Billick's official remarks out of bounds

November 07, 1999|By John Steadman

Reflections on the state of the Ravens:

It won't be surprising to see the NFL walk off a penalty against Brian Billick, despite his apology, after the coach impugned the integrity of officials by saying, "I know darn well we're not going to get a call in Cleveland -- no way, no shape, no form, no how. The league would really like to see Cleveland beat us." We'll accept the honesty of an official anytime over that of a coach or player. Billick's comment constituted an insult to every man and woman involved in sports officiating.

What the Ravens desperately need are more assistant coaches. They only have 15, plus two administrative assistants. Remember when Weeb Ewbank won two titles with a staff numbering no more than Herman Ball, Charlie Winner, John Bridgers and Bob Shaw?

If you were paying attention, you'd realize a 4-0 preseason meant little, considering how it took two freak plays, including a missed tackle in the open field, for the Ravens to beat the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. False hopes were raised.

We're not sure the Ravens wouldn't be more effective giving Priest Holmes, their hardest running back, a reprieve from the bench to alternate with Errict Rhett, the top surprise in 1999. It would keep pressure on rival defenses to have to contend with the constant wear and tear created by both Holmes and Rhett.

And whatever happened to Jermaine Lewis, long overdue for a productive performance?

Not wanting to be critical, but it seemed the Ravens weren't ready emotionally or physically in games against St. Louis and Kansas City. That's a coaching responsibility.

Timing the team's wide receivers with a stopwatch isn't necessary. It can be done with a calendar.

Concession food at Ravens games doesn't come close to matching the outlandish prices. The Orioles have a different caterer and offer higher quality at the refreshment stands.

Tackle Jonathan Ogden, at 6 feet 8, 318 pounds, is strong enough to knock down the stadium but by nature is one of the most passive offensive linemen in the league.

One of the most skilled of all Ravens is punter Kyle Richardson, who strikes a football with the fluidity of Sam Snead hitting a golf ball. He never tries to put something extra into a kick, which is why he lofts them high and far.

The Ravens introduced Michael Miller as their Sunday soloist for the national anthem, and he elicited applause from this appreciative listener. Now that he's improvising, even slightly, it's enough to disturb Francis Scott Key and even the Daughters of the American Revolution.

If Billick can coach as well as he talks, then prepare a place for him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, up there with Brown, Shula, Halas, Landry and the rest of the coaching legends.

The most consistent play along the Ravens' defensive line has come from Rob Burnett, who is playing with the enthusiasm of a rookie.

Scott Garceau and Tom Matte leave nothing to be desired as play-by-play and color announcers. They are more competent in their jobs than most of the players' performances they're describing.

It's a vicarious thrill, we're told, for fans to wear the jerseys of their heroes, but most of them come off looking the part of terribly frustrated athletes, including those still paying homage to Vinny Testaverde, who has been two years gone, which, of course, is unfortunate for the franchise.

The best set of linebackers in the league comprise Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper.

Allegations that Tony Banks isn't capable of running an offense shouldn't bother him in the least. The same negatives were applied to Y. A. Tittle and Terry Bradshaw. Banks, though, has every reason to be miffed with those putting out the word that he has trouble assimilating plays. He should merely consider the source.

The psyches of football field-goal kickers and hockey goalies are particularly sensitive, which is why more encouragement, not criticism, should be extended to Matt Stover.

Ravens season-ticket holders are trapped. Many of them might like to register disgust by not renewing, but it means they lose their permanent seat license investment. Just another way for the NFL to allow unethical plundering, something no other business would dare do. Wonder what attorney general Joseph Curran, a grand gentleman and a fair-minded individual, thinks about such abuse of Maryland citizens in a public-funded stadium?

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