Tag Archive | "ryan"

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Exclusive John Harbaugh breakfast footage here at WNST!

Posted on 24 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It was an early morning here in Dana Point, Calif., but very much worth the early wakeup call. Every year at the NFL Owners Meetings all 32 NFL coaches are made available during breakfast for “sitdown” interviews and a general rap session and B.S. conversation with the media. Due to the newspaper economy being on the rapid decline, the number of pure journalists is down making access almost unprecedented.

Today, it was the AFC so we’ve spent the morning with Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin, Rex Ryan and, of course, our own John Harbaugh. I’m working hard to platform and post the videos from the morning “rap” session and hope you enjoy all of the information, which is fresh and exclusive to WNST. There will be at least a dozen separate videos coming throughout the afternoon here in the wnsTV video vault.

They’re not tightly edited and some of the questions were a little hard for our microphones to pick up, but I think you’ll enjoy having “breakfast with John Harbaugh” in a very informal, cool setting here in Southern California.

I’ll be writing more in a little while…lots going on here including a fun visit with David Modell, who is pimping his amazing 3D video company with footage from the NFL and the U2 movie from two years ago.

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Live from Southern California…

Posted on 23 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a chilly trip all the way around. It’s cold in California this week. It was freezing at Dodger Stadium last night and Laguna Beach is no better.

I’m spending the next three days here in Dana Point at the NFL Owners Meetings, chatting with coaches, executives and owners from around the league. Most of the media has commented that it’s “quiet” here this week, with no major rules changes or negotiations to be held. The only potential “landmark” concept is the notion of making the regular season a 17 or 18-game affair, with the elimination of those dreadful preseason games. It appears that changes to overtime possession aren’t coming right now. There’s too much support to keep the current (yet flawed) system.

But it’s truly the calm before the potential financial storm as the NFL Players Association has named its new leader in DeMaurice Smith last week.

Commisioner Roger Goodell is addressing the entire contingent this morning with a “State of The NFL” speech, which no doubt will be addressing the sagging economy and the paramount issue of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players, which could be a dog fight over the next 18 months as both sides are preparing for a tremendous battle that could go either way.

Lockouts, strikes, posturing – it’s all on the table as both sides look to divvy up the riches and spoils of a league that has basically had 25 years of labor peace and prosperity. Right now, the players get 59.5% of the total revenue pool. The owners want to make it less; the players, of course, want more. We’ll be following this story for the next two years but this is the beginning of a long race that will decide the fate of the league for the next decade.

I spent the evening last night up in Los Angeles (about an hour north of here) at Dodger Stadium at the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Team USA and Japan. Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest night for Brian Roberts in field but he did begin the game with a grand home run off of Dice K. I caught up with Brian Roberts, Davey Johnson and Jeremy Guthrie prior to the game and saw more celebrities than I can name. The videos are just to the right of here in the wnsTV video vault.

Because of the “Angelos ban” I never had the chance to meet of chat with Guthrie. He was a super good guy and was truly excited about wearing a USA jersey. My five minutes with him made it very easy to pull for him when he takes the ball at Camden Yards in two weeks.

(And for the record, I had no idea Kelsey Grammar was such a nice guy. I did, however, fully confirm that Alyssa Milano is smoking hot!)

Dodger Stadium is still a religious experience for any baseball fan and it’s nights like last night that really make me love my job and my career in sports. As I’ve been posting my baseball book about my Pop and his love of the game, it’s nights like last night that remind me about why I chose to do this for a living 25 years ago.

I also ran into some very old and dear friends from the “early days” with the Orioles. Dr. Charles Steinberg and Evelyn Ehlers – both “lifer” Orioles fans and Baltimoreans are working in the Dodgers’ front office. Former Ravens V.P. Dennis Mannion is now the president of the Dodgers. And Baltimorean Jamie McCourt (nee Luskin, as in Jack Luskin, the “cheapest guy in the town”) is the C.E.O. of the team, owner by her and husband Frank McCourt.

It’s almost like the Dodgers are Baltimore’s West Coast connection.

