Scott Mitchell is not coming to Baltimore with any grand illusions of turning around the struggling Ravens in just one season, but he feels he is at the peak of his career and ready to take a major step to the next level.
Mitchell, 31, agreed to a one-year contract with the Ravens worth $3 million Tuesday after he was traded from the Detroit Lions. He spoke about his new deal for the first time yesterday as well as his nine-year career, his new team and future.
Mitchell has a tough assignment with the Ravens, a team that has the fifth-best running back in the AFC Central, a suspect offensive line, and no clutch receiver consistently in the lineup.
The Ravens have been through three scapegoats and three starting quarterbacks in three years in Baltimore. The Move from Cleveland, quarterback Vinny Testaverde and head coach Ted Marchibroda bore most of the blame for the first three losing seasons. Testaverde and former starting quarterback Jim Harbaugh are gone, and one-time starting quarterback Eric Zeier seems to be on his way out the door.
Enter Scott Mitchell.
"You look at what Vinny accomplished and he had some pretty good years," said Mitchell. "He goes to the Jets last year and wow, look what happened. I'm coming to Baltimore with that thought entrenched in my mind. The Ravens have some very good defensive players and their major concern is on offense.
"But one of the reasons I came here is that I believe that this team is not too far away from being a solid football team. It takes more than one player. I'm not coming in as a savior or the end-all, I'm just a piece of the puzzle that we need to bring together to make this work."
After nearly two months of discussions, Mitchell was relieved the Lions finally traded him. He threw only 75 passes in 1998, completing 38, and he was benched for the remainder of the season after the second game when he threw an overtime interception to Cincinnati's Corey Sawyer, who ran it back for a game-winning touchdown.
That game virtually ended Mitchell's five-year tenure with Detroit, which included three playoff appearances but no postseason victories. Mitchell left the Lions because of a strained relationship with second-year coach Bobby Ross, who replaced Mitchell with rookie Charlie Batch.
"Last season felt like two seasons. It was brutal," said Mitchell. "I missed playing the Thanksgiving Day game, I missed playing on Monday Night Football, I missed having the opportunity to come from behind in a game. All of these things didn't come up at once, but at different times. I couldn't do anything about it because I was a third-string quarterback. It was hard to come to terms with the situation.
"The benching came as a shock and surprise. I could see if we were out of the playoffs, but it was only the second game and we had Minnesota next, a team that I had played well against over the years. I sat all last season and tried to figure it out. I didn't understand the timing or why. I don't know if I ever came up with a real good reason. I'm not bitter, though, because I'm not the first player that happened to, nor will I be the last.
"I feel a little like this city [Baltimore] when it got robbed of their football team. The team was taken away, but now they have a new life. I thought I was robbed and I'm ready to breathe a new life into my career."
Mitchell said he became a fan of Ravens coach Brian Billick five years ago when he was a free agent with the Miami Dolphins. Billick was with the Minnesota Vikings, who were one of two finalists, along with the Lions, for Mitchell. When Detroit put Mitchell out for trade bait after the season, Mitchell's first option was Baltimore.
Shortly after Billick returned from the Senior Bowl in late January, Mitchell stopped in and met with him at the team's training complex in Owings Mills. Mitchell knew former Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson was Billick's preference, but that's another thing that impressed Mitchell about Billick.
"He is straightforward and when you ask him a question, he gives you an answer and a reason for the answer," said Mitchell. "He is meticulous and a perfectionist. He is a computer guy and when he did research on me, it showed that I was in a lot of pressure situations with several different coaches and coordinators. He also noticed that I was in a lot of third-and-long situations, and that I was fairly successful. He analyzes things, he likes to break things down.
"On the field, he takes what a defense gives you. His judgment is sound and he puts people in position to make plays and execute. I've been around different coaches and offenses before, and I've never had problems picking up an offense. I don't see any problems learning the system here, either.`