Brian Billick doesn’t receive phone calls from Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti every day. When Bisciotti called recently, he gave Billick wonderful news.
The Ravens’ first coach to win a Super Bowl will be inducted this year into the franchise’s Ring of Honor presented by Meritage Jewelers.
The 65-year-old Billick won three division championships during his nine-year tenure (1999-2007) and led Baltimore to the playoffs four times. He is the second-winningest coach in franchise history (80-64 regular season, 5-3 postseason) behind current Head Coach John Harbaugh (104-72 regular season, 10-6 postseason).
Billick said it was hard to believe 20 years had passed since he was hired as the second coach in Ravens history. He looked forward to seeing his name listed alongside other Ring of Honor members at M&T Bank Stadium.
“To be a part of the organization, to know that it’s going to be a permanent fixture, means a great deal to me,” Billick said. “My grandsons, they don’t know Pop but any one way, but for them to be able to see that is going to be something special. It’s not something you really think about. When Steve called, it was a surprise. It’s really special.”
Bisciotti said he appreciated not only Billick’s accomplishments as a head coach, but how he has remained connected to the organization and community. Billick and his wife, Kim, live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Billick has a close relationship with Harbaugh.
“I talked to Brian a few months ago and told him how honored we would be, and how lucky we are as an organization, to have had him,” Bisciotti said during a Wednesday press conference at the Under Armour Performance Center. “The fact that you stayed in town, you’ve been such a great friend of John’s says so much about you and your family.”
The Ravens gave Billick his first opportunity to become a head coach, hiring him away from the Minnesota Vikings, where he had been their offensive coordinator and play-caller for a unit that set the NFL record for most points in a season (556) in 1998. Billick quickly led the Ravens to their first non-losing season (8-8) in 1999, setting the stage for Baltimore’s memorable 2000 season.
After reaching the playoffs as a wild card with a 12-4 record, the 2000 Ravens stormed to four straight postseason victories, dominating the New York Giants, 34-7, to win Super Bowl XXXV.
Despite having an all-time great defense led by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, the 2000 Ravens were 5-4 after nine games and needed a late-season push to make the playoffs. With the offense struggling at midseason, Billick made the difficult decision to bench starting quarterback Tony Banks in favor of Trent Dilfer.
A master motivator, Billick forbade players from using the words “playoffs” or “Super Bowl” during the regular season, as a method to keep them focused on each game rather than looking ahead. The Super Bowl was referred to as “Festivus Maximus.” Billick fostered an “us against the world” underdog mentality that was embraced by his players and Baltimore’s fans.
The Ravens caught fire, winning their last seven regular season games and made the playoffs as a wild card in the AFC Central. During the postseason, Baltimore put together one of the most dominant runs in playoff history, winning four games by a combined score of 95-23.
Following the 2000 season, Billick coached the Ravens to at least 10 wins in three other seasons – 2001 (10-6), 2003 (10-6), and 2006 (13-3). His tenure ended following a 5-11 season in 2007.
Billick has spent his post-coaching career as a television analyst, currently with NFL Network. He will serve as an analyst for a third season on the team’s Emmy-nominated preseason broadcasts.
Asked if he missed coaching, Billick smiled.
“Life on the other side’s pretty good,” Billick said. “Doing what I’m doing keeps me close enough to it. I’m usually around the draft sitting on the back of a boat. You want me to go back into a room with no windows, looking at a tackle I looked at last year? No, I’m good with what I’m doing.”
The other former Ravens and Colts in the Ring of Honor are (in alphabetical order) Raymond Berry, Peter Boulware, Ernest Byner, Art Donovan, Todd Heap, Ted Hendricks, Jamal Lewis, Ray Lewis, John Mackey, Gino Marchetti, Michael McCrary, Art Modell, Lenny Moore, Jonathan Ogden, Jim Parker, Ed Reed, Matt Stover and Johnny Unitas. Haloti Ngata, who retired a Raven alongside Billick on Wednesday, will go into the Ring of Honor in 2020.