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BILLICK GIVES FINAL THOUGHTS

Friday - 02/01/2001

Brian Billick held his final press conference of the 2000 season on Thursday at the Owings Mills facility. The following is a transcript of the highlights of the discussion. To watch the complete video, click here.

Opening Statement:

I want to start off with some housecleaning things just from the standpoint of there being so many people to thank. Obviously on Tuesday, Mayor O’Malley, Governor Glendening and that whole group; that reception and what happened on Tuesday was something I’m certainly never going to forget. I don’t think the people of Baltimore are going to forget. Just the sheer magnitude of it. The heartfelt enthusiasm. The passion that everybody has. Just being in and about town the last couple of days, people commenting not only on the game but just on Tuesday itself. To be able to partake and be a part of what happened on Tuesday is something that everybody is going to remember for a long, long time and truly it is going to be a benchmark for us and this community. I heard this morning on an editorial that if I understand it Baltimore is putting a bid in for 2012 Olympics. I think what they saw in the community this last year and what they saw on Tuesday, some people need to sit up and take notice of what this community is capable of doing. I hope that the people who are responsible for that will do that.

I want to make note of the people of Tampa, the administrators down there. I can’t imagine anything having gone more smoothly. A Super Bowl going any more smoothly in terms of the comings and goings, the way we were treated, the hospitality, Jim Stead and special operations out of the League office. I know they have had 35 goes at it, but the orchestration of that, the logistics of that, was just amazing to me. There are so many memories that come to mind. I was really thrilled that some of the people that we have put in front of our team, whether it is an Art Berg, a Jim Brown, a Mike Singletary, Joe Theismann from two years ago were able to partake and interact with us down in Tampa because it made it feel like it went full circle. I know that the guys felt the same way. It brought some connection to the things that when you put people like that in front of a team and you try to stress a certain point, you wonder if they really grasp what you’re trying to do or if they understand how to connect the dots so to speak. And when they see it afterwards, I think they do that. There are a lot of memories about the game itself, obviously that will come out and they will be happy to share with you if you’re interested. Just the year itself. I think overcoming the obstacles that we did, the growth of the defense, the big wins that we had along the way, whether it be beating Jacksonville, something we have never done before. The win against Tennessee, then obviously in the playoffs as well. And the individuals. Probably the thing I will remember the most is the individuals, like Kipp Vickers; having to be thrown into a situation in an AFC championship game out of position and performing the way he did. Anthony Mitchell – after being primarily a special teams’ player. I talked many times about him being in NFL Europe and then going through the pre-season and all the duties that he had to have during the regular season and to show up in a playoff game the way he did against Tennessee and have to play the amount that he did. A Keith Washington.

Clearly now, it is the challenges of next year. There are many of them. If there is anything constant in the NFL, it’s change. There is no avoiding it. I’ll say this, the continuity we have been able to provide as we sit here today staff-wise. There is no team in the NFL, and I understand that there could be changes in the offing because I have a very capable staff that I have to give a great deal of credit to. But I think it says something that this staff today is in the same form that it was two years ago when I put it together. There is not another team in the NFL that can say that, not one. There are some that have gone through multiple changes. We also stand here as the Super Bowl champions. I think there is a connection there. That continuity that we have been able to provide is a part of it; administratively as well as coaching-wise, even playing-wise. Change is inevitable and we are going to deal with that change as best we can. We are in the process of doing that right now. The main thing that I try to get these players to do, and I had them do on two separate occasions in the playoffs in a pre-game, is had the look at one another to recognize this will never be the same. You may win another championship, you may have more individual accolades as some point, but this group of coaches, players, administrators will never be the same. Appreciate that, and I think these guys did. I think that is where the emotion came from so much with this club. Not to say that there is going to be radical changes, but the chemistry does change. It is a new challenge every year and that is the challenge for us. It is difficult to go back. Repeating in the NFL appears to be as difficult as it is to repeat in college football nowadays, and for a lot of the same reasons. There are some parallels that can be drawn there.

