Baltimore Ravens: Brian Billick

In responding to a Johnny Manziel supporter, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick delivered his own version of "the money sign."

Billick delivered harsh criticism of Manziel on Wednesday, posting on Twitter that "Manziel proponents say he can be Russell Wilson. I liken him more to Troy Smith...a 5th rounder no longer in the NFL."

Someone on Twitter named "Bflo44," who has a picture of Manziel as his avatar, shot back at Billick with this: "And why would we listen to a coach no longer in the league?”

Billick, who is now an analyst for the NFL Network, delivered the ultimate comeback -- a picture of him wearing his Super Bowl ring.

It is still surprising that Billick never got a chance to be a head coach again. He won a Super Bowl in 2000 -- which he colorfully pointed out -- and guided the Ravens to an 80-64 record (.556) and four playoff seasons.

Some may argue that the reason Billick never got another job was his inability to develop a franchise quarterback. The Ravens had 13 starting quarterbacks in Billick's nine seasons, the last of which was Troy Smith.

Billick's criticism of Manziel went beyond 140 characters. He gave a lengthy and scathing commentary on Manziel for the NFL's official website.

To Bflo44's credit, he took Billick's rebuttal in stride on Twitter:" So I got owned by @CoachBillick Today! Pretty sweet. Fun stuff!"
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Rice has resolved his situation with the court system as well as the NFL, although many will argue both were too lenient with the Baltimore Ravens running back.

The biggest remaining question with Rice is whether he's a legitimate starting running back in the NFL anymore. This is a make-or-break season for Rice, and it will likely determine his future with the Ravens.

Rice is coming off a career-worst season in which he averaged 3.1 yards per carry, which was better than only two other starting running backs (Trent Richardson and Willis McGahee). Now, Rice has to adapt to the running scheme of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, which may not suit the three-time Pro Bowl running back.

Former Ravens coach Brian Billick recently said he believes backup Bernard Pierce is a better fit than Rice because he is a big, physical back who is a one-cut runner. Pierce is expected to fill in for Rice during the two-game suspension.

"So, it's going to be interesting to see if they can get this [running game] cranked up the first couple of games ... what happens to Ray Rice, who tends to be a little bit more of a patter in a hole type of a guy," Billick said on the NFL Network.

Rice will take the field for the first time since his return to the team Thursday, when the Ravens open the preseason against the San Francisco 49ers. His effectiveness will get scrutinized throughout the preseason because it will be his most extensive action until his suspension is over Sept. 12.

He has gained 6,180 yards in his career -- second most in Ravens history -- with his lateral quickness in between the tackles. His style hasn't been the "one cut and go upfield" that is the signature of Kubiak's stretch running system.

The Ravens, though, have seen signs of Rice meshing in this type of ground attack. Running backs coach Thomas Hammock said Rice "looks comfortable" in the new system.

"He’s been very patient with the zone runs, which is something that I believe to be an improvement over the past [few years] -- even two years ago," coach John Harbaugh said.

From 2009 to 2011, Rice was considered one of the NFL's best all-around backs, leading the league in total yards. Last season, he managed one 20-yard run, which was as many as quarterback Joe Flacco had.

Rice has lost 15 pounds since the end of last season and has looked explosive in training camp. It's a critical year for Rice because the Ravens simply aren't going to pay him $3 million in 2015 if he's the NFL's 30th-ranked rusher again.

"Comparisons to years in the past -- we’ll find all that out during the season," Harbaugh said. "But he’s in tremendous shape. I’m seeing him make a good lateral cut. He has really good burst, acceleration is there [and] vision is there. He’s catching the ball well [and his] pass protection has been very good. Ray looks really good.”

 
The Baltimore Ravens announced last week that tight end Todd Heap will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor this season.

While Heap should receive this honor, there is someone else who deserves to go into the Ring as well -- Brian Billick.

