Rocky's Football Corner, 12.19.2007

by Rick Rockwell

If the management of the Baltimore Ravens knew what they were doing, they would send Coach Brian Billick packing.

This is an uncharacteristic position. Usually, the opinion in this column is that teams in the National Football League, just like TV networks, make hasty management decisions. Often they need to keep an under-performing coach for another season or two until he gets the team in synch. Look no farther than Romeo Crennel in Cleveland for an example. After the first week of the season, analysts and fans already wanted his head, impatient as they were after years of failures. Now, with the Browns competing for the division title in the American Football Conference (AFC) North, folks are singing a different tune.

But Billick has passed his time in Baltimore. Maybe he can go somewhere else peddling his act as a supposed offensive genius. But the longer the Ravens keep him, the more the frustration will mount.

Here’s why Billick needs to go: he has lost the confidence of his team.

That was evident in the Ravens’ collapse last week against the previously winless Dolphins. Until Baltimore traveled to Miami, the Dolphins were on their way to tying the modern record for consecutive losses in a season. By beating the Ravens, the Dolphins salvaged some dignity out of a lost season. Still, reviled owner Wayne Huizenga revealed this season has taken so much out of him that he may sell the team. South Florida needs to encourage that feeling, otherwise the Dolphins will never recover from their horrible decline.

But the topic here is the decline of the Ravens, not the Dolphins. And Billick has presided over what so far is equal to the team’s worst season.

The fact that Billick’s team is near mutiny was evident last week, with the coach having to throw a screaming fit to convince them to follow his orders as the clock ticked down at the end of regulation. The Ravens were at the Dolphins’ one yard line. A touchdown would win the game. A field goal would merely tie, and send the game to overtime. Billick ordered the field goal, the safe call. And the team wanted to go all out for the win. With the Dolphins winning in overtime, many agreed Billick passed on the gutsy call.

There was a time when the Ravens were a gutsy team with swagger. They had some of that last year when they won 13 games. They certainly had that in 2000 when they won the Super Bowl. But under Billick’s coaching this year, they’ve lost it.

In a revealing moment this season, star linebacker Adalius Thomas discussed how he loved escaping Baltimore to play for the New England Patriots. He talked about how Bill Belichik was under control, yet ran a professional organization where all-pro experienced players could blossom. This was a direct dig at Billick.

If the Ravens had beaten the Patriots when they met, Thomas’ comments would be chalked up as so much talk, but now they look very insightful. If the Ravens had beaten the Patriots to end that team's winning streak, that would have made the Ravens’ season. If they had escaped Miami with a win, that would have left them some dignity. Any one of those, and they would not be on the team’s longest losing streak ever.

Sure, some of Billick’s problems come from the loss of talent: the team handed the Browns their starting backfield of Jamal Lewis and Derek Anderson. Even though that’s the front office’s problem, Billick had a strong hand in dropping both of those players who are instrumental in the Browns’ playoff drive.

Say what you will about mitigating circumstances, Billick is responsible for the Ravens’ mess. This is his ninth season in Baltimore, and he’s got three more years on his contract to clean it up his mess. But his team, like some in the media, now see through him. He needs to go.

Week 16 Office Pool Predictions

Game of the Week: Giants at Bills (Bills)
Upset Special: Eagles at Saints (Eagles)
Chiefs at Lions (Lions)
Buccaneers at 49ers (49ers)
Washington at Vikings (Vikings)
Broncos at Chargers (Chargers)
Cowboys at Panthers (Cowboys)
Browns at Bengals (Browns)
Steelers at Rams (Steelers)
Falcons at Cardinals (Cardinals)
Texans at Colts (Colts)
Ravens at Seahawks (Seahawks)
Raiders at Jaguars (Jaguars)
Packers at Bears (Packers)
Jets at Titans (Titans)
Dolphins at Patriots (Patriots)

Last Week: .750
This Season: .661

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Scotus said...

While there's definitely an argument that it's time for Billick to go, between Steve "Time to Call It a Career" McNair and Kyle "Third Stringer At Best" Boller, the team's quarterback situation has been so awful that he might deserve one more season. Troy Smith looks like the real deal, though, so Billick shouldn't have that excuse by this time next year.

Vikings over the Redskins? You're killing me, Rick.

Rick Rockwell said...

Ah... Scotus... welcome back.

You certainly do have a love/hate affair with the hometown team. I don't know anyone better who can satirize team owner Dan "The Danny" Snyder.

Unfortunately, I think it is going to be a heartbreaker/nailbiter, with the Vikes winning by something like four points.

As for Billick and quarterbacks (something he was supposedly an expert in from his days with the Vikings) he does seem snakebit. But a closer read says he doesn't make a lot of great quarterback decisions. Billick wanted Boller (well, they really wanted Byron Leftwich but they messed that up, and look how that would have turned out... even more disappointing) as much as Ozzie Newsome, the GM wanted Boller. They made their mistake after the Super Bowl by not sticking with Trent Dilfer for a year or two more and grooming someone as his understudy. The Ravens have had at least 11 different starting quarterbacks during the Billick era. That's too much change at that position.

But you are right as usual, the Ravens will give Billick more chances. In this corner though, I think their wasted.

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