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

January 12, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

season. And the feedback they got and the feelings they created cried out for change in their minds.

This is what they were hearing:

Players stopped believing in Brian’s message. The assistant coaches Billick was hiring weren’t of the caliber they were a decade earlier. Rex Ryan had his own fiefdom on the defensive side of the ball, and the defense didn’t respect Billick. Billick had no relationship with the defense because he was too busy being the offensive coordinator. Billick was involved in too many other issues inside the building that weren’t football related.

By all accounts, Bisciotti believed it was a fractured room, a fractured building and a fractured culture. And at some point during December 2007, Bisciotti stopped believing the Ravens could win a Super Bowl again with Brian Billick.

Bisciotti was very succinct and emotional at a somber press conference on Dec. 31, 2007 announcing the firing of Brian Billick.

“I started my business at 23 years old and in order to be successful you have to take chances and in order take chances you have to listen to your heart and go with your gut and you believe with a track record that when you get the answer you go with it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t pray on it and it doesn’t mean you don’t fear being wrong. I do fear being wrong. I could be three coaches past Brian Billick nine years from now and trying to solve this puzzle. It’s such a difficult business. All I have to be is better than my competitors in the other industry that I spent 20-some years in. In this, I’ve got 32 players going for one prize, every year and how much blame you put on different people and how much you hold yourself responsible is something that is new to me and I hope that over time that Baltimore views me as the same quality of an owner as Brian Billick was as a head football coach. I’ve got some catching up to do to the man I’ve just asked to step down today. The jury is out on me. Brian already has gotten his Super Bowl. I’ll try to make y’all proud.”

Clearly, with one day left in 2007, the franchise was now at a crossroads.

Bisciotti felt like he had the right personnel man in Ozzie Newsome and the right staff. He felt like he had a cupboard full of quality players in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and Chris McAlister – all Pro Bowl, if not Hall of Fame, caliber talent.

So, how could this group manage a 5-11 record in 2007?

Any coach in the NFL will tell you the same story: “If you have no quarterback, you have no chance.”

“Five years later – with some clarity – I can understand where Steve was coming from in that I didn’t develop a quarterback in the nine years,” Billick said after the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII win. “He saw that having a coach and a quarterback develop together and build together was a good strategy in other places.”

But from the outside, Bisciotti encountered a mixed bag of feedback on “changing his mind” regarding firing an always-well-respected Billick and the first time he’d really felt pressure from the fan base as the sole owner – and prime decision maker — of the Baltimore Ravens.

This was as much of a public — and quite expensive — admission of a failure or hiring mistake publicly as you’ll ever see an NFL owner make in firing a Super Bowl-winning coach. And everything in the building changed and it certainly shook up the entire organization, which was its intent.

It was pretty clear that wasted money wasn’t an issue for Bisciotti. He wanted a younger leader to grow with the team. He wanted a new voice. He wanted a fresh message. He wanted to win a Super Bowl and that’s all that he’s ever pointed to with any decision over his first decade as the Ravens’ owner.

As Bisciotti later said: “I made a very, very difficult decision to part ways with Brian. And then I found my equilibrium.”

Bisciotti enacted a search committee that was a fairly unorthodox process by NFL standards. There are as many different flow charts across the NFL as there are teams, it seems, and ways and methods that owners hire football personnel evaluators and coaches. Sometimes it’s the owner’s pick, done on the porch of his estate after you’re flown in on a private jet. Sometimes it’s a corporate decision made in a boardroom with a series of meetings across the organization with a timed agenda. Sometimes, when it’s an established winning coach like Bill Parcells, who famously said he wanted to pick the groceries when he’s making a meal, you are finding out about personnel power on and off the field as much as picking just a true head coach.

There is no standard way to hire an NFL head coach. And looking at the power structures that have won Super Bowls over the past decade, there are indeed many different personalities and many different ideologies and personnel packages that could claim victory.

And no matter who is on the committee or how the search is executed there are only so many kinds of candidates to be a head coach in the NFL. Usually there are three ways to become a “hot” candidate to get interviewed or considered by NFL ownership: be a former NFL head coach, be a winning offensive or defensive coordinator for a playoff team, or be a big-time college head coach with NFL experience ready to move back to