Steve Bisciotti often spoke directly, and openly, to his team’s fan base during Tuesday’s season-review press conference.
The Ravens owner doesn’t regularly do interviews during the regular season, so there was genuine curiosity about his thoughts on the direction of the franchise after the team missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in Head Coach John Harbaugh’s tenure.
Bisciotti understands the passion of Baltimore fans – he grew up a Colts fan – and he said the responsibility to put a good product on the field “weighs on him like nothing else.”
“I understand that I’m bouncing around in this world of public opinion, and ultimately, I have to be true to myself, and I hope that I please most of the fans, and I think that it will,” Bisciotti said. “I think that [President] Dick [Cass] and I have been around town, and we’ve talked to people. We’ve been around the league, and we’ve talked to people. We’re still admired by an awful lot of people that still have an awful lot of faith in the way that we do things around here. I’ve got to take solace in that and do what I believe is right.”
The subject of fan satisfaction was addressed throughout the 70-minute press conference, and Bisciotti was specifically asked about whether he’s concerned with discontent amongst the team’s fan base. Bisciotti acknowledged that he’s heard fan frustration and noticed a few more empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium than in recent years, but he hasn’t seen Ravens fans move into the territory of no longer caring about the team.
“I said apathy is the worst emotion, in the past. There’s a lot more disappointment and anger than apathy, so I don’t think we’re at any kind of critical stage there,” he said.
In terms of fans coming to the games, all of the team’s Permanent Seat Licenses (PSL) remain sold, and there is currently a waiting list to get in line for a PSL when it becomes available. The Ravens have spent about $45 million in stadium renovations over the past four years to improve the gameday experience, and the team will invest an additional $120 million on stadium upgrades over the next two-and-a-half years.
Bisciotti expressed confidence in fans holding onto their season tickets and continuing to come to games.
“The fact that our renewals have always – good times and bad, even back in the ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07 area – our renewals are kind of always in the 97.5 to 98, 99 percent [range]. We have other people willing to buy those PSLs and come in,” Bisciotti said. “We’ve never seen the fluctuations based on our success. ... I think maybe the more we lose, the more [fans] get distracted by other things, and we lose that priority on a Sunday. It’s obviously significant; I just don’t know how much it fluctuates.”
Another common theme during the press conference was Bisciotti addressing the calls from fans and media members that he should make a change at head coach or general manager. Whenever a franchise struggles, fans often call for change, and Bisciotti has heard the criticisms.
But he stressed that simply firing people for the sake of angry fans is a bad business model, and exuded confidence in the people he has picked to run his organization.
“If I lose 10 percent of my fans because they don’t like my decision-making, what kind of leader would I be if I say, ‘That’s what you guys want, so that’s what I’ll give’?” Bisciotti asked. “I’d have so many people saying, ‘You chicken, you just threw John under the bus.’ So, you can’t win when you have major decisions. You have a million stakeholders that all have opinions, and if I fired Ozzie, they’d say, ‘You’re blind. He’s not the one you should have gotten rid of.’ They’d point to Flacco, and if we benched Flacco, they’d say, ‘You idiot. All you needed to do was get rid of your coach.’ If I fired everybody, they’d go, ‘Oh, my God. The guy is drunk on his own success.’
“I have to be true to myself, and I hope that I please most of the fans, and I think that it will.”