Billick gets contract extension

Multi-year deal for Ravens head coach worth estimated $4.5 million a season

Ravens Training Camp

When: Tomorrow to Aug.24

Where: McDaniel College

Admission: Free

July 29, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As Brian Billick was finishing up packing for today's move to training camp, the Ravens coach was handed an item that will keep him rooted here for several years -- a new contract.

Billick confirmed to The Sun yesterday he has signed a multi-year deal that will put him among the upper echelon of NFL coaches.

Although both sides declined to disclose the terms or length of the contract, it is estimated to be worth around $4.5 million a season, which would put him just behind the $5 million-a-year club (Washington's Joe Gibbs, Denver's Mike Shanahan, Detroit's Steve Mariucci and Seattle's Mike Holmgren). The agreement with first-year principal owner Steve Bisciotti replaces Billick's previous extension, which would have paid him $3.2 million for the next two seasons.

When talking about the contract, Billick was nearly speechless at one point, a rare occurrence for the usually loquacious, Super Bowl-winning coach.

"Honestly, the new contract shocked me a little bit," Billick said.

It is likely that the deal will lock him up for at least four years and is structured in a way that it could extend further. Coaches' contracts are not filed with the NFL's management council or the players' association, so exact terms are not readily available.

Billick, 50, who has guided the Ravens to the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, ranks eighth among active coaches with a career winning percentage of .598 (52-35 record).

"The way Steve is approaching this contract gives me a great deal of confidence," said Billick, wearing his Super Bowl ring on his left hand. "I want to stay in Baltimore. I have no interest in finishing my career anyplace but with Baltimore and the Ravens. This takes a giant step that way. That's exciting to me and my family."

Bisciotti, who took over majority ownership from Art Modell in April, declined to comment through a spokesman. He has previously said he intends to remain in the background.

When asked at the owners meetings in March about Billick, Bisciotti said, "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."

Tied for fourth among active coaches in tenure, Billick enters his sixth season since helping transform this franchise.

Before he arrived in January 1999, the Ravens were 16-31-1 in the club's first three seasons under coach Ted Marchibroda. The team never finished higher than fourth in the AFC Central.

With Billick, the Ravens had one losing season -- a result of their historic cap purge in 2002 -- and are one of eight teams to reach the postseason three times in four years.

The Ravens captured their first Super Bowl title in his second season (2000) and their first division title last season.

Expectations continue to remain high because the Ravens return 21 of 22 starters from the youngest team in last season's playoffs, including the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year (running back Jamal Lewis) and Defensive Player of the Year (linebacker Ray Lewis).

"Clearly, this is one of the most exciting periods I have been a part of," Billick said.

Billick has taken an unexpected approach to keeping the Ravens in annual playoff contention.

Touted as an offensive genius after coordinating a Minnesota Vikings offense that set the NFL record for most points scored in a season, Billick has made his mark on the Ravens with a suffocating defense, a conservative run-oriented offense and an ability to motivate his players through the toughest of times.

Whether it's been Ray Lewis' trial in 2000, Jamal Lewis' season-ending injury in 2001 or the cap purge in 2002, Billick has refused to let the Ravens bottom out.

"You're not in this job very long that you don't immediately transcend those stereotypes," Billick said.

Ray Lewis said of Billick last year, "He's a true players' coach. He's going to let us voice our opinions about certain things, on and off the field. I think that is why so many guys relate to him. He treats you truly as a man."

A few years ago, Billick had a theory that coaches can only last 10 years with one team because that's the point when either the coach wears out or he wears out his welcome.

Halfway to that mark, Billick said he has revised that stance.

"How far can I go?" Billick said. "At 50 years old, I'm still a young man and I can't imagine not doing this job."

NFL seniority

The Ravens' Brian Billick is tied for fourth on the league's current longevity list among head coaches:

Coach, team Yrs Rec.-x

Bill Cowher, Steelers 13 115-76-1

Jeff Fisher, Titans 10 88-62

Mike Shanahan, Broncos 12 98-56

Brian Billick, Ravens 6 47-33

Andy Reid, Eagles 6 51-29

x-regular-season record

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