Dick Cass Opening Statement:"Good afternoon, everybody. [It's] great to see you all here. Let me just start with a few words before I introduce [incoming team president] Sashi [Brown]. First, I want to thank [owner] Steve Bisciotti for giving me this job. I've had 18 great years, and I'll be eternally grateful to Steve. Second, I want to thank all the people I've worked with. [There have been] so many great people over the years; they've made my job a real joy. I've enjoyed coming to work every day. I can't say every moment is the greatest moment in the world; we've had a few losses along the way, but it's not because of the staff. [They've been] hardworking, loyal, everything you'd want for colleagues to work with, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. So, thank you all very much.
"Let me say a few words about how we got to Sashi. I told Steve last September that I was going to retire at the end of the 2021 season. He said, 'Fine, but you've got to help me find a replacement.' So, I began a search. We did not hire an outside firm. I spoke to someone at the NFL I knew, and I could trust, and I told him I was leaving. I said I would like for him to give me a couple of names of people that could be good candidates, either in the NFL office or at other teams around the league. He made some inquiries around the league and telling people he spoke to that an NFL team was thinking about hiring a new president. So, I came up with a list of names there. I spoke to [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] about it. I spoke to [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] about it. Other than that, I didn't tell people … And [I spoke to head coach] John [Harbaugh]. Other than that, I did not tell people here at the Ravens that I was going to retire. I started to talk again to Steve, and Steve gave me two major principles he wanted me to follow when selecting candidates. No. 1, he wanted someone from outside the organization. When I was hired, I came in from the outside. He thought it was helpful and useful to have someone with a new perspective to come in to take my job as president, and I agreed with that. I thought that made a lot of sense, so that was one guiding principle. The second guiding principle is we wanted the person coming in to be someone who was not going to bring an entourage. When I came, Steve told me, 'You come by yourself. Don't try to bring all your friends over here. I want you to come here and get to know everybody, and then after a year or so, maybe you can make some changes if you think you need to.' So, we wanted someone who was not going to insist on having an entourage. So, with those guiding principles … I also know a lot of people around the league. I know other people. So, we came up with a list. I presented a list to Steve of, I think it was six or seven names. I gave Steve the background of the people [and] told everything I knew about them. I made some inquiries about some of the people on the list, and over time, over a 60-day period or so, Steve really began to focus on Sashi's background, resume and experience. Sashi was someone that I knew from my prior life as a lawyer at a law firm in Washington. Ozzie knew him and thought highly of him. Eric knew him and also thought highly of him. We also made a couple discrete inquiries outside our building about Sashi, and they all came back extremely positive. When you look at his background, it's really a strong background. He has a legal background, which is helpful. It's certainly not vital, but it's not insignificant. He had been in two different teams in the league for 13 years or so in total, which gave him valuable experience both on the football side and the non-football side. Most of his experience was on the business side, the legal side of football, not the football [side], but his background on the football side was also helpful. Then he had three years, or so, at Monumental Sports, which owns an NBA and a WNBA team, so he had that experience as well. That was all very valuable. I knew him as a person, and I interviewed him several times very closely this past year. I had a high degree of confidence that he would be really good for us here. Steve also spoke to someone that Steve and I know and both respect, and he knew Sashi and also recommended him highly.
"So, we ended up … Basically, Steve focused on Sashi. We decided that I would sit down with Sashi, negotiate an agreement, and then we would then present Sashi to Steve. So, Sashi and I went down and met with Steve. We took about a three-hour meeting, I would guess, and it went extremely well. I was very confident that it would go well. I thought that they would get along well together, and I think they will get along well together. So, at the end of the meeting, Sashi was offered the job. The only glitch we had, really, was I hoped to talk to our entire organization first. It leaked out, so we rushed out with a press release Friday afternoon or early evening. I still regret I didn't have a chance to meet with the whole organization first and introduce Sashi first to them, but we just didn't have that opportunity. But I think it was a smooth process. I have a high degree of confidence that Sashi is just going to do an excellent job. So, with that, I'm going to turn it over to you."
