Billick deserves to be in Ravens' 'Ring'
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
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 *****?'"
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.