On Flashback Friday we take a look back at one in a series of interviews we called “Ask Brian” featuring head coach Brian Billick. This one took place in December of 2007, the last month he would hold the title of “Baltimore Ravens Head Coach”.
Tony Lombardi: Brian, down in Miami you had a chance to win the game by going for it on a fourth and goal from the Dolphins’ one foot line. Conventional wisdom suggests that you go for the win on the road and the tie at home. Yet just as you have many times during this season, you ignored conventional thinking and did it your way. If you had to do it again, would you have gone for the touchdown in Miami?
Brian Billick: What exactly is conventional wisdom anyway? Look had we failed there on the one, then what? Would you then beat me up and say we should have taken the three points? You guys are all the same. You have the luxury of sitting up there in the press box sipping on your mojitos and devouring nachos while criticizing the decisions I make during the heat of the moment.
It all played out exactly as I planned it during those fleeting seconds between snaps. Matt Stover makes that kick in overtime nine times out of ten. So he missed one. It’s all about the law of averages and making wise and safe decisions based upon a defined set of parameters. Those decisions and those parameters provide measurable data, which determine what choices are safest based upon a substantive sampling of probability. We went with that and I’d do it again and again.
TL: What you just described is conventional wisdom coach.
BB: Really? Ok so you see I know what I’m talking about.
TL: But you were on the road and you go for the win there, particularly when you are sporting a record of at 4-9 at the time.
BB: Why should our record factor into the decision. Besides, there were so many Ravens fans there wearing purple I thought it was a home game. Ok, so I got confused. I was even singing that Miami Dolphins song. Catchy tune that is. You know, along the lines of Dancing Queen and Fernando by ABBA.
TL: Clearly the Ravens have had their fair share of injuries. Do you think that can be traced to the lack of physical scrimmaging during training camp?
BB: Training camp was no different this season than last. Last year we were healthy. So how does training camp factor into the injury equation? It seems to me that whenever we do well, no one says, “Hey the team looked fresh at the end. Smart move not busting their asses in August.”
Then when we perform poorly somebody or something needs to be blamed and Camp Creampuff, I mean Training Camp is inevitably brought up.
TL: So there will be no changes to camp in 2008 assuming you are still here?
BB: Absolutely not!
TL: But don’t you think that the entire organization is hiding behind these injuries as an excuse for the miserable season? Your performance or lack thereof is about more than just injuries. You’ve made so many mistakes both physically and mentally and the team at times has looked unprepared and unenthusiastic. Despite that there’s little accountability. The only thing we hear after each loss is that someone played very well and that you will brush it off and prepare for the next game.
BB: We lost our starting quarterback; my son-in-law, I mean our backup quarterback; our left tackle; our sack leader and our starting corners. We lost a big weapon in Todd Heap; our return specialist and promising linebackers in Dan Cody and Prescott Burgess. Aren’t those relevant?
I think given the particulars of a particularly particular set of injuries, we have played particularly very, very, very well.
BB: Without question! Kyle gives us the best chance to win and we owe it to our fans to put the best players available to us out on the field.
TL: Do you really think that is more important to the fans than seeing Troy Smith or some of the other young players play? Couldn’t you make the most out of a wretched season by giving the less experienced players some PT?
BB: I don’t think that some of our younger players are prepared to embrace the dynamics of the NFL. If we put these youngsters on the field before they are ready, we might put them unnecessarily at risk. The damage may be irreparable.
TL: You mean like starting a rookie quarterback on the road on Opening Day against the Pittsburgh Steelers?
BB: Who would you have started in 2003? Chris Redman? That guy was more interested in stocking his tree stand with a couple cases of Skoal.
TL: Would you take Chris Redman back?
BB: I’d rather have him than McNair. Did I just say that?
TL: Speaking of Steve McNair you have hinted that he may have played his last down as a Raven. Does he have a future in Baltimore?
BB: Sure, he could always come back and sign autographs for Man Cave but he’ll need to be careful. Signing thousands of autographs at one sitting leaves you vulnerable. There are any number of injuries that could occur and if you’ve followed Steve’s career, you know that if there’s an injury out there on the football field, he’ll find it. During those signing sessions, it’s possible that some big guy could trip and fall on Steve. He needs to take the proper precautions and be prepared for the worst.
TL: This is considered by most to be the worst Ravens season ever, particularly when you consider the high level of expectation. Are you concerned about your job security?