The immediate priority now becomes free agency, then leading into the draft. Let me say this about that, we’ve talked about it before. We want to keep this team together. We know that is going to be tough in some given areas. The information we need to do this job is not all available yet. It’s not a matter of sharing with you what our plans are. In the first place, even if we were predisposed to do so, which we are not because it is not just good business to lay out what your plans are, and I understand your interest in that. Even if we were predisposed to do that, we don’t have all the facts. We are not even absolutely sure what the cap is this year. That is yet to be determined. Part of free agency is understanding what the draft entails. What can you fill in with that. What are your anticipations there. What is the market going to be. Just by way of an example, if there is a player that you have that you would like to re-sign, you always have to consider if we can’t, what’s in the market. Today there might be five players that you think are equitable, and before you can even talk about what that price might be, between now and free agency, three of them are going to be gone. So, the facts are not all in. It is a constantly fluid environment that we have to react to daily. So, some of our perspective on free agency is not a matter of just being close-vested, it is a matter that we don’t have all the information on yet. It is our intention to hold together as many of these guys as we can. We will proceed as best we can, but there is still a lot of information to be had with that regard, and that is going to have a direct effect on it. Right now, that is our most immediate challenge and one that is going to preoccupy our time through this month. We are kind of fortunate this year. Usually a Super Bowl team has some real challenges in front of it because the free agency day comes so quickly after the Super Bowl and you are definitely behind the curve so to speak, even though we have tried to be pro-active with it. The most difficult thing is to sit down with your coaches and the personnel side and say okay, here is what we were and here is what we have, here’s how we evaluate it and what do we see in the future. The coaches have this week and next week off. We need that time. This is a tired coaching staff. They’ve worked long and hard for a long time and virtually have not had a day off for six months. So, that puts you a little bit behind the curve. Fortunately for us, free agency was pushed back into March so we have some time, but we still have to do that to a degree. There is a lot that has to happen. Whatever observations you make about free agency and our intentions, you need to do so carefully because I can’t tell you right now that I have a firm grip on it because there is just too much information that is not out there.

Looking back on the Super Bowl is there anything you would change regarding arrival in Tampa, media, etc…

No. Again, that was our kind of standard operating procedure. Everything we did we had a specific reason for. Whether it was coming in late on Monday, the things as you all know in my dealing with the press, that again was kind of standard operating procedure for me. For some people, that seemed to upset them that God forbid I would have an opinion, which I am allowed to. Or, that I might want to lay out a certain set of facts for you to help you do your job. I think that’s productive here. Obviously, I’ve schooled you all very well and brought you up to snuff. It is up to you to get your national brethren in on the same page. The idea about the curfew. I thought long and hard about that, about whether I should change it. As I said before, these guys have answered every challenge that I have thrown at them. For me, in the biggest game in their lives, to now say, “You know what you’ve done it up till now, you’ve earned the right to be here, you’re on a 10-0 run, you’ve won the AFC championship, but you really don’t know how to handle this situation, so now I am going to put that curfew on you.” That would not have been right. This team is better that that. I knew they would conduct themselves professionally. I had no worry about that. You always worry about the environment that they are in and the forces that come into play that could intercede. These guys handled themselves with class. As you all know, we just did what we’ve been doing for two years.

Are you bothered by the portrayal of you that came out by the national media…

No. If you didn’t know it before, having gone through that week and that was really my first exposure to that even though you feel that you have a sense of it, the sheer mass of you all, the sheer numbers. As you know, I try to keep up with a number of the things that are said because that is part of my job to help this team and to gauge what this team is facing. To stick your head in the sand and say I’m not going to read the articles and I’m not going to see the pieces, I don’t think you’re doing your job as a head coach. It just became overwhelming. I ended up in the later part of the week just not doing it because it just became so overwhelming. You realize that whatever prospective they’re going to have, they’re going to have. What I did find interesting was that their perception earlier in the week changed. Once they were around us for a week and they saw that this team could be loose yet focused. We could not have the curfew and still conduct ourselves properly. These guys were going to stay very passionate about what they are doing but still stay focused on their job. Just the way I interacted with the media. They saw, I think, a little consistency there. I think that by the end of the week I started seeing signs of the national media, again, when I say national, those that have been here on a consistent basis, I think understood. I got a kick out watching you all on Monday as I was going through my paces a little bit. As everybody was getting all a twitter about it, I got the sense when looking at some of you all, that well “we’ve been here before, let’s move on. Yeah, this is just the way it works.” So, I think that by the end of the week people better understood that.