I’ll be shooting videos here on WNST.net, blogging and potentially grabbing some guests for Drew Forrester, Bob Haynie and Ray Bachman, who will be filling in for me all week from 2 til 6 p.m.

I’ve already chatted with virtually every NFL coach that has a Baltimore connection and John Harbaugh told me that his brother – former Ravens QB and current Stanford head coach Jim – and his dad will be here this afternoon. We’ll be doing a little wnsTV of that in the next 24 hours.

It’s also the first NFL Owners Meetings for longtime WNST supporters, Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz, who will both make some time for Baltimore.

Stay tuned…I’ll be working hard here in California.

Did I mention the weather kinda sucks?

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A trip to the mall and Bart Scott was sold on the Jets

Posted on 28 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

There will be no statues built for Bart Scott or streets named after him in Baltimore. But he was a really cool, good Raven during the time he spent here. Scott was underappreciated on draft day, worked his way through development, special teams and finally onto the roster for good and now has gotten a bigger contract than his Hall of Fame counterpart Ray Lewis, who was left at the alter by Rex Ryan yesterday when the big contracts were being handed out.

Apparently, Rex Ryan, Mike Pettine and Bart Scott all went out for a trip to the local mall near the Jets facility while the agents and financial folks were working out the terms. As a fan, it might not sound like a big deal. But those are three, special dudes there who will no longer be working every day to make the Ravens better in Owings Mills.

It’s hard to replace good people…

Scott was a kid from Detroit who always had to work a little harder and a little smarter to make his way. He was polite, sharp, loquacious and charming. He was frequently spotted at the team facility in the offseason pushing his kids through the halls in a stroller. He was great on the radio. He was great with people. He was a stalwart in the community here and has a long track record of helping people. He’ll have a good time in New York and will be hard for the Ravens to replace.

And, privately, most scouts would tell you he’s absolutely a better player than Ray Lewis circa Sept. 2009. Well, Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine basically told the whole world that yesterday. That’s gotta sting Ray Lewis even more than waiting by the phone or the “insulting” offer the Ravens have put on the table.

Here’s a solid piece from the Jets official website on the pursuit of Bart Scott.

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Strange daze for Ray Lewis and the Ravens

Posted on 28 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve had the rare good fortune that most of you haven’t had over the past six weeks. Sometimes it kinda gets lost on me that as a media member for 25 years here in Baltimore, I get to do what every PSL owner and fan would love to do: actually sit with Steve Bisciotti and Ray Lewis and ask them questions.

In one eight day span last month, I got to sit with Bisciotti in Owings Mills (on video here) and with Ray Lewis in Tampa (one of four videos here) and ask them the exact same question: “Do you think this contract thing could get awkward for you?”

Both of them sort of skirted the question. You can see their exact answers for yourself with a click so there’s no need for me to transcribe here. The bottom line is this: I think six weeks later it’s a pretty fair question and I give myself bonus journalism points for asking the question of both men. I really don’t know if anyone had mentally taken the “free agency” train into the reality of yesterday’s situation and lo and behold, yesterday, the day of reckoning arrived and it wasn’t pretty and still stands to potentially get uglier.

It is the strangest of strange days for the organization, for Ray Lewis and most certainly for the fans who just want to know what’s going on. From WNST.net to AM 1570 to all of our Facebook accounts, Baltimore was abuzz with “Raymania” all day Friday.

Is he staying? Is he going? Will it be the Cowboys? Or the Broncos? Or the Jets? Or some darkhorse team we didn’t know was in the mix? Plenty of other players were on private lear jets and commercial flights and the NFL free agency media web mania began in earnest just after midnight. Hell, I got a text message from Peter King about Bart Scott at 2:15 AM! (No, I’m not kidding!) For the record, Peter King gave me the Namath guarantee at 8:15 a.m. this morning that Bart Scott would be a New York Jet by the end of the day. (I have no idea when the man sleeps but I love him!)

But as Jason Brown was running off to sign a $37.5 million deal with the lowly St. Louis Rams (so long JB…we’ll miss ya, man!) and Bart Scott was trying on a green cap and bringing Hot Sauce to the Big Apple, Ray Lewis was sitting at home in Florida trying to do damage control. And as we all know, public relations isn’t No. 52’s strong suit.