BB: I have 15 million reasons not to be concerned. If the Big Biscuit wants to can me, then can away. I could go to NFL Network, CBS or FOX and land a studio analyst job in a snap. I could take a buyout on that 15 million, get it as a lump non-refundable payment, pick up a half mil for a season on TV and be ready to take a new team to the Super Bowl by say 2010.
That is my track record you know. A new team might be exactly what I need. I mean after all, you should see the looks on my players’ faces these days when I speak to them. The message is either lost or completely tuned out. It’s the land of confusion. They look like a bunch of pathological liars at a Promise Keepers Convention.
TL: You know coach I must say, that some of your decision-making on the sidelines has led to speculation that you are trying to be fired. For example, on fourth and four from the Seattle 46, down 27-0 with 0:12 left in the third quarter you chose to punt. Coach, that’s ridiculous.
BB: (winks) Next question Tony.
TL: Clearly you are unconcerned about job security. Are you at all concerned about what Steve Bisciotti will say during the January 2 press conference?
BB: Honestly I find those pressers entertaining. You never know what Steve is going to say during those press conferences. Unlike me he doesn’t enjoy the spotlight and what emanates from his lips is highly unpredictable, clearly outside of the parameters of intelligibility and practically bankrupt of any true football acumen. That said I hope I’m not sitting next to him. When you Italians get upset it scares me a little.
TL: What positives can you take away from this season?
BB: Well first there are 5 million of them sitting in my bank account. Then you have Kyle, clearly a more polished quarterback who appears ready to take that next step towards being the franchise quarterback that we always believed he could be. And finally there’s the highly over scrutinized and criticized offensive system and play design. It clearly stood the test of a very difficult season. Despite the injuries and the turnovers, and the false starts and the disturbing number of third and long down and distance sequencing we were able to get Willis [McGahee] untracked.
We also saw that when Todd and Demetrius and Mark Clayton were all healthy, we can be as explosive as any offense in the NFL. And what other offense could get that dinosaur Mason 100 catches? All of these positives combined with what has to be a healthier roster and a young and developing offensive line, we have every reason to believe that 2008 will be a very, very fine season and a very, very successful one and even if it isn’t, I will be very, very wealthy because I still have 10 mil coming to me.
Hey, you think the Big Biscuit might take me out another couple of years? I’m not planning much at this point beyond 2011 so maybe he’ll buy that continuity speech again.
TL: Coach you probably shouldn’t sit next to Mr. Bisciotti during that presser.
BB: Good point! Besides I’m a bit too good looking and me sitting next to him only brings out his obvious flaws all that much more.
TL: This could be JO’s last season and it might also be the swansong for Mike Flynn. Any thoughts on those players that you’d like to share?
BB: (sobbing uncontrollably)
TL: Coach, you ok?
BB: You know Tony (deep breaths, sobbing a little less violently), this is by far the most difficult thing that a coach has to do – say, say goodbye to players who have been with me from the start. Well it isn’t quite as heartbreaking as doing my last radio show with Steve Davis for the season or not seeing Kyle for five months. Come to think of it, it isn’t as bad as missing my massages from Jeff Friday and Bill Tessendorf on Mondays and Thursdays or as bad as missing one of my daughter Keegan’s field hockey tournaments or Damon Yaffe losing his job as the spokesperson for that dietary supplement, but it is bad. I sometimes need therapy for these things. The movie Analyze This was nearly autobiographical.
Uh, what was the question again?
TL: J.O. and Mike Flynn’s last game.
BB: Oh yeah, right. Well J.O. is J.O. He is who he is. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer as is Mike Flynn, perhaps the most underrated player in NFL history and like me a friend to WNST. Those guys are really sweet at NST Tony. I don’t know why you left there.
TL: I had no choice.
BB: Not the right dynamics?
BB: Not the right parameters?
BB: They fired you?
BB: How did you deal with that? I thought GAMETIME was a good show!
TL: It is what it is coach. I think they were threatened by our web presence.
BB: As they should be! So you handled the firing and moved on. Hey, I might need a shoulder to lean on if Steve whacks me.
TL: Yeah but you’ll have 15 mil to comfort you.
BB: Good point. You want a loan?
TL: No just an answer.
BB: What was the question?
TL: Nevermind. You calling the plays next year?
BB: I had fun and I want to have fun again next year. What’s the Biscuit gonna do, fire me ? (chuckles)
TL: Ok, last question…you going to miss Rick Neuheisel?
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Everyone needs a little levity now and then right? So keep that in mind with yet another fictional edition of “Ask Brian”.