Sashi Brown Opening Statement:"Thanks – quite thorough, and I appreciate that, [team president] Dick [Cass]. I want to start by doing something I have not done and have gotten razzed about it at home. I want to say hi to my two boys, Ellison and Robeson, my month-old daughter, Ananda, and my six-year-old [as of] two days ago, Zora – hi – and their beautiful mother, Paige. But I want to say thank you to … I want to say thank you to [owner] Steve Bisciotti, as Dick did as well, for this opportunity. It's a great one, [and] it's an honor. I also want to pay some thanks to the gentleman sitting next to me, not only from the Ravens organization, but as a league, I think it's rare to be able to describe a leader as having grace and class, but that's exactly what Dick has represented. He's been extremely steady and wise in his leadership of the Ravens. [He's] someone that I know myself and other executives admire from afar. I've been able to work with him. It's been just tremendous to watch him as a young lawyer and growing up as a front office executive. I certainly have tried to model a lot of what he's represented and will certainly have some big shoes to fill, but I'm excited about the opportunity that he and Steve have afforded me here.
"With that, I would say that I'm extremely honored to be here. This is a tremendous organization and a great city. It's been a great three or four weeks in this transition with Dick as I've gotten to know the staff. I'm really excited to work with the staff here, too. But as the newest member of the [Ravens] Flock, so to speak, I am really, really excited and honored to be part of this organization and part of this community. I won't speak too long, because I know there are a lot of questions, but thank you for the opportunity, and [I'm] glad to be with you all today."
Sashi, with how everything ended with Cleveland, how important was it for you to try to get another opportunity in the NFL? Were you confident there would be another opportunity in the NFL for you?*_(Jamison Hensley)_*
Brown:"No, and I would say that I think probably enough has been written about Cleveland and my days there, and it's time … I've certainly turned the page. I think it's plenty time that we move on from that. Today is really about Baltimore and the Ravens. I didn't come out of or go into any opportunity looking for the next one. Every time that I go into an opportunity … This one is no different; I'm really focused here. That's what I like to focus on and will continue to."
Sashi, what is your immediate focus? And what do you view as some things long term that are going to figure prominently in your time here? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Brown:"Yes, the organization is in really good … Said again, thanks, Dick [Cass]. It's in a really good place. There's just strong leadership across the board on the football side, guys that I've admired and watched and learned from – [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and [head coach] John [Harbaugh] and their leadership. So, I don't have anything that is an immediate focus short-term, other than getting to know the people – the folks on the business side and the football side both. I've had several weeks of meetings, as I referenced before, and [have been] getting up to speed on kind of where we are in the season and getting ready for the fall and summer for the players to come back. Obviously, we have a Draft in a few weeks, but I know we're going to be in great shape under Eric's leadership there. So, I think long-term, the sustained success is really the focus here. That's been the calling card of the Ravens and will continue to be our focus as I come in as president."
Dick, knowing what you know now, 18 years after taking this job, what's the single biggest piece of advice you'd give to incoming team president Sashi Brown at the frontend of his tenure?*_(Gerry Sandusky)_*
Cass:(laughter) "I've given him the same advice that [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] gave to me: your first job is to get everyone to like you. Your job is so much easier if you earn their respect, and you can't earn their respect and you can't get them to like you by giving them more money, either. You have to do it the hard way. (Sashi Brown laughs) You have to work at it, get to know everybody [and] spend some time getting to know people. It'll be much more challenging for Sashi [Brown] because we're such a larger organization than we were in 2004, when I first started. But I think that's very important, and that's actually the advice Steve gave him already."
Sashi, as a follow-up, the flipside of that is what's the No. 1 thing you want to know on Day One in your new job?*_(Gerry Sandusky)_*
Brown:"How'd you do it? How'd you win that Super Bowl? (laughter) Seriously, I think as Dick [Cass] said, I think great organizations are about the people. Every great organization is really the same – it's about the people. So, getting to understand the people and how best … I've asked every group and every individual I've met, 'How has Dick best supported you? What has he provided you in excelling in your respective job?' That's really the question for me. I think you can come in and have these lofty thoughts, but the reality is our greatest strength comes from within in our people here. So, getting to know them, understanding them and forming those relationships is really important and will be the focus for me."