Let’s count the stories, tales and tacky details of this messy – and yes ‘AWKWARD’ – negotiation.

It started right after the Steelers beat the Ravens in Pittsburgh. Ray Lewis ducked the media and all questions about his future. Fair enough. Ten days later he sat on our set at Radio Row in Tampa for 15 minutes (his first interview with me since 1999) and talked a LOT about God deciding his fate. He told Anita Marks even less than that and she asked softballs as usual so nothing came from that “public appearance.”

About five days later in preparation for the Pro Bowl, he was canoodling with Jamie Dukes in a “shoot” interview on the sands of Hawaii. He openly and happily broached the possibilities of becoming a New York Jet and/or a Dallas Cowboy. Fans here in Baltimore bristled more than a little. Word is strong that Steve Bisciotti bristled as well (I have no confirmation on that one, just the same rumors you’ve heard!) He decided to pass on an in-game field interview with Andrea Kramer of NBC during the Pro Bowl, eliminating the possibility of putting his foot in his mouth.

And so for nearly a month, we’ve fielded call after call, read words upon words about what the outcome of “Ray-Gate” would be in 2009. Would No. 52 be a “Raven for life” or would he take the autumn of his Hall of Fame career elsewhere for a larger payday?

Many observations exist:

Ray has closed his Canton BBQ restaurant and is ready to move on…

Ray is perturbed that the Ravens have only offered him $12 million in guaranteed money…

Ray told Demarcus Ware he wants to be a Dallas Cowboy…

Ray (heart) Rex Ryan…

Blah, blah, blah. It was all “talk is cheap” kinda stuff in anticipation of Black Friday, the day Ray Lewis would head for greener pastures (and maybe not even the Jets?)

And when yesterday finally came, when the time came for the owners to open their pocketbooks via their GM’s and personnel folks and everyone from Albert Haynesworth to Bart Scott to Jason Brown to Ryan Fitzpatrick was jetting off somewhere to have a press conference and some free appetizers, future Hall of Famer and Baltimore legend Ray Lewis was sitting at home in Florida waiting for the phone call from the second wife that never came. Like Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn in the greenroom in New York on the third Saturday of April, he paced the cage waiting for someone other than Ozzie Newsome to show up with a Brink’s truck.

And, worst of all, NFL.com’s very respected Adam Schefter reported a source close to Ray Lewis (clearly believed to be Rod Woodson or Deion Sanders, since they are co-workers of Schefter and co-friends on No. 52’s speed dial) as saying Ray was “done” with the Ravens and offended beyond repair. That report surfaced around 9 a.m. By 4 p.m. and with seven solid hours of silence and a major disturbance from the fan base here in Baltimore, apparently Lewis had heard enough and called Woodson in Los Angeles to retract, run away from or disassociate himself with anything regarding purple potty talk and Jerry Jones. Of course, we’d love to know who or what entity is giving Ray Lewis this “advice” on public relations and skilled negotiation since his real agent David Dunn is in the NFL’s pokey for being a lousy agent.

Which brings us to today, Day Two of free agency: what does this mean for Ray Lewis and Ravens?

Well, if Ozzie Newsome were being honest – really honest – he’d probably tell you that he would’ve predicted this all along. That Ray Lewis would be sitting by the phone and it wouldn’t be ringing because his offer was always going to be the best offer. He’d probably come completely clean and say in his Southern drawl, “I had it all sized up from the beginning. I gave him what he’s worth, maybe even more than he’s worth to any other team. He’ll be a Raven because we want him the most and we’ll pay him the most. But he might have to sit at home by the phone and find that out on his own.”

I had several league insiders tell me that Ray Lewis was going to get his feelings hurt yesterday and they were right.

Of course, Newsome will never say that. But I will. Newsome has said publicly that it would only take one team, one major offer to Ray Lewis to change the game and the course. It was never even intimated that Newsome would move off of his “number” for Ray Lewis. You know the Newsome credo: right player, right price. And everyone from Steve Bisciotti down said that the owner would stay out of this negotiation.

