There is a clear and present danger in employing a lame duck manager or coach. What might be good for the team isn’t conducive to the survival of the coach. Take for instance this year. Clearly Brian Billick was on the hot seat. One could argue that he managed the team in 2005 for the here and now. He wanted to win at all costs and he seldom used the time, the games that had little meaning in the standings, to evaluate questionable personnel.
Why didn’t Adam Terry see the field? Was he hurt? If not, put him in! What about Jason Brown, Devard Darling, Rod Green, Dwan Edwards, or B.J. Ward? How do you justify giving snaps to Peter Boulware over Rod Green? Wouldn’t that valuable game experience under the fire of live bullets help? Of course it would and it might go a long way towards establishing their value with the team in 2006 and help the Ravens more effectively manage their offseason of fortifying roster deficiencies.
But why didn’t it happen? Why didn’t the youngsters see more of the field in 2005?
Brian Billick might say that winning this season would establish a winning mentality and create momentum heading into the next season. But does it really? What did it do for the Philadelphia Eagles this season? Did losing last year hurt the Chicago Bears this year?
Did Brian Billick have only his best interests in mind by playing the veterans or was it the long term interests of the team?
Yesterday, Steve Bisciotti told the world that Brian Billick needed to change. He put it out there to everyone that Billick would have to take a hard look at the man in the mirror and to channel his positive character and work ethic in a way that would create a new and improved Brian Billick. Might that mean another potential season of lame duck management? Surely if he fails in 2006, Billick will be handed the slip, right? Could that pressure influence a win-now-at-all-costs management style with reckless disregard for the future cap management of the team? Would Billick’s failure in 2006 affect Ozzie Newsome’s future and if so could that sway personnel decisions?
When asked about the lame duck status of his coach, Bisciotti did not mince words: "I don’t care. His [job] security comes from his willingness to change."
Those words hung in the air like a strong odor.
Billick had to be willing to change in order to keep his job — changes that according to Bisciotti, “do not take a brain surgeon to figure out.”
Billick has often talked about being dynamic during the course of his tenure as head coach of the Ravens. Yet he has been anything but. He has seldom admitted to a mistake and when he has, he’s qualified the admission with an underhanded comment aimed at the media in a way that would redirect the blame.
But yesterday was different. Yesterday was very, very different.
Before our very eyes was the head coach with the Teflon exterior who would like you to believe that he’s never erred. That same head coach was undressed before the media by his boss and humbled in a way that was previously unconscionable to the media that has covered this team.
Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Imagine your company having a tough year. Production was off, the manufacturing process produced faulty product and deliveries were late all leading to poor sales results. Now comes the performance evaluation and not only will we evaluate you privately, we’ll flog you in public before your peers and tell the entire world what we think you need to do to improve your sales results.
Would you take that? Wouldn’t you look to move on instead of dealing with the ridicule? Would you even consider staying if you had options?
Billick has options, make no mistake about it. He would be hired tomorrow if he were fired by the Ravens today. Zygi Wilf has Billick’s number on speed dial.
Yet Billick stayed. Doesn’t that tell you something?
Bisciotti asked Billick to, “Look at the changes we need you to make and decide whether you’d like to change and stay here, or don’t change and go somewhere else.” Somewhere along the line Billick finally admitted to the error of his ways and he outwardly seems willing to not only change but embrace it for the benefit of the Baltimore Ravens. Why else would he sit through that hour of misery yesterday?
The changing and growth of Brian Billick alone will not produce a winner on the field but it is a good start. Specifically Bisciotti never said what the expected changes are yet he left little room for speculation. Clearly he wants his head coach to be a better communicator internally and externally and not just a mouth piece for the organization. He also wants his coach to guide his team with a fist slightly more clenched.
Will change alone secure Billick’s future with the team? Probably not. Although Bisciotti admitted that while Billick could change and he could demonstrate the growth that both he and Newsome are looking for, the team could still fail and that would affect change in other areas.
But losing gnaws at the core of Steve Bisciotti. He mentioned that he needs to develop tougher skin because in business, you can win 90% of the time but in the world of professional sports, such a winning percentage is unrealistic. Bisciotti somewhat facetiously opened his press conference by saying, "Obviously, I am finishing my second year as full-time owner. I am now 0-2 in the playoffs, so I have the worst record up here. We are fully engaged here; we enjoy what we are doing and we don’t like losing. We are committed to turning it around; we are committed to making the tough decisions.”
Bisciotti aversion to losing bodes well for the fans. His watchful eye on the big picture and his well defined skills as a communicator should promote confidence among those that love the Baltimore Ravens. Whether that invokes confidence within Brian Billick remains to be seen yet no one can deny Billick’s commitment. Not after yesterday.
Yesterday was a necessary step in the right direction along the path of change. Let’s hope that the step is followed by another and then develops into a graceful trot. Otherwise, Kirk Ferentz’ kids will be graduating soon and his presence hangs in the balance.
But that’s another subject for another season.