The Ravens need to do the right thing and put Billick's name along the facade of M&T Bank Stadium along with the likes of Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis and Matt Stover. Billick turned the Ravens from a losing franchise into a championship one. The Ravens don't win the first Super Bowl in their history in 2000 without Billick changing the entire mindset of that locker room.

Before Billick arrived in January 1999, the Ravens were 16-31-1 in the club's first three seasons under coach Ted Marchibroda. The team never finished higher than fourth in the AFC Central. In nine seasons with Billick, the Ravens reached the playoffs four times, capturing their first Super Bowl title in the 2000 season and winning the AFC North twice (2003 and 2006).

Billick knew the Ravens were talented when he got there, which is why he chose to coach them over the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens had six Pro Bowl players the year before Billick was hired. In one of his first team meetings, he set the tone when he asked them if they wanted to continue to go to Pro Bowls or did they want to win a Super Bowl. An underachieving team with great players soon became a great team with a unified goal.

Critics will say Billick wasn't a great coach in terms of X's and O's. Where Billick excelled was as a master motivator and psychologist. His greatest achievement was keeping the team together in 2000 when the defense was shutting out teams and the offense failed to reach the end zone in five straight games. Not many second-year coaches could have controlled such a delicate situation like Billick.

Teams often take the personality of their coach, and the Ravens certainly did under Billick. He injected swagger and defiance into a team that had no identity. His signature moment came during the 2000 Super Bowl run when the Ravens upset the top-seeded Tennessee Titans. After the game, Billick defended his team’s swagger by exclaiming: "When you go into the lion's den, you don't tippy-toe in. You carry a spear. You go in screaming like a banshee and say, 'Where's the son of a bitch?'"

There are arguments for why Billick shouldn't be in the Ring of Honor. He didn't win a playoff game in his final six seasons with the Ravens. His accomplishments now pale in comparison to his predecessor John Harbaugh, who is the only coach in NFL history win a playoff game in his first five seasons.

But Heap's records could eventually get broken by Dennis Pitta. Peter Boulware, who is in the Ravens' Ring of Honor, has already watched Terrell Suggs shatter his Ravens' all-time sacks mark.

What can't be erased or downgraded is Billick's impact on a fledgling franchise. Billick deserves to go into the Ring of Honor, but I fear his time will never come.
John Harbaugh had a statue erected at Miami of Ohio's "Cradle of Coaches" on Saturday, joining the coaching legends who played college football at the school.

Playing off that honor, let's take a look at where Harbaugh ranks in the "Cradle" of Baltimore's NFL head coaches. In six seasons, Harbaugh has made the case for being the best, which is a significant achievement considering two former Baltimore Colts head coaches (Weeb Ewbank and Don Shula) are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Ewbank captured the most titles in the city's history, winning the NFL championship game in 1958 and 1959. Harbaugh, though, has a higher winning percentage (.651) than Ewbank (.539).

In the same respect, Shula has a better winning percentage (.737) than Harbaugh. But Harbaugh has more playoff seasons (five) than Shula (three) and accomplished something Shula never did with the Colts -- win a Super Bowl.

Brian Billick remains the winningest coach in Baltimore's NFL history with 85 victories, although he may not have this mark for long. Harbaugh is only 15 wins from surpassing Billick, and he's coached three fewer seasons.

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All four coaches left lasting legacies in Baltimore. Ewbank and Billick turned fledgling teams into championship ones. Taking over the Colts in their second year of existence, Ewbank coached Johnny Unitas and the Colts to a 23-17 overtime win against the New York Giants for the 1958 NFL championship, which is often called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Billick joined the Ravens in their fourth year of existence and quickly guided a franchise that had never had a winning season until the 2000 Super Bowl.

Shula and Harbaugh took what their predecessors did and ramped it up another level, elevating both franchises into perennial winners. Shula posted winning records in all seven seasons with the Colts (1963-69), and Harbaugh reached the playoffs in his first five seasons with the Ravens.