The Ravens are reportedly offering Ray Lewis – a 34-year old aging superstar on a team that was four minutes away from the Super Bowl – about $17 million in guaranteed fresh money for the autumn of his career and some sort of “implied” final contract to make him a “Raven for life.” He’ll be lauded and feted into perpetuity here in Baltimore as a legend. Bob Haynie, Drew Forrester and I had the debate last week at Sullivan’s Steakhouse about whether No. 52 is on the Baltimore “Mount Rushmore.”

Now, the question remains: Will he take the Ravens deal?

Or are his feelings really hurt? Did he really want the Cowboys to call? Was all of this about getting leverage to push the negotiation with the Ravens, who’ve never wavered from the fact that they want Ray Lewis forever? Or was his “mystery” NFL Network friend telling the truth, that Ray Lewis is less than thrilled about continuing his career in Baltimore?

Who knows if we’ll ever know?

But you have to believe that we’re now past the point where his phone will be ringing with a higher offer later in the weekend from Jerry Jones or Pat Bowlen. If a team was serious about Ray Lewis, wouldn’t they have called already? And wouldn’t he be gone already?

We know one thing: Daniel Snyder didn’t want him to be a Redskin!

Strange daze indeed.

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An alternative look at Ray to the Jets

Posted on 06 February 2009 by Chris Bonetti

Ray Lewis to the Jets?  On the surface it seems to make the sufficient amount of sense to think could it actually happen.  Undoubtedly, we all know Rex Ryan, the new coach, is his boy.  One would think, the bright spotlight in New York City might appeal very much to Ray.  And most of all, the reason it would seem to make sense two weeks before he even becomes a free agent is because… he said it could.

If we go by what Ray said, figure the Ravens, the Cowboys, and the Jets are his preferred teams.  But, let me tell you, scratch the surface just a little bit and you’ll discover there is no way #52 will be donning Jets’ Green next season.

This Ray Lewis to the Jets thing, is a non-story.  Simply put the Jets do not have the cash to spend on bringing Ray Lewis to The Meadowlands, or The Meadowlands II, or whatever company spends money to have naming rights to the new Jets/Giants mega-stadium in 2010.

Jets owner Robert Woods Johnson, the guy whose family sells lots of band-aids and baby powder, loves a big splash free agent signing more than anyone.  That said last off-season the Jets and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum ran up a  $142 million, $74 million guaranteed tab on new contracts for FA’s Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, and Damien Woody, and Kris Jenkins, whom they acquired via trade with Carolina.  So clearly money is a little tied up.  Oh yeah, then they traded for and signed BRETT FAVRE.  Boom there’s another $12M for last year, and $13M for this season if he comes back.

Hmmm, that raises an interesting question; the answer would surely effect Ray’s decision.  Will Brett Favre come back?  Either way keeps Lewis away from coming to New York.  If Favre chooses to come back for another ‘last go around’ the cap hit would leave no room for Ray.  If he retires to hunting and tractor riding in Mississippi or gets released or traded, why would Ray want to come to a team with a Kellen Clemens/Brett Ratliff quarterback ‘battle.’  I’m not sure he’s going down that road again; I think he knows it all too well.

I share in a common belief that Ray is going where the most money is.  I realize I’m not breaking news, I can clearly remember him telling Nestor and Drew on Radio Row that when all is said and done the decision will be made in 5 minutes.  Translation to me, Ray’s waiting to see who going to show him the money.

I make no promises that Ray is staying or going.

But if indeed Ray has played his last down in purple, I’m telling you, his next will not be in the ‘Swamps of Jersey’ with the Jets.

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Rex Ryan spends his off day with Jets and Rams

Posted on 11 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we predicted earlier in the day, it was indeed today that Rex Ryan spent his “down time” with the N.Y. Jets and St. Louis brass in the hopes of being their next head coach. Obviously, this can be a tricky situation, coaching who are still in the hunt for this year’s Super Bowl to interview for their next job. It’s weird. Everyone who has ever gone through it has told me that. But this morning reps from both franchises flew into Baltimore and spent a few hours with Ryan.

By this evening, when the game between San Diego and Pittsburgh is over, Ryan will be back on track to lead the defense to an AFC Championship Game and a chance for another Super Bowl.

