Billick opens up, but case remains far from closed

On the Ravens

December 24, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

Lost this week in the many words of Ravens coach Brian Billick was his agenda.

In "The Source: Brian Billick's Weekly Diary" on the team's Web site, Billick finally admits to what we've known since the end of 2004: that he lost touch with the team, especially this season when the Ravens were expected to make a Super Bowl run.

His mea culpa talked of his inability to give the Ravens the best opportunity to succeed. He even followed up with a mea maxima culpa by declaring: "I am not sure I have kept this focus of priorities properly for this team."

There's more.

"In the last two weeks, I hope that I can re-establish that sense of priority for this team for now and in the future," Billick wrote. "What we do these last two weeks can have a very tangible effect on our success in the future. I do not want to let pass by these two chances to re-establish the focus, passion and sense of accountability we have to each other and this organization.

"This begins first and foremost with me, and I intend to live up to that obligation by rededicating myself to the fundamental reason I love this job: a love for coaching and all that accompanies the obligations of being a coach/teacher. It is my hope that this last month of the season the players have sensed that rededication in me and know I will do everything I can to carry that mentality into next year."

Enough of the confession. What's the purpose?

Is this a pre-emptive strike before meeting with owner Steve Bisciotti at the end of the season? Is Billick being refreshingly honest, or is he begging for his job? Billick was asked to elaborate, but his answer echoed his diary entry. So, I called the Ravens' two sports psychologists, but they were both too busy with Kyle Boller.

But I did ask three other head coaches in other sports. One said Billick should have kept those comments private and shared them with his players. Another said he was trying to appeal to the fans, and another said it was obvious that Billick was trying to show accountability while pleading with Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome for one more year if he could win the last two games.

But is Bisciotti willing to give his head coach another year of revolving quarterbacks? Does he think Billick can revive a locker room that has some disgruntled superstars who are tired of listening to an old message? Does Bisciotti ignore Billick's overall record and Super Bowl championship after watching his team slide the past two seasons? Was this year an aberration or a sign of things to come?

And the answer is ...

It's a shame Bisciotti doesn't have a diary.

Ravens left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was selected for his ninth Pro Bowl, and it wasn't because of past recognition. Even though Ogden isn't playing at the same level he was four or five years ago, he's still easily one of the best.

His selection is a testimony to his greatness, and he might be the best ever. Even in his 10th season, he seldom is out of position. Because of those long arms, he rarely allows defensive linemen to get into his body. For a player so big, he has amazing quickness, and that initial punch has knocked a lot of opponents off balance.

Ogden could have easily quit this season, begged off from hamstring and thigh injuries once the Ravens were out of playoff contention. But even late in the game against Denver two weeks ago, he played until the final drive, when he hobbled off the field grabbing the back of his thighs.

In the Ravens' brief history, no player has had more impact on the franchise than middle linebacker Ray Lewis. But from a pure technical standpoint, Ogden is the best to ever wear the uniform.

The Ravens have not reopened negotiations with safety Ed Reed since September, according to a league source. Reed is under contract for another season in which he will make $2.15 million, but he is a top priority for the Ravens to re-sign.

According to the source, the initial contract offer earlier this season was way below Reed's expectations. Last season, Reed was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. He has missed six games this season with a high ankle sprain, but there has been a noticeable improvement in the defense since he returned three weeks ago.

Without Reed, opposing teams had no fear of going deep over the middle. His backups couldn't cover to the outside of the field. With Reed, it's different because he has so much range and rarely misses tackles.

It would have been nice if the team had reached an agreement with Reed before the season ended because this team has been hampered by money issues the past two seasons.

The Ravens need to make him one of the highest-paid players in the league. They don't need an unhappy player going into training camp. The team had that problem with running back Jamal Lewis going into this season.

There is no need for an instant replay.

Word around the league has Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel out job hunting, either as a coordinator, but preferably as a head coach.

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