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September 1, 2009

Brian's Song

When I heard that Brian Billick had written a book, I was pretty stoked. Finally, I thought, we’ll get the inside story on his surprising dismissal by the Ravens, his up-and-down relationship with Steve Bisciotti, that strange Super Bowl press conference during which he chastised the media for its treatment of Ray Lewis…and a lot of the other behind-the-purple-curtain stuff that we’ve all been wondering about since he was fired after the 2007 season.

So, when the publisher sent The Sun an advance copy of the manuscript – entitled “More Than a Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL” – I waded right in.

billicksunleft.bmpI’ll give Billick this much, he delivers an interesting take on the state of the sport and – in the early chapters – a primer on what it’s really like to be an NFL head coach. He brings along some additional wisdom from the guys he coached for and against, including Bill Walsh, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher and more. And he proves that even a super-focused NFL coach is capable of seeing beyond his own horizon.

In the course of the 250-or-so pages, he travels across the football spectrum, explaining the Cover 2 defense in one chapter and the intricacies of the NFL Network’s various cable and satellite deals in another.

What he doesn’t do is what most readers in Ravenland probably will wish he had. He does not dish on the Ravens front office and Bisciotti. He has very little to say about the dynamic players who helped him win a Super Bowl. There is the occasional rationale for the way he handled a certain situation – the ill-fated attempt to develop Kyle Boller into a franchise quarterback comes to mind-- but the book is really not about the Ravens.

It’s more about Billick expanding his image as a major player on the NFL scene, which should be helpful in his new career as a television analyst and won’t be hurtful to any future opportunity to coach another NFL team.

I don’t know if he was consciously playing it safe for future employment reasons, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I mean, I’ve seen the guy punt on fourth and short inside the 35 yard line. What I do know is that Billick is not interested in fading out of the NFL picture, and this book allows him to project himself more as a football statesman than just somebody manning the Telestrator in the FOX broadcast booth.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but Billick takes a look at the gathering labor storm that is threatening the NFL and offers advice to both the owners and players on how to navigate through it without damaging an extremely successful industry.

The book, which is co-written by Michael MacCambridge and hits the shelves next week, is a quick read that may enlighten you to some of the challenges of putting a winning – and losing – NFL team on the field, but you’re probably not going to come away feeling like you know a whole lot more about Billick and the Ravens than you did when you cracked it open.

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, I’ll be back in awhile with some more specific observations about Billick and his new book, including his aforementioned explanation for why Boller didn’t pan out.

Sun file photo

POLL: Will former Ravens coach Brian Billick coach again, and if so, at what level?

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 6:00 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Just football



Thanks for the summary. I will read the book. As many fans I've had mixed feelings about Billick, but one thing is for certain that is has a vast knowledge of the game

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the book report. Brian is the consumate politician and is smart enough not to burn any bridges so as to reatin his viability. His legacy, at this point is twofold: He brought a Super Bowl victory to Baltimore, and will always be remembered for his stubborn determination to turn a jumpy Kyle Boller into the franchise quarterback, thus ragging out one of the greatest defenses in NFL History in the process.

What, no in depth, "Billick speak" explanation of why it is a imperative to pass for 7 yards when it is 3rd and 10. Thank god that Cameron is not of the mind that you can only take what the defense gives you. I'll pass.

Does Billick mention Elvis Grbac or the many other Ravens' QB's whose careers ended or were cut short under his tutorlege?

Thanks, Pete. seems from your analysis that Billick is taking the high road on a lot of Raven issues - as I expect he would.

However, it would have been nice to hear his take on how, after years of having their backs, his players threw him under the bus during the 2007 season.

They got what they wished for; going form Camp Cupcake to Camp Hardbaugh.

That all said, I think Billick DID wear out his welcome and the Ravens are much better for the change.

I heard that when you get the book it will actually kick the door in and scream like a banshee.

I will always remember Brian for his handling of Trent Dilfer. What a rude thing to do to the man. Brian showed his knowledge as an offensive genius was moot. His coordinators were bland and timid. He did however bring a new life and feel to a team that was destined to a championship. Thank Ted Marchibroda and Ozzie Newsome for drafting those great players. His greatest move as coach was the locker room speach about the SI cover "Titans best team in NFL" after beating them saying "Maybe so...But not today." That was totally cool. The players had to love it.