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The Miami Mission: Quieting the crowd won’t be a factor

Posted on 03 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It could’ve been a whole lot worse this weekend, being in New Jersey or Foxboro. Landing in Fort Lauderdale and having it be 75 degrees on Jan. 2nd, well, you can’t ask for much more.

I spent the middle of the day yesterday in Owings Mills and the team is definitely “loose,” which is a good sign. The Ravens are the better team. They seem to know it. They seem prepared and all of the talk is about winning and taking care of business.

Art Modell was hanging out for lunch with John Harbaugh and I dropped off some “INDUCT ART” signs. Harbaugh told me he’s going to put one up in his office. I told him the city needed a win. He seems confident that the Ravens can win this Sunday.

The flight down wasn’t nearly as chock full of Ravens fans as a “normal” NFL road weekend. Just a handful of fans, and it appeared that many of the seats were filled with families and kids going back to school from the holidays. I’m honestly not expecting the usual “purple takeover” of South Florida. And from my many contacts with folks this week who love to travel to support the Ravens, it seems many are more concerned with getting to Nashville at this point, almost assuming a victory.

Call me the bleeding heart purple optimist, but I don’t see how they’re going to lose to Chad Pennington. I think the defense will force trouble for the Dolphins offense (running and passing), the weather is not a factor, the Ravens players CLEARLY love to play on the road and Joe Flacco is pretty unflappable even when the crowd is a factor and the Miami fans are easily the worst in the NFL when it comes to creating an intimidating environment. The last two trips the place was half full and raucous with Ravens fans.

If you’re already down in South Florida, we’d love to see you at our party at Alabama Joe’s on Lantana just west of I-95. The party starts at 4:30. We’ll stay as long as purple fans are coming in and hanging out. Two games. A perfect way to start the weekend, watching some NFL action all night in 75-degree Florida.

It will be interesting to see Rex Ryan’s defense vs. the wildcat. There’s been plenty of talk about the Dolphins’ signature package and it’ll be something to watch for sure, the matchups the Ravens’ defense will give the Fish when Ronnie Brown goes under center.

Miami has a lot of Ravens memories:

* The bad loss in the hurricane back during the Super Bowl year. I stood on the field that night and the mud seemed to be three inches thick.

•    That great playoff win when Terry Allen ran wild to move the Ravens into the second round back in 2001. (By the way, that was the Ravens’ most recent January victory, so maybe Miami is still the place to be.)
•    The devastating loss last December, when Brian Billick opted to kick the field goal at the wire and Matt Stover missed the game winner against Cam Cameron’s winless squad.
•    And, of course, the most recent foray a few weeks ago when the Ravens just pounded the Dolphins into submission and capitalized on their mistakes.

Other than the hideous Sunday Night game back in 2000, the trips are always full of sunshine and empty seats.

It’ll be a little different this Sunday, but it’s just a shame more of our fans couldn’t find a way down south. But we can all dream for a repeat visit to Florida – a few miles to the west in Tampa – later in the month.

Festivus is on. I’m in Florida. Life is good.

It’s hard to think that the season could end so abruptly down here in the sunshine. Of course, we’re stuck here until Monday. So worse case scenario: at least if they lose it’s still 75 degrees.

But they’re not going to lose.

Stay warm up there!

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Could Baltimore’s Jim Schwartz wind up as head coach in Cleveland?

Posted on 01 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As the coaching “hiring” season heats up over the coming weeks, the candidates are lining up in Cleveland, Detroit, Denver and with the N.Y. Jets and that’s only “so far.” Who knows what’s going to happen in St. Louis, Dallas, Tampa Bay and a few other places? And then there’s Oakland — the Siberia of NFL coaching.

Our very own WNST.net Friday companion Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and Arbutus native, is next up in two places — Cleveland and Detroit — while Rex Ryan is slated to speak with the N.Y. Jets, St. Louis Rams and Detroit at some point over the next few weeks.