What is the time table with Ozzie in setting your priorities…

We had some initial meetings about a month and a half ago, just to kind of set a timeframe. We did get a pretty good review with our coaches and with Ozzie and myself prior to leaving. We did that the Saturday before we left for the Super Bowl. Obviously, time was of the essence and it was not at detailed as you would like, but at least we got some initial perspectives. Ozzie and I have talked about it a little bit as we approach, not so much this week or next. When the coaches come back, we will sit down in much more detail. Ozzie will have a lot more information then as to a sense of the existing free agents that are out there. Again, the market is being set. There is going to be a few guys that will be signed over the next two or three weeks that will begin to formulate the market and for you to calibrate those that do go into free agency. Again, we are going to be gathering this information. What looks a certain way today, is going to be different two weeks from now and may change our perspective about what it may take to keep certain individuals.

Has your plan changed now that you’re looking at losing some players off your team instead of trying to acquire some people…

You never go in assuming anything like we’ll get this done and we’ll sign players x, y, & z so we don’t have to worry about that. Unfortunately, even though we are confident that there are a number of players that we intend to re-sign and are confident that we can do so, you have to say that in the advent that we don’t, let’s look at the top players in each of these categories because something could happen. All of a sudden, one of these guys exit that we really had not counted on. You have to kind of cover your bases all the way across the board regardless of how confident you are of re-signing that player.

What about if there is a guy that there is no way we can bring back…

I wouldn’t go that far. Quite honestly, given our success and the things we have done as you look at this, the important this is that when you look at the way we have spent our money over the last couple of years, the last two years in particular, it’s have been primarily with guys that are here. That is good. The re-signing of a Jonathan Ogden. The redoing of certain contracts of guys that have been here. Certainly, we have gone out to a degree. Right now, I would not anticipate the need to go out and sign a high-priced free agent. This is good and that’s a big step. Again, that environment can change and we have to ready for that. As it looks right now, if we can maintain a certain level of what we’ve got, we’ll sign some free agents but they won’t necessarily be at the high end of the free agency and then focus more on the draft. They way, we can hold the integrity of this team together. That is a good scenario going in. But as you know, this team is very capable. We can change gears quickly as you saw with Sam Adams last year. I take a great deal of pride and point to Ozzie and his group of doing a great job of having to change gears at the eleventh hour to deal with a situation that going into free agency didn’t think was going to exist. We have contingency plans and we have shown that we can be pretty good with that.

What about Trent Dilfer and his second year in the system and getting some improved offense with him back…

I think we can to a degree. The biggest plus would be when Trent comes back and indeed if that is to happen, he can feel a little more comfortable and a little more relaxed about this being his position; as relaxed as any player can be. As opposed to him coming in at mid season and not knowing. So, I think there could be a plus from that. Plus, there are some young players. As odd as this may sound, you have to anticipate that Jamal Lewis is still going to get better. Travis Taylor is going to get better. Edwin Mulitalo, Mike Flynn are going to get better for having gone through this experience. The people around him and the relationship with Shannon Sharpe you would anticipate that to be just a margin better. It only has to be so much better for us to be a better offensive team. Again, if you could just make the strides from this year to next that we made from ’99 to 2000 where we went from the lower end to about a middle of the road offense. If we could push ourselves into the top ten offensively, not that that is a specific barometer, bust just in that area, then that holds well for us.

Is quarterback your top priority…

Clearly, just by the nature of the position, that is always a priority per se. There are a lot of different ways. Whether it is our discussions with Trent. As I said earlier, you have to look at what is out in the market so that it something does not turn out a certain way, you have a backup plan. Looking at Chris Redman’s development and that type of thing. That position, like all of the positions, is very important and we will have a clear-cut plan as how we want to approach that.

Is signing Trent your first option…

Again, I want to be careful that I don’t characterize that in a way that makes it look like the others are not important. Because that is the way it will be. If we say that that is the number one thing we are going to do and that is what we’re focused on, then there will be someone else that will say “why aren’t I important to this organization”. We have gone to great lengths to avoid that. To that end I will add this, between now and the free agency I have learned a couple of things in the last two years. One of them is that I can make things very tough on Ozzie sometimes in wanting to be helpful and wanting to help organize things here a little bit. To that end, between now and the beginning of the free agency period, I will not have any comment, privately or publicly, about our players or who we might be interested in. I am going to defer that to Ozzie just for consistency in the way that we approach this. You all do the good mom and dad act. If you don’t get the answer you want from mom, you go to dad. And if they don’t jive absolutely right, then you’ve got your scoop. Ozzie and I meet on a daily basis, but even he and I can’t choreograph our spin exactly right. For consistency sake, I am going to defer to Ozzie in all those situations.

