Steve Bisciotti has had to deal with some difficult issues in his first two years as the Ravens' majority owner, from an unsettled quarterback situation to a coach on the hot seat to an underachieving 6-10 season.
In his lengthiest interview since initially taking over the team, Bisciotti talked yesterday with Sun reporter Jamison Hensley at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., about his faith in quarterback Kyle Boller, his support of coach Brian Billick and his expectation to reach the playoffs for the first time in his ownership.
What's your favorite part about being an owner?
Winning. I've gotten a lot more involved in the offseason stuff. I really like the business side of it. I love the personnel evaluations and the draft preparation. I've been focusing on that more.
What's the worst part?
Losing. It's hard to imagine if you're a passionate fan that someone can care more about a big win or a big loss. I live with that with Maryland basketball. I'm a great fan, but I always sensed that it got to Gary [Williams, coach] more than me. It's kind of hard to put into words. Your competence is called into question when you lose, where my competence isn't called into question when the Terps lose.
You are frequently at the Ravens' training complex. What's your level of participation in football matters?
I have opinions about things, and I'm definitely going to have my opinion heard. I see things from a different perspective. With some of these guys - Brian and Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] - it's kind of the "forest through the trees" syndrome. They are so close [to the team] that sometimes I can bring a different perspective. I care as much, but the pressure isn't on me like it is on them. Sometimes it helps them to hear my point of view.
Are you more hands-on as an owner than what you originally wanted?
No. What I've been focused on is the organizational flow. It's not necessarily changing the people's decisions but trying to change the process that they partake in. Everybody has the same authority they had before I got involved. I'm just trying to change the communication in the building to a model that I think is a little more effective. For instance, I think it is imperative that Brian cares about the scout's opinion on what he's doing. It doesn't take the power away from Brian; it just gives him more arrows in his quiver to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team.
Your communication style has often been described as a "heated" one by those within the Ravens' organization. Would you agree?
I know my two sons would agree with you. I am a Type-A personality, so I can certainly get infected by my emotions and wear them on my sleeve. I'm a happy-go-lucky guy 90 percent of the time.
How did you conduct your evaluation of Billick?
When you lose, you are required to turn over every rock and see if there are ways that we can improve. Dick [Cass, team president], Ozzie and I sat down during the season and asked, "What do we want to do?" People call for heads when you lose. I was determined not to be influenced by that sort of pressure. I don't know how we'll ever build a first-class organization if we're willing to throw the coach and the quarterback under the bus the minute we underachieve. Underachievement comes from a lot of different avenues such as injuries. To turn that on your coach and say he's a failure, it's not my style and not a healthy way to run a business. I don't want people to come to work worried about their job security. I just want them to be open to listen and learn and get perspective from everyone else.
Was there a point where the decision regarding Billick could have gone the other way?
Absolutely. That's why we felt it was important to include Brian in that process and to tell him there were things we wanted him to change.
Even though Billick survived, are you concerned that he will now be perceived as a lame-duck coach?
It bothers me, but it's something completely out of my control. As long as we're communicating effectively internally, I can't worry about what other people think. For every person that has an opinion on talk radio, there is somebody driving along 695 totally disagreeing with him. The vocal minority is going to be out there saying Kyle isn't good enough to be a quarterback and Brian isn't good enough to be a coach. We just have to be happy with what we're doing and be pleased with each other. When that changes, we've got to change our personnel. I think we're going in the right direction, and we'll be rewarded with our patience, honesty and communication.
Is it difficult not to be influenced by your fan base?