As the Ravens near a possible roster makeover, they are committed to keeping continuity through their coach.
Just three days after the Ravens completed their second straight trip to the playoffs, owner Art Modell confirmed yesterday that the club will extend coach Brian Billick's contract.
In his first head coaching job, Billick, 47, has become the second-winningest active coach, compiling a 35-19 record (.648) and capturing a Super Bowl title last season. Only the St. Louis Rams' Mike Martz (25-9, .735) has a better record.
According to Modell, the contract extension is expected to be finalized sometime after the Super Bowl. Billick has three years remaining on his original six-year, $9 million deal.
"I'm going to do something to say more than words to express my confidence in him," Modell said.
The Ravens are showing their support for Billick before entering a challenging period. The team is nearly $21 million over the salary cap and appears headed for a transitional phase.
In his Monday news conference, Billick admitted that there will be change but said the Ravens will remain "extremely competitive."
"I'm appreciative of Art's generosity as we solidify this extension," Billick said yesterday.
Before Billick arrived in January 1999, the Ravens were 16-31-1 in the franchise's first three seasons under coach Ted Marchibroda. The team didn't finish higher than fourth in the AFC Central.
In three seasons under Billick, the Ravens have not had a losing season and became the first NFL franchise to win its first five postseason games.
When Billick was hired, he came with the label of being an offensive guru after being the coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, who had just broken the NFL record for scoring. But Billick has built his head-coaching reputation on the ability to motivate players, rallying them through adversity.
In Billick's first season, the Ravens crawled to a 2-5 start before winning four of their last five to end with an 8-8 record. In 2000, Billick led his team to the Super Bowl after enduring a three-game losing streak as well as a five-game stretch in which the Ravens failed to score a touchdown.
This past season, the Ravens managed to advance to the AFC divisional playoffs despite starters missing a league-high 54 games in the regular season.
"He's taken the team to new heights," said Modell, who will remain owner through January 2004, when minority owner Steve Bisciotti has the option to take control of the team.
"Brian has proven to be at the top of his class. As we enter our period of adjustment with the salary cap, I want to reward him in a measurable way."