Dick, what did you see in incoming team president Sashi Brown back when you were working with him in the legal setting? Sashi, you mentioned wanting to use Dick Cass' career as a model for your own. Specifically, what about how he's kind of handled operations here is worthy of emulation?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_*
Cass:"What I saw in him is that he's a smart guy. He's very smart [and] has good judgement. He's thoughtful. He always … As a young lawyer, a lot of guys come in thinking they know everything, and, of course, we don't know anything as young lawyers. He didn't pretend to know everything. … You keep coming back to his people skills, his poise and his presence. I think people here will like him. I just think he's going to do an outstanding job. I saw a lot of those qualities in him as a young lawyer, and over the … I've talked to a lot of people who have worked with him in Jacksonville and Cleveland over the years. I remember going to an Owner's Meeting [Annual League Meeting] years ago, and Wayne Weaver was then the owner of Jacksonville, and he was talking about Sashi [Brown] because he knew I knew him. That's been the history of wherever Sashi has gone. The owners of the Cleveland Browns, who let him go, still think highly of Sashi. So, I think that says a lot about him as well, and I saw that in him as a young lawyer."
Brown:"I think composure and the way Dick [Cass] led, it's an attractive quality. When you're around someone in a law firm environment, it's a unique environment, but someone who treated people with care, [who is] extremely, extremely bright and wise … [He] brought a lot of wisdom to some really complicated problems that we were trying to solve for clients. So, just the way he would actually assess, analyze, lead, solve problems and represent clients, in very much a service model – service of clients and service of people around him. But he also taught; he developed young lawyers. There are a number of us out here, because I'm not the only one that comes from the Dick Cass tree. (looks at Dick Cass) You have a tree. But there are a number of us who have all benefited being around him, and I think if you ask the folks here at the Under Armour Performance Center, we hear the same things as I've talked to people here. It's just the ability he has to bring people in, involve them, empower them and develop them. It's infectious and contagious, so it's a great quality, or host of qualities, that Dick has. I saw that when I was younger, and now having been able to work alongside him for the month of this overlap, which has been a tremendous opportunity, it's been no different."
Sashi, you're only the second Black NFL team president. How much do you feel like maybe your legacy here could help open up opportunities, not only here, but around the league for not only minorities, but women who haven't been able to ascend to that position? And is there any way that you feel like that could be part of your legacy in this position?*_(Cliff Brown)_*
Brown:"Well, I would hope so. That's a big, complicated topic, and the first thing I would say is we just shouldn't be here; we shouldn't be here in 2022. And being only the second African American … We still haven't had a woman whose, at this point, ascended, although I think there's probably some arguments there's been one or two that haven't had exactly that title. And we need to do better, Wall Street needs to do better, and the NFL is no different. But I would say, throughout my career, I've looked to Baltimore as a place that, through [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and the model that he represented here, and others – [former offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell – who have come through here that have taken some positions [where] you didn't see Brown, Black faces in, [and] not only take those positions, but excel at championship levels and win those titles, has been a tremendous example. So, I'm hopeful to the extent [that] you certainly want to see more balance and change and opportunity for women and others – minorities – and to the extent that my example can certainly open up some doors, then great, but I hope it's not contingent upon the success of one individual. I think this is something that we as a league, we as an organization need to be committed to, regardless of your background or color or gender. And we will do better here. It's going to be a commitment. I know it's important to [owner] Steve [Bisciotti], it was important to Dick [Cass], [and] that's why Baltimore has been a model on this topic, and we'll certainly continue to be under my leadership."