Schwartz was in Cleveland for a few years in the mid-90’s and was part of the Berea Brigade, when the fans boycotted the facility after Art Modell made the announcement that the Ravens were coming to Baltimore. He spent three years as Marvin Lewis’ assistant here and left for Tennessee when Brian Billick was hired in 1999. He’s been the defensive coordinator for the Titans for eight seasons now and has interviewed in four organizations (San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami and Washington) for head coaching jobs. He is expected to leave Tennessee in the next few weeks and is restricted after Friday from interviewing or accepting a head coaching positions until the Titans are eliminated or win the Super Bowl. The same is true for Ryan, who like Schwartz and the Giants Steve Spagnuolo is being inundated with interview requests while trying to win a championship.

Spagnuolo will also be a favored candidate as is Leslie Frazier in a few places. And Eric Mangini and Mike Shanahan are still out of work with various contract money still coming to them in 2009 and beyond.

I’ll write more about the coaching hiring process over the weekend. Lots to tell and it’s a fascinating, incredible “mating call” getting these coaches and executives into jobs and how it affects so many lives and families across the NFL as all of these guys are truly modern-day vagabonds in search of one of 32 jobs in the world as an NFL head coach. Like I said, lots to tell.

Trying to get the Nashville trips on sale by noon on Monday…

Stay tuned…

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Rex Ryan receives permission to interview with N.Y. Jets

Posted on 31 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

‘Tis the season to gain head coaching employment in the NFL and with the 11-5 regular season finish and the Ravens headed back to the playoffs in Miami this weekend, it’s not a shocker that defensive coordinator has received permission to interview for the head coaching position with the New York Jets.

As first reported by the AP, Ryan is expected to interview for the job in New York at some point in the near future. Earlier this week, NFL.com’s Adam Schefter reported that Ryan would be a lead candidate in St. Louis, once the Rams fire interim head coach Jim Haslett who replaced Scott Linehan in midseason.

Ryan, along with tight ends coach Wade Harmon, were original hires of Brian Billick when he took over the head coaching job in January 1999. It’s very unusual to allow an existing assistant to interview during the week of a game but perhaps Ryan will have time to interview after the Ravens victory in Miami on Sunday.

Many times “deals” are cut to wait for specific coordinators, as was the case when the Ravens waited three weeks to interview Brian Billick after his Vikings lost in the NFC Championship Game. Last year Ryan interviewed in Atlanta and Miami before eventually returning under contract to continue as the Ravens defensive coordinator under John Harbaugh.

Several coordinators including Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz both have the week off during their team’s respective byes and are expected to see a few interviews this week.

We’ll continue to monitor the coaching carousel as the month plays out.

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Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

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Bisciotti and Harbaugh walk ‘arm in arm’ into 2009 Festivus

Posted on 29 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

What a difference 52 weeks makes. It will be a year ago this Wednesday — on New Year’s Eve — when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti walked into Brian Billick’s office and abruptly fired the head coach who led his franchise to its only Super Bowl win. It was the biggest story in the city for weeks, and many folks were surprised and many questions were asked. For me, it wasn’t so much the actual firing of Billick as much as the “I changed my mind” reasoning so closely removed from a 13-3 season and the fact that Ozzie Newsome was clearly kept out of the decision. At the time I was a loud critic of the move, especially considering that Bisciotti didn’t have a clear vision of where the franchise was headed or who he wanted to hire as a head coach.

The thinking was this: Who is Bisciotti going to hire who is better than Billick?

Three weeks later, after getting turned down by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason
Garrett and eliminating defensive coordinator Rex Ryan from contention, Bisciotti turned to a “low mileage” young special teams coordinator whose QB brother was far better known not only in Baltimore but throughout the league and in college circles as the head coach at Stanford.

Bisciotti, who is a self-made billionaire and who did it by hiring great people, was pretty offended last winter at the mere notion that his decisions and pick to lead the organization on the field would be questioned. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him publicly “chippy.”

Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

Harbaugh came to this job as a universally revered “coach’s coach,” the son of a football coach and the brother of a very successful NFL quarterback. I had at least 20 NFL “insiders” who immediately called me and told me that Harbaugh would be a “great” NFL coach. Harbaugh had ZERO detractors. Even Brian Billick privately applauded Bisciotti’s choice to replace him as being “a great move.” Yesterday, as the clock struck zero and Harbaugh had led Bisciotti’s franchise full-circle and back into the NFL postseason, the two men embraced in as genuine a lock as you’d ever want to see on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. You can see the moment on video here… and it was celebrated with the fans.