"There is the occasional rationale for the way he handled a certain situation – the ill-fated attempt to develop Kyle Boller into a franchise quarterback comes to mind--"
Boller was his Billick's bane. Billick never did stop trying to prove that this pick was genius, and it cost us games. Remember a couple seasons ago when the Patriots were undefeated and it looked like Baltimore was going to beat them? It was third and long and short run would have put us in better field goal position to go up by two scores with very little time left. What did Billick do in the national spotlight that Monday night? He tried to put the game away on Boller's arm and had Boller through it to the endzone. Unfortunately, the pass was short and it was picked off. The Patriots then marched down the field for the winning touchdown.

It doesn't surprise me that Billick is still trying to justify this debacle. My guess is that should he ever become a head coach again, he'll do whatever he can to get Boller on his new team, and it will again be his ruin.

Brian Billick, the next NFL commish.

brian was very egotistical
and was a good short term
coach for the ravens.

his demeanor though definitely
rubbed the fans and media
the wrong way in baltimore.

leaving dilfer go without
giving him an opportunity was
one of his many errors.

the chemistry changed very
quickly and grabac and boller
were destined to fail.....

billick on retrospect was
not an offensive guru, just
a lousy decision maker among
many nfl coaches.....


Brian Billick is without a doubt the biggest phony whoever came through the borders of Maryland. He was supposed to be an "offensive genius" and supposed new talent. When he pushed for Kyle Boller to be picked number one, I don't know what he was looking at. I understand Boller is a nice, team type of guy, but when I saw him constantly throw off the wrong foot and displayed those "happy feet", If he was such a great coach, why's he still sitting on the sidelines? The only thing he's got is the ability to "talk". He did a great job talking his way into a big contract and finally someone, realized what he was saying a all BULL. He could sell "Ice to the Eskmo's".


when analyzing any billick product, what the prudent analyst must scrutinize imperceptibly is the schematic associated with the physicality of each individual persona constituting the very framework of the paradigm which will, of course, resonate, setting the tempo for future success and long-term structural integrity. to wit, brian billick was a bad coach with an ego that makes him think he's qualified to write books on developing an offense and the future of the league. hes posturing for goodell's job which is good, because he's not qualified to coach, but which is bad because he is an egotistical tool on whom i would not urinate were he on fire.

There was a time when Baltimore embraced guys who "had our back" ... guys who adopted Baltimore as their home town ... guys who were succesful without always having one foot our the door looking for the "next big job" ... guys who didn't mind ailenating the national media to defend one of our own (i.e. Ray Lewis) ... guys who didn't look Hollywood (unlike Bisciotti and his hair plugs) ... guys who put winning over style points and regularly took bullets for their players, instead of deflecting the blame away from themselves.

The comments to this blog prove that era for Baltimore sports fans in sadly over. We have become an homogenized East Coast sports town where all we care about is winning and being popular in the eyes of the national media. I, for one, miss Billick's individualism, moxy, awkwardness, swagger and commitment to Baltimore. John Harbaugh may be a good person and say what local sports fans want to hear, but to me he's your typical corporate puppet, reciting the company lines and being a good boy. That wasn't Earl Weaver, it wasn't Brian Billick and isn't what Baltimore used to be about.

Brad, you are a GENIUS....Perfect sarcasm!
Billick is a condescending, egocentric, self-promoting, pseudo-intellectual snob! Never heard him once thank Marchibroda for the team he helped put together.

How quickly most forget - Billick can't say anything bad - he's still collecting 5 Mil a year from Ravens! Nobody mentioned that and- who would jettison such a windfall?!

Pete's reply: I don't think that's it, since he'll get paid no matter what. He may not want to look like he's biting the hand that feeds him, however.


That's because it was Ozzie who helped put the team together, not Ted. And Ozzie he thanked multiple times.