Would Ozzie totally agree with that…

Basically, I’m dumping it on Ozzie’s lap.

What are the conditions that you feel you need to upgrade for next year…

There are a lot of ways to upgrade. There is the upgrade of just being better with the existing personnel you have. There is upgrading in getting depth. Maybe not necessarily in a starting position. I would like to add, I am not going to put these in any particular order and I am going to end up saying everybody, so I will qualify that going in. You would like to add to the depth and abilities of our offensive like in whatever way possible. I think we have a good core of good young offensive linemen. Re-signing Jeff Mitchell is one of those priorities that is important to us. We very much want to have Jeff back. You’d like to augment it in the draft as we did with an Edwin Mulitalo. That would be a good course for us to do and the sublevel free agency. The picking of a Kipp Vickers and Orlando Bobo. To the novice, that may not seem that way, but those were good, solid signs for us. Notwithstanding free agency, we would love to have Priest Holmes back. Priest is a very capable back. Like last year with Errict Rhett, there is somebody that is probably willing to pay Priest Holmes starter money. If there is, it would be hard for us to be competitive. If there is not, we are going to make every effort. I know Priest likes being here. He has been great for Jamal. But I imagine there is someone out there. So, obviously, that could be a priority for us as well. I think our receiving corps is in very good shape. It is young. I am thrilled that we were able to get Marcus Nash back. We are excited about the potential of Germany Thompson who was with us as a free agent last year, and we added him to the active roster the last couple of weeks. I think we are in pretty good shape that way. To get John Jones back healthy and now with a year under his belt. We think there is a lot of potential in John. Defensively, guys like Anthony Poindexter and Anthony Mitchell, Clarence Love. It is going to be great to get Calvin Wilkinson back off of the injured reserve. Pedro Edison, again, a good, young tight end. To get to actively work with those guys is going to be a real positive for us as well. Adalius Thomas continues to improve and I think he is going to be a factor for us along with Keith Washington. We are in pretty good shape. If we can stay pretty much status quo and augment ourselves via the draft, we will be in pretty good shape. But there again, notwithstanding some of the things that are going to happen over the next two months in free agency.

Regarding Anthony Poindexter, what kind of strides to you think he made and what kind of contributor do you think he can be…

We have seen this many, many times when it is the second year after knee surgery. You could say that it is the third, but it is really the second. It was the rehab year which you kind of discount. Last year was really the first year back and we got a lot more out of Anthony than you might have thought possible. Next year, being the second year back as you saw with Rod Woodson and Rob Burnett, we expect a lot out of Anthony and he has a real chance to insert himself more on a regular basis.

Should the rule be changed to have allowed Marvin the opportunity to interview for head coaching jobs during the playoffs…

I think that needs to be addressed. I understand what the league is doing. They’re trying to keep a certain arm’s length from the coaches still involved in the season and theoretically that makes sense. It is bit naïve to think that that is not going to occupy their time and their mind. I just as soon have it be handled at the club level. I think we are grown men and can make our own judgements. Myself as the head coach or certainly Art as ownership, can say once the season is over we will decide what their capabilities are in terms as to whether we want to let them interview or not and let the club handle it in conjunction with the individual. As it stands right now, coaches that aren’t in the playoffs and college coaches which is becoming more and prevalent or typically goes in cycles, have a huge advantage. To be in a competitive market where they can go out and seek these jobs and do those things that you do but a guy that is on a winning football teams has his hands tied behind his back. I think that the League needs to address it out of fairness to those individuals and fairness to the coaches. I am sure that it will be topic of conversation at the League meetings in the off-season. I’m sure the League will defer to how we collectively want to handle this. Much like last year when they decided to take the supervisor’s tag off the League in reaction to the membership. They said, all right, we’ll have the supervisor all tied in with the coordinator’s title. We as coaches, didn’t handle it very well. So, the League wisely said look, there are no titles. A guy under contract can’t go and you deal with that afterwards. I think this could be a similar thing. Let the individual clubs decide how they want to handle and allow those that have the opportunity to interview for a head coaching position. That would be my opinion.

