Brian Billick on NFL Coaching Hires — “They’re Looking For ‘Young’ and ‘Cheap’”
In the wake of the Baltimore Ravensâ thrilling Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, GuySpeed had the chance to talk with Fox and NFL Network broadcaster Brian Billick, who coached the Ravens to their first Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XXXV twelve years ago.
We talked to Coach Billick about his possible return to coaching, Ray Lewis, his recent work with a company that connects fans with their favorite sports stars and the worst part about winning a Super Bowl.Â
You coached the Ravens to their first championship. When does winning the Super Bowl actually sink in?
Billick: I tell you what itâs such an overwhelming process for me kind of in an odd way. In the infinite wisdom of the NFL, they make the winning coach the next morning after three of the most gut-wrenching, emotional hours of your life and then literally a party that goes all night long, they make you at eight oâclock in the morning get up in front of a couple thousand of the national media. So at about 6 oâclock in the morning I extracted myself from the party and went up to the suite to take a shower and try to refresh myself and had for lack of a better term a panic attack. I had won it in my second year and there was that sense of the enormity of it and, âMy god what do I do now? How do you follow up with this?â So yeah it can be overwhelming and you recognize very early that it has changed your life. I donât know if itâs better or worse, but clearly different.
Does a player or coach ever really get over losing?
Billick: Itâs so hard because until youâve been in a championship game or until youâve been to the Super Bowl you donât really fully understand just how hard it is to get there, just how many things have to happen. Iâm not going to say itâs fate or luck but that certainly has a role and fate will take a hand and you question, âBoy, can I do this again? Can I go through this long arduous trek again? Can all the things align the way they did this year again?â Itâs a little overwhelming because you recognize even if you win it, those with any kind of experience at all have the sense of âBoy, can I ever get back here again?â
Whatâs been your biggest challenge in transitioning from the sidelines to the broadcast booth?
Brian Bilick: Well for me it was a good transition in the sense that being involved with Fox and doing the games on the weekends and then my shows I do for the NFL Network it keeps me involved on a day-to-day basis not only on game day but during the course of the week. It keeps me absorbed with all of the teams in the league — not just the two teams that Iâm preparing for — and then the good thing is that when the seasonâs over, as it is now, your off-season is your own compared to these other coaches.
I promise you both the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers once they get past today and tomorrow will be about the league business going forward for next year. The combineâs coming up at the end of the month, then you have the draft, you have OTAs. Weâre closer to the beginning of next season than we are to the beginning of this last season and thatâs a little sobering to recognizing that the grind never stops. For me itâs nice in that my offseason is a little bit more relaxed than it was when I was coaching.
Your name comes up in coaching rumors frequently. Will you ever leave the booth?
Brian Billick: No, I donât think so. Iâm at the point in my life where Iâve got a new 10-month old grandson and the league has moved in a certain direction. My patented line is, âTheyâre looking for young and cheap and Iâm neither.â And so I think this is a good transition for me. Thereâs a lot of excellent coaches out there and rather than chase that or get back into that grind, Iâm more than satisfied with what Iâm doing now.
You’re currently working withÂ Thuzio, a new online platform that allows sports fans to book one-on-one experiences with athletes, coaches and sports figures.Â Why did you decide to participate in Thuzio?
Brian Billick: ThuzioÂ isÂ a great concept. I do a great deal of corporate speaking which tends to be larger events and obviously more orchestrated and many times more costly events. What Thuzio does is it gives the common fan a chance to tap into over 500 athletes and coaches on a very personal or smaller scale. If you want someone to leave a voice message on your phone, if you want one of your sports heroes or a local or national sports figure to come to your sonâs baseball game or to give a tennis lesson to your daughter or to meet with a small group of friends over a lunch or dinner when youâre in New York or anything of that nature. Or maybe your business — just a small, intimate meeting with a small business. This gives you access to an incredible array of athletes and coaches and professional people that can enhance whatever your personal or professional event may be.
Would it be kind of awkward to hang out with a player who just happened to lose a Super Bowl?