Some of you (JO et al) are revisionist historians, or jealous, or just not smart enough to appreciate what Billick did for this town. Was he perfect? No - but we have a Super Bowl trophy and a solid foundation for the good teams we have had all through the years since he got here in 1999. For that we should be thankful - and most are.

fire Mike Preston

Don't you find it curious that when a player succeeds what a genius Ozzie is but when a player tanks, what a bum Brian was. I find it hard to believe that Dilfer and Grbac was a Brian only decision. LOL

Phil Savage, the Baltimore Ravens' personnel director, had a wild thought during his Saturday morning jog: What if we can somehow get two of the top 10 picks on our board? The vision, embraced by general manager Ozzie Newsome, was fueled by the notion that California quarterback Kyle Boller would slide in the first round. He did.


I'm wondering if any of these baltimore football experts have any idea who runs the Ravens draft room?

The team spend one first and one second round pick on Boller, only after getting Suggs. Both picks were made only failing to get Leftwich.

Boller was benched after 3 shortened seasons and the second we had a better QB on the roster. He became a serviceable replacement who only poked the lineup because of the eventual failings of Steve McNair.

Do you know Flacco already has half as many career starts as Kyle did as our QB of the future?

Amazing how Boller cost us decades of Lombardi's. Some say ignorance is bliss, I find it embarrassing.

I won't read Billick's bombast, but I am curious to know if he had a good editor or co-author who reigned in his pompous, redundant, self-indulgent, garrulous, excessive prolixity (Look! I can talk like Billick! Aargh!). If ever there was some one who was carried away by the role and surge of his own verbosity, it was ol' B B.

Thank God for Bernie, DCG and especially Phil S. I'm glad there are at least a few people out there with some common sense and a little perspective.

Bash on Billick all you want Ravens fans. The FACT is that Billick took a team that NEVER had a winning season, and for his nine seasons the Ravens had the 10th most regular season wins in the NFL and 1 Super Bowl victory.

This is a FACT. Look it up.

We should be grateful for what Billick gave us, which was a winning attitude that was missing before he came.

If you thought Billick was going to write a "tell all" book, then you don't understand the game. Regardless of your opinion of him as a coach (and mine is that he lost the team and 2007 was a fluke), he won a Super Bowl. Few have done it in their first attempt. Look at the Baltimore/Billick coaching tree. From Jack del Rio to Marvin Lewis to Nolan Ryan to Rex Ryan -- the constant is Ray Lewis and a dominant defense. Probably the most dominant unit over the course of a decade that the league has seen. Billick is a talking head and a BS-er -- perfect for commish and/or the broadcast booth. Can't envision him ever coaching a team again, now that everyone has seen his skills. Boller, et. al. just a by-product of a guy that was a great leader, but a bad coach, especially on offense.

Of course it's not about the's always been about BRIAN !!!!!!!

A better title for anything this master of oral flatulence writes would simply be: B.S. (Billick Speak or......) from the Master.

all brian billick did in baltimore was turn the ravens into winners, bring back a super bowl trophy, and remake a lousy team into a charismatic franchise. . . EVERY coach has an end-of-the-story chapter; that's how pro sports is. so, billick's tenure came to an end. but it was still one of the very best eras in baltimore football history.

billick is verbally adept, which steams less-verbose people because it makes them feel like he's smarter than they are (him talk good, me no like!). but that has little to do with billick, and much to do with his critics' insecurities.

billick took over a bad team. it got good. won it all. that's as simple as i can make it. like him or not, that's a private matter. but the dude was a roaring success here, period, end of argument.

People forget the power struggle that ensued when Billick first came on board. I believe Ozzie had only recently been given the title of GM when Art passed control of the team to his son (when we got better, by the way). Billick had much to say back then, and it was only after the failure of Boller that Ozzie truly took over the reigns.

Pete - I'm interested enough to read it but not to buy it. Care to ship your copy my way?

Brian led the team to a Lombardi, which I'll always have fond memories of. Sure, it seems like the Ravens had the talent for another one, but I'm just as certain - if not more certain - that there are other coaches that would have never broken through.

Now it's time to just kick back and enjoy Harbaugh's resilient bunch.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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