Did you talk to Trent after the Bowl about coming back…

Trent and I talked before. We had a good conversation. We didn’t want it to be a distraction because it would be. We knew the topic of conversation would come up. I made it very clear to him and he understood that there were going to be any number of expert sources that would tell you that a source close to the Ravens says this is going to be this way or that way. He understood that as much as we like the ball boy, we don’t think that that is a viable source to determine whether he comes back or not. He understood what the process was going to be and how we wound follow through with it so that he had a comfort zone. He owes it to himself as his representation would tell him, lets find out all the facts and then we will get into negotiations the way you normally do. We are both very comfortable with how this sequencing is going to happen.

What is the toughest part of being the guy that people are gunning for now…

I think it is the accumulative effect. When you go into any given game, it is not like anybody is going to play harder. It just doesn’t happen. The fact now is, and this team has learned from that, the distractions that we will face, that we learned as we came through the playoffs are going to begin with training camp in a larger way than a team of this background has had to deal with. This team, and I keep coming back to it, has had to deal with it all year long. I think that is something that the national media didn’t account for. The Super Bowl is all well as good, but because of a number of sequences of events training camp started out, given the media coverage, like we were a Super Bowl team. We had to deal with that and had to deal with that issue. This team is going to have some experience with that. I have a lot of confidence that that will help us. It is the cumulative fatigue of having to deal with an entire season with that type of perspective or pressure, that is going to take a little bit different mind set and we will begin to nurture that from mini camp on.

Any different logistics with the idea that we will probably be on Monday Night Football, two or maybe three times – does that change how you schedule a lot of stuff…

Again, it is like this year’s schedule. You don’t approach a year where you start five out of seven on the road. Having Monday night games, having a Thursday night game, having a Sunday night game, there is a routine. We had some continuity, other than the one Sunday night game and a couple of late PM games, we had a pretty good rhythm. That is good and it certainly makes it easier. But again, this team lived through the playoffs and if it has proven nothing it has proved that they know how to handle the changes in travel, not travel, cross country and change in routine. So, we have gained from the experience we have been through and we are going to need it next year.

Do you think there is more pressure on head coaches to repeat than there is to win that initial Super Bowl…

I am fully aware that whatever the sequence of commentary will go with whatever happens the next couple of years. There are going to be those that, if we are successful, at some point will be critical because it is never successful in the right way. If we are less than a Super Bowl champion next year, there is going to be a lot of commentary on why that happened and it will extend back to this year that says last year was a fluke. I was noticing today on the Internet that there were, as is the case when you get into the playoffs, that only one is not going to finish with a loss. I think it was six or maybe seven teams that actually finished the season with a win. With the exception of ourselves, the other six were obviously not in the playoffs. I believe that only two of them had winning seasons or above a 500 season. Which means, you have a whole lot of t’d-off teams that are anxious about the fact that they had a bad season or the finished on a loss. There are anxieties that go with that and they are going to have to handle those same pressures. Regardless of how good a season you had, it wasn’t good enough. That is the mentality. Anything but a Super Bowl win means you were unsuccessful in today’s environment. I am fortunate. For a year, I get to be successful because we finished with a Super Bowl win. But that is the mentality and you have to deal with that and understand that. The most humbling thing to me is to look around and realize how many coaches, great coaches, aren’t standing where I am right now. Some guys that I look to and still think that if I could have a career like theirs, I have to consider myself pretty lucky. There are guys that have not been fortunate enough to stand where I am standing right now and whose careers are going to be looked at in a certain way, even though they have had year after year of winning and playoff appearances and whatever, are going to be viewed with that little bit of a chink because they have never been a Super Bowl champion. It puts it in perspective for you. It is a voracious animal that cannot ever be fed sometimes.

Have your talked to Jim Fassel since the game…

No, I haven’t. I haven’t had a chance. I’ve been asleep for the last three days, to be honest with you. I imagine that Jim is the same way. I plan on giving him a call this weekend.