Still fan, Bisciotti discusses his plans

Ravens: Among other things, the soon-to-be owner says he'll be a hands-off boss, except to applaud on Sundays.

Change At The Top

March 30, 2004

Steve Bisciotti will take over as sole owner of the Ravens on April 8, when he will purchase the remaining 51 percent of the team from Art Modell for $325 million. At 43, he will become the second-youngest owner in the NFL.

In his lengthiest interview since joining the Ravens, Bisciotti talked yesterday with Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley at the owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., about the structure of the organization, his expectations for the team and the off-the-field troubles with his players.

Q. After serving as the team's minority owner for four years, what are your emotions just two weeks from becoming the sole owner? Are you nervous or excited?

A. I have a little apprehension with the notoriety aspect of it. I probably underestimated that on my way in. I never went out of my way to get to know Peter Angelos because he was owner of the Orioles, and I was a major fan. I'm not terribly excited about that aspect of how my world is changing.

Q. In many ownership changes - most notably the transition with Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Orioles owner Peter Angelos - there is significant turnover. Are there any significant changes planned?

A. I'm one and done on that issue. Just the Modells leaving and me coming is the major move. I've learned how the Modells do business and have been in agreement with so many things that it wasn't like I was sitting here with a list of changes. I don't have anything in my mind that I've got to do going forward. I think fans will find it boring.

Q. Many owners prefer to be hands-on and take an active role in personnel decisions. How much influence will you have in shaping the roster?

A. When people ask me what's the greatest part of this new experience for me, I say without hesitation, "Being able to walk into [general manager] Ozzie Newsome's office and ask him exactly what he's thinking. And he has to tell me." That's what every fan would like to do. To me, you don't stop being a fan when you become an owner.

Q. Will there come a point where you hear of a free agent and ask Newsome, "Can we get this player?"

A. "Can we get him?" is the key. I am absolutely going to go in there and say, "We got to get this guy." But Ozzie knows that it's not a directive. It's a wish.

Q. Do you ever foresee a time when the wishes turn into directives?

A. No, I don't see that coming. I never ever envisioned this as being the centerpiece of my life. Nothing has changed in those four years. I have never gotten one bit closer to that design of an owner that's going to be making personnel decisions. I'm so unqualified to do that relative to the kind of people that are out there. Even if all my people left, I would have so many talented people in the league that I could tap to put into those jobs that immediately would be much more qualified than me. So, I don't ever see that happening. I never want my ownership marked by whatever you want to define what a hands-on owner is. You want to be involved. You want to be included. You want to be educated. But in the end, you want somebody else that is qualified to do that job to make the ultimate decision and then judge them on a series of decisions.

Q. In the structure of your organization, where do you fit in the chain of command?

A. Ultimately, I would have the responsibility for the hiring and firing of the general manager and the coach. Brian [Billick] would have the authority over all the coaches, and Ozzie would have the authority over all the personnel. I assume that would be the only two people that would need my approval. I think I am extremely fortunate to be walking into my hometown team with a coach like Brian and a GM like Ozzie.

Q. You were involved in signing Newsome and Billick to extensions through the 2006 and 2005 seasons, respectively. How do you see their tenure under your ownership?

A. Ozzie can stay here as long as he wants. The tenure of a GM in the league is longer than the coach, because the coach is the one out on the firing line. In my interaction with Brian, I'm going to be more patient than the average fan, because I know what limitations we are setting in place that he has to live by. I'm very, very comfortable with him, and I hope that I have the longest-tenured coach in the league. I would love for Brian to be here 15 years, and he chuckles and says that there's no way that can happen. All I want is a coach that wants to grow. If he is willing to grow, we could stay here forever. I think Brian is a remarkable guy because he is very easy to deal with.

Q. There has been a growing concern among fans regarding the team's problems on offense. Do you share that frustration?

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