Dick, first of all, I imagine you've had a lot of time to reflect in the last month or so. Is there a particular moment that you can describe that you cherish from your last 18 years the most? (Melissa Kim)
Cass:"You always have to talk about the Super Bowl, of course. But I think it's hard. I don't measure it in terms of particular moments. What I think about is over the 18 years, how this organization has grown; how we've grown in the sense that the community really looks to us as a source of pride, and I think we've become more and more deeply embedded in the community. We've only been here a little over 25 years, and I think it takes a long time for a professional team to become really part of the community in the way we have. I'm really proud of the way we have really developed into an organization that people look to with a lot of pride. I think that's important in Baltimore, it's important in any NFL city, but I think we're doing a good job with that, and we just have to keep it going."
And Sashi, for you, was there any moment when you were growing up or in your upbringing when you thought that this would be your career and something that you want to do? (Melissa Kim)
Brown:"I wish I could say so, but I wasn't that focused and strategic in my planning. My sister was; when she was four, she said she would be a pediatrician, and she is a pediatrician today. (laughter) I wanted to be an NBA point guard or probably a cornerback, and neither of those came true. So, I'm glad I was able to marry my passion with my profession here, but I can't say that I aspired to be exactly in this place. But I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Sashi, you didn't get to play in the NFL or NBA, but you have now had the opportunity to work in both. How have those experiences in the NFL and NBA been different, and how do you think that NBA experience with Monumental Sports & Entertainment will help you in this new position? (Luke Jones)
Brown:"Perspective. It gives you some perspective. I think from the outside, the leagues look very similar. From the inside, when you live them, they're quite different, and the nuances are quite different. They're very different culturally. But I think taking what I learned in the NFL to the NBA was helpful, and taking what I learned in the NBA back to the NFL will be helpful for me. And I want to thank the folks at Monumental Sports [& Entertainment]. [Majority owner & CEO] Ted Leonsis and his partners were great. It was a great experience for me there. I think I grew, certainly, and have a lot to take away. But seeing a team operation and a business run from the inside, [in] the NBA, was great, and [to] also see how that league operated in that system. So, I won't bore you with all the nuanced details, but suffice it to say, there are some real differences that exist that you can learn from, and that scope and range of experiences and responsibilities helps develop your mindset and how you would approach this opportunity."
Just for both of you, how valuable is this transition to have a month's time together to teach, to learn, to lean, and what have the days been like during this process?*_(Morgan Adsit)_*
Cass:"They've been great. It's been fun to reconnect on a personal level with Sashi [Brown]. We've spent a lot of time together over the last month or so. We'll probably continue the transition for another week or so. It's been really great to get to know him again. It sort of reinforced my feelings about how well-suited he is for this job, as well. So, that's been great."
Brown:"Being able to meet the staff with Dick [Cass] and bounce ideas that I'm hearing from the rest of the staff off Dick and get his perspective has been great. We've shared a lot of stories and laughs over the last month; that was great, too. He's certainly got a better record against me than I [do] against him, so he hasn't been shy about reminding me." [Dick Cass: "But you have more children."] "I do have more children – (laughter) a lot more children. But he has not been shy about reminding me of his win-loss record against me." (laughter)
It seems like we can't go more than 24 hours without a Pro Bowl player being traded. The NFL has just completely gone upside-down in a lot of ways. How do you remain fiscally responsible? I know the Annual League Meetings are coming up. I don't know if you're planning on going, Sashi, but I'm sure that will be a big discussion next week – the way things have changed with some of the positioning and salaries?*_(Jerry Coleman)_*
Cass:"I'll go first. I mean, the great thing about the NFL, and the reason I think the NFL is so successful is because of parody, and parody is driven by the salary cap and the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement] and by the national revenues, which are largely driven by national TV revenues, and we share those equally. So, the fact that some teams are spending more this year, that really shouldn't affect anybody, because you look at the salary cap over a number of years, and you manage to it over a number of years. If you look at the 10-year CBA that expired after the 2020 season, over that 10-year period, the aggregate salary cap, if you add up each of the 10 salary caps, was like $1.526 billion. We ended up spending $53 million over that amount, so, roughly, we're $5 million over [per] year. The cap, in the end, drives you – in terms of cash spending – roughly back to the cap. So, teams might spend a lot of money this year, and next year, three, four, five, six years from now, that'll come back, and they'll have less money to spend. So, I think every year you're going to see some teams spending a lot more money than other teams, but in the end, it comes back to the median, basically, to the salary cap."
