Here’s a look back at one of our sit downs with former Ravens head coach Brian Billick from November 1, 2007. At the time, the Ravens offense was struggling and coach explains why those struggles were part of the big-picture plan all along…SERIOUSLY!
Tony Lombardi: Brian, the Ravens sit at 4-3 heading into the bye and the wins thus far have hardly been impressive while the competition even less impressive. Are you concerned about the team and its ability to compete against more formidable competition during the second half?
Brian Billick: If you had told me before the season that our first game after the bye would be played for sole possession of first place in the AFC North, I would have accepted that. I would have embraced that because within the parameters of a season, you have to manage it with milestones. Think of those milestones as rungs in a ladder. The goal is to get to the top and to keep moving in a positive direction. It’s not about where you start the race. It’s about where you finish and when you think about it, we still control our own destiny.
TL: Your effectiveness in the red zone has been highly criticized. Over the course of the last four and a half seasons your offense is dead last in the NFL in red zone efficiency. Since your arrival, the Ravens are usually in the middle of the pack when it comes to scoring points despite a premier defense. Isn’t that evidence enough that your system is flawed and that you need a completely new and fresh approach to managing the offense?
BB: Red zone efficiency and scoring points in the NFL are both highly overrated. Timely scoring is the key and I think we’ve proven that during my tenure here in Baltimore that we’ve made the most of our limited points. It’s important for us to take a lead into the second half. It’s important for us to get out to a fourteen point lead. Have you seen my record when we do both of these things? It is virtually a flawless formula. I think we sit at 53-2 or something ridiculous like that when these things happen. We’ll take our field goals. We’ll take our points. And we’ll win our share of games but I’m telling you it isn’t how you win that counts. It’s all about the W’s baby and I’ve proven, this organization has proven that we know how to get them despite our offensive struggles.
TL: But what if your defense weakens? What if they can no longer consistently be a top 5 defense as they’ve been for so many of your years here in Baltimore? Can your offensive system step it up?
BB: Son do you know anything about history?
TL: Not one of my better subjects Brian.
BB: Talk about a statement of the obvious. Well let me school you as I usually do during these one-sided powwows that allow you to walk away a more enlightened man and me to walk away with 10 minutes of my life that I’ll never ever get back.
Look, the reason that I’m here in Baltimore is due to my orchestration of the most dynamic, omnipotent offense in the history of the NFL while I was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. We scored at will, so much so that we would stop striking downfield just to rest our defense a bit. I enjoyed toying with defenses. When we needed 8 yards for a first down, I’d throw it 5 just to keep it interesting. We tried not to blow out teams, otherwise the fans might head out and stop buying $12.00 beers and $6.00 bags of stale popcorn.
So in a way, I’m doing this organization a favor by keeping games close. Close games keep stadiums full. Close games keep viewers tuned in. Close games are better for business and therefore better for our organization and even the league for that matter.
Tony, you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s not your fault. Your world is narrowed by the blinders of a fan and while I appreciate that passion, I can’t appreciate your black and white vision of the world. Walk in my shoes son. Carry the weight that I carry for 10 minutes let alone an entire season. I have to carefully balance the needs of the fans, players, coaches, front office and ownership and that is hardly an easy task. The Ravens are a very, very successful franchise and I refuse to put that at risk by scoring more points. It just makes no sense to me.
TL: So the offensive system stays?
BB: Finally we are making progress here.
TL: Coach, even your team leader suggested that the offense isn’t doing its job.
BB: Ray Lewis is a passionate player with a radio show. He needs to inject some level of controversy into that show, otherwise it will fail. You and Bart might think about doing the same because buddy boy my show is making your Hot Sauce look more like Melba toast. And that Hot Sauce, Hot Seat segment, how lame is that?
TL: Coach you must be listening to our podcast afterwards since we air at the same time.
BB: Well I have to scout the competition now don’t I?
TL: Perhaps you wouldn’t mind a little of the Hot Sauce, Hot Seat yourself then?
BB: Ok, let’s have at it!
TL: Best quarterback you ever coached.
BB: Elvis Grbac
TL: Best quarterback you never coached.
BB: Kyle Boller
TL: What is your biggest regret since you’ve been the Ravens head coach?
BB: Never having dinner with Mike Preston.
TL: Was there any thought given to trading a fourth round pick to the Raiders for Randy Moss?
BB: Yes but we nixed it when we couldn’t persuade Devard Darling to give up his number 81.
TL: You nearly played professional football as a tight end. Among current players, whose game did yours most closely resemble?
BB: Tony Gonzalez without a doubt. He has great speed for the position, excellent athleticism and strong hands.
TL: But both the Niners and the Cowboys cut you.
BB: Simply a case of semantics.
TL: Why wasn’t Derek Anderson good enough for the Ravens?
BB: We loved Derek but given the composition of our roster at the time, we needed him to sneak through to the practice squad and the plan failed.
TL: Instead you preferred to keep Kordell Stewart and Anthony Wright. What would you say to the growing opinion that the Ravens just can’t develop quarterbacks?
BB: I would say it was invalid.
TL: Gee there’s a shocker. Given a choice would you rather have the Colts offense or the Ravens defense?
BB: If Peyton Manning could grasp our offensive system, I’d have to go with him.
TL: Is Monday Night against Pittsburgh a must win?
BB: It’s more like a mustn’t lose game.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Everyone needs a little levity now and then right? So keep that in mind with yet another fictional edition of “Ask Brian”.