to write a book following the team at every step, in every meeting and in every breath it seemed. In the book, “Next Man Up,” an outstanding view of an NFL franchise with dashed expectations and various dramas, Bisciotti acknowledged that some things about Billick rubbed him the wrong way.

He openly said he thought Billick had “bad habits” and was “disrespectful.” Billick addressed him (and most everyone else) as “young man” which Bisciotti didn’t find to be nearly as endearing as Billick did. They clashed over Matt Cavanaugh’s role in the offense. Bisciotti didn’t like Billick’s demeanor with the Ravens’ scouts and the way he allegedly used his height to intimidate smaller people.

Billick even hinted that the two might have too much in common on the personality side. “It occurred to me that Steve reminded me of somebody: Me. He came right at you, told you what he thought and if you didn’t like it, tough!”

No one saw them as best pals, soul mates or even closely matched confidants but most believed that a four-year extension for a Super Bowl-winning coach coming off a 13-3 season was as ringing of a long-term endorsement as you can find in the NFL. There was no doubt that Bisciotti respected Billick’s abilities and track record as an NFL head coach. And there was no doubt that Billick wanted to win, and that was a quality that Steve appreciated.

But Bisciotti – and specifically, Cass – didn’t like what they were seeing and hearing inside their building during December 2007 when the Ravens were in a rare position of “playing out the string” of meaningless, dreadfully cold home games.

Bisciotti and Cass didn’t like the preseason feeling of Christmas week games. They felt that Brian had lost his way and began examining all aspects of the franchise during that holiday