Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti

Q & A

speaking volumes

His faith in Billick, Newsome runs deep

March 27, 2007

Coming off the most successful season in his three-year run as Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti has dealt with significant issues this offseason, from signing coach Brian Billick to a new four-year contract to raising ticket prices by an average of $16 to losing two marquee players in Jamal Lewis and Adalius Thomas.

In his lengthiest interview this offseason, Bisciotti talked yesterday with Sun reporter Jamison Hensley at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix about the reasons for his long-term commitment to Billick, his sadness over losing Thomas and his expectations of winning a Super Bowl.

What's your biggest reason for optimism for the upcoming season?

My respect for Brian Billick and [general manager] Ozzie Newsome. Brian responded to my definition of partnership. I think I redefined the coach-owner relationship. Although I was criticized by some people, I wasn't criticized by Brian. I prayed to win more for Brian than I did for myself last year because I wanted statistical results to mirror how much he was willing to listen and grow. I don't know if I have ever been in a position where I was honestly rooting to succeed more for somebody else than I was for myself. It's genuine.

And on Ozzie's side, he proved once again my pride and my partnership with him. He proved once again that he will not react to worries. He resisted the option to reach for [a safety for] four rounds, which was killing [defensive coordinator] Rex Ryan. Then he hands him a fifth-round draft pick [Dawan Landry] and he plays like a second-round draft pick. What a wonderful display of solid management.

What's your biggest concern?

That I would do something to screw it up [laughing]. Clearly, it would be our schedule. You go down the list and almost every team has been extremely successful in the last three-year window, from the Colts to the Seattle Seahawks to the San Diego Chargers to the Cincinnati Bengals to the Pittsburgh Steelers. We could play just as well as we did last year, remain as healthy, and the strength of schedule could cost a couple of games. Then, if we have more injuries - which statistically is very likely - that could knock us out of the playoffs.

Brian Billick is the winningest coach in franchise history, but has no playoff wins since 2001. Why did you make a four-year commitment to him?

Because I was genuine from Day One that I think continuity in an organization is imperative for success. I also said I wanted Brian to be my coach for 15 years. That's only believable if I do things that support that feeling. You can't ask a guy to change and then he makes the effort that he did and not dole out my thanks in increments that are not consistent with what I said earlier. People can say I gave him too long of a contract. They are entitled to their opinion. But I think he got what he deserved.

It was originally announced as an extension. Has it always been a new, four-year contract?

There was erroneous information that was printed. Looking back, it was our fault because I don't think there is any benefit from holding back that information. I think we should have been forthcoming with that information the day we announced it. If anything, it gives the impression that we are not proud of giving him a four-year contract. The fact that we left it up to speculation from a less-reliable source is ultimately our bad. But yes, it was always a four-year deal.

The Ravens recently raised ticket prices by an average of $16, which is substantially more than the $10 increase in 2005. What was the reason for such a big increase?

It is based on a percentage of player cost, which went up 30 percent the last two years. We should have raised ticket prices 30 percent and we settled for something less than that. We knew it was steep. I sound like I'm looking for a pat on the back for only raising it 20 percent when it went up 30 percent. This year, we were forced to do more than I wanted to.

You recently said this team wouldn't be run with "windows opening and closing." How do you get around that with nine of your 22 starters being at least 30 years old this season?

By trusting our scouting department and our coaching staff. We have learned from the past that we paid a lot of money for players to do a job that somebody already on our roster could do just as well for less money. I think we're making a little bit of a change in our philosophy that, in order to be able to afford all these high-priced Pro Bowlers that Ozzie keeps finding, we have to balance that by playing third-, fourth- and fifth-round draft picks when they're still cheap to us.

Looking back at the playoff game against Indianapolis, what was the main reason for the loss in your mind?

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