- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- With a Super Bowl ring on his right hand and an optimistic outlook on the 2014 season, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sat down with ESPN.com to discuss his team's image, Joe Flacco's disappointing season and Ray Lewis' opinion that the team lacks leadership.
Are you concerned about your team's image after having three players arrested this offseason?
Steve Bisciotti: "In a general sense, very much so. In a specific sense, not really. You're always concerned about the image, but the fact that they all happened at once, really is embarrassing to us. I think that we have a reputation for having a well-run organization. I don't know whether if they were spread out, whether that would make it better or not. I'm disappointed. I'm not concerned."
You give Joe Flacco a $120 million contract and he follows that up with the most interceptions of his career. How disappointed are you by that? Do you have any buyer's remorse?
SB: "We look at things as a whole. It's well documented that losing Anquan Boldin hurt him but losing Dennis Pitta compounded that problem. When you lose your first and second options, that really hurt. He took an undrafted rookie [Marlon Brown] and gave him 50 balls. We brought in guys like [Dallas] Clark and got him 30 balls. We did the very best we could, and he threw for the most yards he ever had (3,912 yards). So, I don't think it was mechanics. I don't think it was a lack of practice. I do think it's an aberration. I didn't pay him all the money. I made a commitment to pay him all the money. I expect to see great things from Joe."
John Harbaugh wants the Thanksgiving night game in Baltimore to become an NFL tradition. Is this something you will try to pursue with the league?
SB: "I have certainly voiced my opinion that we would like that. But, because of the popularity of it with other owners, I'm not holding my breath that I'm going to win that argument. Our fans got a taste of it [in two of the past three years], and I think the city would adapt to that real well. Anything that ties tradition with football is a home run. I would love it. I have expressed it to the league, but I haven't expressed it to everybody. I'm not done."
There have been a report that you had a heavy hand in the hiring of Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator. What was your influence?
SB: "My participation with Kubiak was zero. I had no idea he was even on the market. I thought he was like Lovie Smith and was going to sit out a year. John was very close and a day or two away from making a choice [for his new offensive coordinator] when he had a conversation with Rick Dennison, who he knows from being a special teams guy. So, they ended up talking and it was then that Rick said he thought Gary would be interested in his job specifically. My impression of Gary is a lot like John in that he's a solid, high-character guy. My reaction was, 'wow.' People can believe what they want to believe, but it kind of goes against everything that I've ever believed in from a tutorial management standpoint that is to give good council, give them good advice and let them make decisions. I still haven't talked to Gary."
With what the Ravens have accomplished in free agency, have you done enough to get back to the playoffs?
SB: "Yeah, but I thought that last year. So it shows how much I knew. I think we've done enough to put ourselves in position to have a typical Ravens draft. That's all I really look at. We knew we were going to lose Michael Oher and Arthur Jones. Getting Eugene Monroe was the first biggie. I was always confident that we were going to keep Dennis Pitta because his wife and Joe Flacco's wife wouldn't allow him to leave. It probably cost Pitta $1 million per year because his wife is best friends with Dana (Flacco's wife). I'm thrilled with Steve Smith, I like the signing of safety Darian Stewart and the trade for center Jeremy Zuttah. From the eve of free agency to yesterday, I think we've had a great offeason and I think we have filled our roster to the point where we won't be forced or steered in an awkward direction in the draft. That's where I really want to be."
After experiencing last season, do you believe in Super Bowl hangovers nows?
SB: "No, I think it's hard to win the whole thing because of the confidence level of the league. It's such a significant thing to do. There are just great franchises like the Chargers who haven't won one. It's killing [Patriots owner] Bob [Kraft], that it's been nine years for him and it's killing [Cowboys owner] Jerry [Jones], that it's been 18 years for him. When you realize how hard it is, I think failing is more of a statistical certainty than it is an indication that there is a hangover. I'm more worried about a trend. This year is almost more important. We weren't going to rig the game to give us a little better chance to repeat. Rigging the game costs you too much down the road. I'm proud that we all agreed to do it a certain way. We weren't going to put ourselves out of contention in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to try to repeat. We didn't do that. We didn't get to the playoffs. I want the feeling of being a champion to still be present in our locker room. I'm more worried if we fail to make the playoffs this year and next, then that institutional feeling and knowledge that would dissipate to the point where we're kind of back with everybody else."
Ray Lewis said there was a lack of leadership on the Ravens after losing Ed Reed and himself. Any merit to that?
SB: "No, I don't see any void at all. I talked to Ray that week and I think he regretted saying it. I think afterward he felt bad because he realized that there was only one way to interpret his words and that is: 'Without me, they don't have it.' I don't think he realized that implication to the fullest extent when he said that. He regretted saying that for that reason. It kind of put the spotlight on him. If he had to do it over again, he wouldn't have brought that topic up. Leadership starts at the top, and we've got Ozzie and John. Players do come and go. The great teams have lost great leaders and have come back to win championships."