The detractors make similar points with Ewbank and Harbaugh. Ewbank's success often gets downgraded because he won with Unitas. Critics point out Harbaugh took the Ravens to the playoffs every year with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed but failed to do so in his first season without those longtime leaders.

Still, it's hard to argue with Harbaugh's results, especially when many raised an eyebrow after the Ravens hired an outside-the-box candidate. Since Harbaugh was hired in 2008, only the New England Patriots have won more games than the Ravens. Harbaugh is the only head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. His 71-38 career record ranks as the fourth-best among active coaches in terms of winning percentage, trailing Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and Chuck Pagano.

But, when it comes to the history of Baltimore NFL coaches, it's difficult to put anyone above Harbaugh right now.
If you were surprised by the Baltimore Ravens giving coach John Harbaugh a contract extension, you're not the only one.

Asked about his reaction to owner Steve Bisciotti adding another year to his deal, Harbaugh said, "I guess the first thing I said was, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because that’s the best I can do and I want to do as much as I can.’ It’s a big statement."

Harbaugh
After the Ravens won the Super Bowl last year, Bisciotti tore up Harbaugh's contract and signed him to a new four-year deal. That didn't shock anyone.

But no one expected Bisciotti to add another year to Harbaugh's contract after last season, which marked the first time that the Ravens didn't reach the playoffs in Harbaugh's six years as head coach. As I wrote Monday, this was a strong vote of confidence from Bisciotti.

Harbaugh, 51, is now signed through the 2017 season.

"You couldn’t get a better leader, or a man that understands group dynamics, understands how to build people up, how to bring together people in a way that is necessary for success and for treating each other with respect," Harbaugh said of Bisciotti. "We have a great leader at the top of our organization and his influence runs through the whole organization. He has a strong hand on what we’re doing that way. He does it in a soft-handed kind of way. He inspires, he transforms and he builds. It goes to Dick [Cass, team president] and to Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] and right through our organization.”

In six seasons, Harbaugh has guided the Ravens to a 71-37 record (.657), including three trips to the AFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl title. He is 15 wins away from becoming the Ravens' all-time winningest coach. Brian Billick had a 85-67 record (.559) in his nine seasons as the Ravens' coach.
The 2015 mid-round pick that the Baltimore Ravens traded for center Jeremy Zuttah is a fifth-round pick, according to CBS Sports.

The Ravens will send that pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for next year's draft, and it's not contingent on playing time or Zuttah making the roster. Baltimore had to give a fifth-round pick in 2015 because it doesn't have one this year. The Ravens traded their fifth-round pick this year to Jacksonville for offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

In fact, the Ravens have traded a total of four draft picks over the past year on offensive lineman. They sent a 2014 seventh-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for center-guard A.Q. Shipley. They gave up fourth- and fifth-round picks in 2014 for Monroe. And they traded another one to the Buccaneers for Zuttah.

“We said at the beginning of the offseason that we would be adding quality players to our line and Jeremy fits that description,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “We are getting a player who has started at both center and guard, and played well at each position. We’re excited to have him as a Raven and believe he can play a significant role for us.”

Here's the rest of your wake-up caw ...
  • The headline for the team's official website -- "Ravens One of NFL's Best With Challenges" -- is a little misleading. During coach John Harbaugh's six seasons, the Ravens challenged a league-high 57 plays and had an NFL-best 28 of those plays reversed. But, when you look at the success rate, there are 11 other teams who had a higher percentage of their challenges reversed.
  • Brian Billick, the Ravens' Super Bowl winning coach in 2000, will no longer call games for Fox after the network didn't renew his contract, The Baltimore Sun confirmed. He had been an analyst for Fox for the past six seasons.
  • New Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith took out a three-quarter-page ad in Saturday’s Charlotte Observer to thank fans for their support throughout his 13-year run with the Panthers. In the ad, Smith wrote: "I will always consider myself a Carolina Panther, and I look forward to the day when I get to come home to celebrate my career, and retire in the city I’ve grown to love and appreciate very much.”

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