Brian Billick: I donât think so. Once you get into the off-season these players do this type of thing all the time. Itâs fully vetted by Thuzio so you make sure youâre going to get what you pay for, the price is all up front. Youâd be surprised at how willing the athletes, coaches and sports personalities are to do these types of little events. If Iâm in New York and happen to be in the city for a week and someone wants to have a lunch while Iâm there on other business, fabulous. Itâs a way of maximizing the travel and the things that you do. I think people would be surprised at how affordable it may be on a very small scale to have some of your sports personalities come to your event.
How do you think players and coaches differ in how they recover from the Super Bowl experience, whether a win or a loss?
Brian Billick: By nature I think players get over those types of things much quicker than coaches, particularly during the season. It lingers with you as a coach because itâs part of your DNA, itâs part of your job to second-guess. Is there something I could have done differently, what if this play had been different, what if that play had been different? Players usually move on very readily and thatâs probably a good thing. It stays with us coaches way too long, itâs kind of what drives you out of the business eventually. But players get over it pretty quickly.
How do you think this yearâs Ravens Super Bowl winning team will be remembered compared with the 2000 version?
Brian Billick: Theyâre such dramatically different teams obviously and made up different ways and the span of time I think itâs great. For me itâs been very enjoyable because when I was involved with it — you tend to have your blinders on, itâs about you, your circumstance, your team — and now to be just kind of a fan. I live in the greater Baltimore area to get swept up in the emotion of it all itâs been great and the fans have to have the span of better than a decade. The fans are fired up and they fully appreciate it because they know itâs been 12 years since the last time theyâve been able to celebrate this. Itâs fabulous for the city, itâs fabulous for the players. Ray Lewis is the only remaining player from that 2000 team that won the Super Bowl so certainly itâs a new experience for everybody.
Speaking of Ray Lewis, he has played his final NFL game and retires on the ultimate winning note. You coached him from 1999-2007 with the Ravens. Whatâs it like to coach him?
Brian Billick: What you see in Ray Lewis on Sunday is what you get every day in each practice. Something that I always tell people, I think Ray is one of the most compelling natural leaders Iâve ever seen because his passion, his focus, his intensity for the game is so consistent. Thatâs the thing thatâs going to be his hallmark and the fact that heâs been able to bookend his career in almost a storybook fashion. Certainly Rayâs career will go down as one of the great defensive players in the history of this game.
What do Ravens fans say to you when they see you, knowing what youâve done for that franchise?
Brian Billick: Itâs humbling. Itâs amazing how people to this day whether Iâm at the airport or a venue like that come up constantly and are so appreciative and thankful for the championship and will express that and you can see the heartfelt emotion in their eyes. Youâve got to remember these fans were without football for 13 years when the Colts left and went to Indianapolis so I think they have a heightened sense of appreciation for what it is to have a good team like the Ravens organization is right now. They just love their Ravens.
Looking ahead to next season, who do you think we might be seeing in next yearâs Super Bowl?
Brian Billick: Oh gosh weâre so far from that. Obviously I think you can begin with both these teams [San Francisco and Baltimore] because I think theyâre both teams that can extend what theyâve done this year. Theyâve both got good young quarterbacks and thatâs basically what youâre saying at this point in the season because thereâs so much that will transpire via the draft, free agency, injuries before we get to the beginning of next season so when you rate the teams going into next yearâs Super Bowl youâre really rating the quarterbacks. I think these two quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco will rate as high as anybody in the league.
Speaking of young quarterbacks, who are some of the players that have stood out to you this year, especially on the offensive side?
Brian Billick: Youâve got to begin with the quarterback position. RGIII, Russell Wilson, obviously, and then Colin Kaepernick isnât a rookie but heâs only in his second year and some of the really good young quarterbacks and have played so well and gotten their team in a position to be successful. There will be another rush of quarterbacks this year that come in, the expectations seem to be going higher and higher because of the success of the quarterbacks today. Of course Andrew Luck with Indianapolis — who expected Indianapolis to be that good? The quarterbacking future of this league is very good, itâs exciting, and the next crop of quarterbacks will be in and there will be another handful of quarterbacks that will be put in position to start as rookies and weâll see if they can duplicate the success of an Andrew Luck, an RGIII and a Russell Wilson.