Billick needs to take charge, or else he'll pay with his job

On the Ravens

October 11, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

Move over, Houston's Dom Capers. Slide down, Minnesota's Mike Tice. Make some room, Oakland's Norv Turner, on the NFL's coaching hot seat.

Ravens coach Brian Billick, come on down.

After the Ravens' flag-happy, temper-tantrum-laden and embarrassing 35-17 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, Billick has to be put on the list.

Billick is believed to have two years remaining on his current contract, but the Ravens (1-3) shouldn't keep him around if they keep playing the way they have this season. They have no offense, and no one fears their defense.

But most importantly, Billick has to show that the players haven't tuned him out and that he is still in control of this team.

He didn't prove that down the stretch last season, and he certainly hasn't proved it this year. As a matter of fact, the Ravens look as lost as they did in 1998, Ted Marchibroda's last season as head coach.

In their 25-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 this season, the Ravens had two turnovers, were penalized 10 times for 73 yards and didn't have a first down in the first half. They were smacked around by the youngest team in the NFL.

You thought the Ravens had regrouped some after the ugly 13-3 win against the New York Jets on Oct. 2 because regardless of the circumstances, Billick has always been a fighter. He'll scream, cuss and fight, especially when his back is against the wall, and the Ravens have always been a reflection of their coach.

Until Sunday.

Actually, the team played better from a technical standpoint, but those 21 penalties for 147 yards were disappointing. The most disturbing were the two player ejections, the unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties and the Ravens playing to the image of thugs and misfits that has been projected about them around the league.

Billick warned his team at halftime about arguing with officials, but they shook him off the same way Roger Clemens shakes off a catcher who calls for a curveball instead of the bread-and-butter fastball.

That's why Billick goes on the hot seat. No one knows if he can bring the heat anymore. Yesterday, he tried to defend his soft, player-friendly style. He accepted responsibility for the way his team acted Sunday, but he wasn't going to change his approach or philosophy.

There would be no fines, no disciplinary actions and no rule changes. To paraphrase Billick, everything will remain status quo, only there will be more teaching about "how [the players] left the team vulnerable." Teaching? What is this, Romper Room?

The officiating was horrendous Sunday, but nothing warranted the bumping of officials by two Ravens. There was no reason for Jonathan Ogden to be jumping around because of an illegal hands penalty against Orlando Brown, or for receiver Derrick Mason to slam a ball into the wall because he thought the official missed the call.

If you want to act like a kid, you should get treated like a kid. Even Dr. Phil believes in punishment, but not Dr. Billick. No, sir.

The asylum will continue to be run by the inmates.

That's why the folks in the front office of the Ravens' palace will be keeping an eye on Billick. Just about everything else has failed this year.

The Ravens have four Pro Bowl players on offense, but no offense. They have seven All-Pros on defense, but three are past their prime and three others need spankings.

They brought in a new offensive coordinator, new quarterbacks coach and two receivers, including Mason, but they still have a passing game with a quarterback who isn't set to throw when the receivers come out of breaks.

Ogden is unhappy because the Ravens cut his brother. Reed is silently unhappy because he can't get a new contract. Running back Jamal Lewis is tiptoeing down the sidelines for fear of getting hurt. Ray Lewis no longer wants to be team spokesman.

Wow, what a team. Wow, what a mess.

The Ravens have experienced some of these problems before, for example, contract issues and an inept offense.

But the chemistry problem and Billick's losing control have been eating away at this team for two years. There was dissension a year ago between the stars and blue-collar players.

Billick said his style has worked before, and it did in 2000 when the Ravens had veterans like Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary, Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe.

They worked like men and practiced and played like men. This group is different. There are too many big-money guys who are betraying Billick, a decent man who actually is a good football coach.

But Billick is in his seventh season in Baltimore, a time when an NFL coach's message gets old. The players might be tired of his mind games and speeches, an act that might have worn thin. Yesterday, he said he would defend his approach to the end.

If he can't rally this team, the end might be sooner than expected.

Browns@Ravens Sunday, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Ravens by 5

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