We can revisit all of the details of last January’s semi-bizarre job search and all of the possibilities and permutations and fallout of a bloody, unexpected firing of a Super Bowl champion coach amidst a locker room full of revolt, dissent and mouthy and aging players. All of my January Bisciotti/Garrett/Harbaugh blogs are still here in the archives if you care to read them.

Here’s the point: Bisciotti has made three MAJOR calls in 2009. First he fired Billick, while owing him $18 million, a ballsy and risky move if there ever was one. Then, he hand-picked unproven John Harbaugh to lead his football team in January. And finally — you might never get anyone to admit this on the record within the franchise — Bisciotti absolutely JUMPED on the table in the draft room in April and insisted that Ozzie Newsome trade up into the 18th pick to take a New Jersey kid from “small school” University of Delaware named Joe Flacco to be his franchise quarterback.

Considering our history with sports franchise poobahs in Baltimore (think Irsay, Jacobs, EBW & Abe Pollin), we’re far from believing that owners should get overly involved in the day-to-day operations of a sports franchise in most circumstances – and this is your chance to fill in the holiday Peter Angelos joke of your choice right here – but obviously an NFL owner’s choice of a head coach and a franchise quarterback has never looked better than it does this morning, exactly 52 weeks to the day that Bisciotti was clearly shaken by the removal of Billick, whom he had deep affection and respect for as a person and a leader of men.

If you’re excited about the Ravens this week and you’ve got purple fever, sure it’s fashionable to give all of the credit to Flacco and Harbaugh (as well as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Le’Ron McClain, Cam Cameron, etc.) but today is a day we should consider giving the credit to the “mastermind” of several of the most significant 2009 calls that have landed the Ravens in the postseason and headed to Miami this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Steve Bisciotti has played a MAJOR role in the Ravens’ turnaround by making moves that have been greeted with at least extreme “curiosity” inside his own building and amongst his experts. Who would’ve thought that Rex Ryan could get passed over for the head coaching job here for a special teams coordinator and respond in a fashion that has made him the front-runner for the St. Louis Rams job 52 weeks later? Human nature might’ve said, “You can’t bring Ryan back as defensive coordinator” given the strange circumstances.

But over the course of his life, Bisciotti has shown an uncanny ability to find and retain quality people as employees. It’s his “gift” as a business owner, bringing in people who he’ll brag are “better” than him. He’s always told me that it’s the secret of his success.

Sure, he subtracted Brian Billick who I clearly think is one of the better people I’ve met on the planet and a person that I’m supremely thrilled to have on my WNST.net team, but he also added another quality guy in John Harbaugh — as well as a new staff — and the change has obviously worked out fabulously in Year 1. (For the record, Billick had Cam Cameron flying into Baltimore to be his offensive coordinator a year ago today as well, had he not been fired…just a fact!)

The firing of Billick was a change, as I stated last Janaury, that I wouldn’t have made. Many concurred with my assessment. But that’s why he’s Steve Bisciotti and that’s why he’s worth a billion dollars. As the old Indiana Jones movie said, “He chose wisely.”

Many NFL jobs will begin popping open today. Brian Billick might even get another shot to lead an NFL franchise at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, he might be enjoying his quality of life watching football on Fox and doing radio shows and writing a blog here at WNST.net while building his life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

But 363 days later, you would be hard-pressed to make the argument that Billick might’ve gotten this team to 11-5, with or without a quarterback like Flacco. Or maybe not. But at this point, that’s not an argument anyone in Baltimore wants or needs to make. In reality, we’re all in a better place 52 weeks later.

The NFL job carousel will get crazy this week. I’m glad we’re on the other side of this one this season covering a playoff team instead of a job search and all of the messiness involved. Phil Savage is the first of many fired friends of mine this week.

For now here in Baltimore, it’s Festivus for the rest of us.

Bring on the Fish…

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