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The 2006 season will certainly be an interesting one for the Ravens.  It might not be a good season, yet it will be filled with intrigue and many sub plots.

First there’s the head coach, Brian Billick.  You’ve got to wonder why he’s even here.  His boss took him out to the woodshed with belt in hand and invited the entire world to watch and listen to the public flogging. 

Change or be changed was the message and according to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to determine what changes Brian Billick needs to make.
But even if Billick makes all of the apparently obvious changes, will that secure his position as the Ravens head coach beyond this year?

Hold that thought…

Let’s assume that Billick hands the keys to the offense to Jim Fassel and he manages his team with more discipline and embraces the scouts’ opinions the way his boss has suggested.  And let’s further assume that the results are the same as in ’04 and ’05. 

What then?

Certainly the odds are stacked against Billick.

Think about it, starting with the defense.  The Ravens don’t have a starting safety and they still have no one who can collapse the pocket and help them flush out the likes of Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger.  They have the NFL’s equivalent of Sybil at one corner and a combustible former superstar at middle linebacker.

On offense, the line has serious question marks that the team so far has chosen to ignore this offseason.  They don’t have a No. 3 receiver currently and they have two backs that don’t make plays in open space and a third who spends more time on the trainer’s table than he does on the field.

And then there’s that lingering question at quarterback.

A ton has to go right for the Ravens to compete with the World Champs, the AFC North Champs and the improved Browns.

The Ravens will open the season on the road.  Under Brian Billick the Ravens are 1-4 in openers on the road and when they tee it up on September 10, they will be 22 months removed from their last win away from M&T Bank Stadium.  In 7 openers under Billick, the Ravens have scored 75 points – in TOTAL!  Their highest output was 17 points at home against the Bears in 2001, led by Elvis Grbac.  In the five road games under Billick, the Ravens have scored 51 points in total.

Odds are the Ravens will be 0-1 heading into the home opener.

Maybe those player friendly camps help the team in December but there’s evidence that suggests the Club Med camps could hurt early in September.

What if it starts worse than 0-1 and it slides to 0-4 or 0-5.  Would Billick be given the pink slip then?

“It won’t happen. That just won’t happen”, said Steve Bisciotti when asked that same question.

That could come back to bite Bisciotti and he could become a target for fans, assuming of course he cares.  In an interview with The Sun’s Jamison Hensley, Bisciotti talked about the influence of fans on the team.

“At the risk of sounding disrespectful, I’m not influenced by them. I can’t be. What goes on in the public and what goes on in the second floor of the complex is two different worlds. I listen and I process. But at the end of the day, we have to be comfortable working with each other. If we start out losing, Brian is going to be on the proverbial hot seat. That’s a shame, because I think it becomes a distraction and negatively influences your team.”

Yes it is a shame and Bisciotti is right, the losing and the wrath of the fans will become a distraction and the negative influences could rear their ugly heads again in the locker room.  And then what?  Jamal Lewis starts criticizing Billick publicly?  Chris McAlister starts going through the motions?  Ray Lewis begins campaigning to finish his career in Miami?

What if Ed Reed finally signs a contract extension that eclipses Ray’s $19 million signing bonus?  How will Ray respond given another losing season and a legacy in decline?
Maybe it gets so bad that Reed doesn’t even want an extension.  He might just want to get out.  Of course there’s always the franchise tag but then there’s a whole host of problems associated with that despised designation.

And then there’s the Ravens heart and soul from 2005 – Adalius Thomas.  He’s a free agent after the 2006 season.  Will he be looking for Julian Peterson money?  (See TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES)  He could and he should.  Maybe even AD won’t want to stick around!

Realistically, a lot more can go wrong than right for the Ravens in 2006.  Brian Billick has to know that.  The personalities on the team haven’t changed all that much.  Sure they might come in with a new attitude and winning could keep such spirit alive.  But if they lose, the team could implode and so far, the evidence suggests that they aren’t ready to overtake the Bengals or Steelers and they might not be able to keep pace with the Browns.

So why did Billick come back?  Why would he want to deal with any or all of this when he could have had a head coaching job elsewhere with more upside?  Did Bisciotti make any promises?  Does he really like the Baltimore area that much?  Is he planning on a broadcasting career after the 2006 season?  Or is he just a proud man who wants to help turn it around?

Give the man credit, he could have bailed yet he didn’t.  That took guts and showed character.  He hung in there.

We’ll see how many other Ravens do the same and that very well could ultimately determine Billick’s fate.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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