Sashi, the price of the quarterback has gone up, and obviously, that's a hot topic in this town with QB Lamar Jackson. Do you plan on dealing with that in any manner, or do you leave that in executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta's hands?*_(Jerry Coleman)_*
Brown:"No, that's in [executive vice president & general manager] Eric's [DeCosta] hands. Certainly, as Dick [Cass] was, I'll be around to bounce ideas off, but Eric's been a master, he's learned from a master, and I think when those transactions [and] volume of transactions go up, I like our odds. Certainly, the Ravens over the years, we have been a group that has been highly transactional and really good at it. And so, they've been able to continue to develop players and transact with players to keep the roster fresh and competitive and keep their marquee players, but also have a pipeline of young talent here, too. So, I think COVID certainly has impacted all the leagues, and that's been a wrinkle in terms of the salary cap and what challenges teams are facing now, just because of the flux there, but this will play out in time. And again, if we line up with the GMs [general managers] – 32 across the league – I like our chances with Eric."
Sashi, before I ask you a question, I want to thank Dick Cass for being such a stand-up guy all these years – always approachable, always the nicest guy in the room. I want to thank you for being that.*_(Kevin Richardson)_*
Cass:"Thank you. I appreciate it."
When you heard that you were replacing a guy who is so highly respected throughout the NFL, what were your first thoughts about receiving the job?*_(Kevin Richardson)_*
Brown:"It places a lot of responsibility on you. As you mentioned, Dick [Cass] has just been such a comprehensively good leader, and he's focused on the right things, he's led through crises. He's been someone who, again, as I opened up, I think the league owes not a small amount of gratitude to. He's just been a model; he's been great that way. And then I look and say, 'Oh, damn. Now it's on me.' (laughter) And so, from my perspective, I really take it seriously, in terms of the responsibility that … You take that baton, and you know it's coming at a good pace – to use a relay and track & field analogy – and so, I think I'm up to the challenge. There are some big shoes that I will not fill entirely Day One, but I look to growing into and hopefully filling out in time. So, it's an important responsibility and charge, just as it is taking over one of the leadership roles here, for this great organization and this great community of Baltimore, and I take all that very seriously."
When you were in the NBA, what was the most important factor for you to decide to come back to football, and most importantly, here, with the Baltimore Ravens?*_(David Andrade)_*
Brown:"It was not an easy decision. As I said, I was in a great place. You're privileged when you're in a career and you're leaving a great opportunity to a great opportunity. The folks at Monumental [Sports & Entertainment] and the opportunities I had there were great, and I built relationships with the athletes and coaches at the Mystics and the Wizards that I'll cherish, and those will be lifelong relationships that I'll sustain, but sitting down with, one, the great revere with which I held the Ravens organization, certainly made me open to listen to what Dick [Cass] had to say. And the more we sat down, and I understood kind of what his role was and what they were asking me to do coming in, [I] became more and more comfortable and excited, truly, about the opportunity. And then you meet [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and it's kind of whipped cream and a cherry on top, because he's just been such a great owner, he has such a great outlook and focus for the organization. So, [it was] not an easy decision, but a great opportunity that I feel really comfortable and confident in taking."
The past few weeks, we've seen the AFC, and the AFC North specifically, drastically improve. How much, if at all, did that change your thoughts on salary cap management, to compete in a division and conference with such an influx of talent?*_(Kyle Barber)_*
Brown:"For me, personally, not much at all. I think you always want to stay aggressive and within your plan, and I think [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and [head coach] John [Harbaugh] have done that masterfully, as a duo and individually. And so, certainly, this is the time of year, and this has been a high-volume offseason, but every offseason there are these headlines, [and] there's going to be some super team on paper, and we'll see when we get to the fall. We look forward to competing."