Billick comments: From A.D. to Bill Walsh

Here's a complete transcript of Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick's remarks to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix:

On Adalius Thomas:
We throw the word ‘unique' around a lot and overuse it, but he's truly unique. I don't know if I've ever come across another player that can not only do what he does but do it as well as he does.
But it's only worth paying him that amount of money if you could really utilize him right. There are a lot of people whose scheme doesn't lend itself to that. I think with Coach Belichick, you could see that would be a team that would covet Adalius because they are one that show a certain level of innovation in being able to use a guy like that. Obviously, they coveted him.
(process of discovering versatility)
He came out of college where you were projecting him from a defensive end to a linebacker which is always tough. There is a transition there, and he was a victim of it for a little while.
He wasn't really just a defensive end so he didn't get to hone those skills. And he wasn't just a linebacker so he couldn't hone those skills. So he was between a little bit and that sets your progression back. As he grew and got more comfortable, that's when his abilities to play in this league and be a dominant player became evident. If you pay all that money and think he's just going to be a seven-technique or a nine-technique coming off the end, you're going to be upset with what you paid. If you just use him as a drop linebacker, you're going to think you didn't get your money's worth. When you look at the total, that's the key. I don't know of another player that you could put in that category.
(how well suited is he to play in middle)
If you isolate A.D. to one thing, then you're not utilizing his strengths. The fact that he does it all.
Coach Belichick is a brave coach and it's not so much not knowing how to use him. The other clubs are committed to certain styles that you'd be very hesitant to change your whole style for one guy. I don't care who that one guy is. [The Patriots'] style is more multiple. So, as you look at it, there would only be a certain type of team to spend that kind of money. New England is clearly a team that will utilize him well.
(what kind of demands does your job put on your family)
The demands we put on our family are extensive. You always ask your family to recognize, ‘No, I don't love my job more than I love you. But you're more forgiving. So, naturally, you're going to get the brunt of it because the job is unforgiving and relentless.' So, if something needs to give, it's going to be your wife and kids because they will. It's tougher on them than us. But oddly enough, if you ask all the coaches' families and kids, you'd be hard-pressed to find one to say, ‘It was terrible and my dad was a bad father.' I don't think you'll find that. I remember my daughter telling me that she'd hope she could find something that she could be as passionate about in her life work as I was. That makes you feel good that they feel good about the value in that. It's tough on the families. But they're not too many of us that get out of it voluntarily.
(remember any tough situations)
I remember the first round of the playoffs in 1996 or 1997 with the Minnesota Vikings. we hadn't won a playoff game so Denny was getting a lot of heat and the wagons were circling a little bit. The rumor was if we didn't beat the Giants, we were going to get fired. Then I was about to put my youngest, who was about eight or 10, to bed on Friday night before I left for New York. And she looked up and said, ‘Daddy, if we lose to the Giants, do I have to leave my friends?' I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, just reach up here and rip it out.' When you get that, it brings it into sharp focus.
(more family stuff)
Then, when we moved to Baltimore, there was never a day that my oldest was a problem. I finally told her, ‘I can't tell you how much you handled all of this because I don't know if a lot of 15-year-olds would be as easy about this move.' She said, ‘Dad, I know this business. My worst fear was that I was going to be in high school and this type of opportunity was going to present itself and I was going to have to leave in my junior year. The fact that I'm going into my first year of high school, I know you can't screw this up in three years.' I said, ‘I appreciate that, honey … I think.'
(what are you not prepared for in that first year as a head coach)
Pretty much everything. You work your whole life so you're ready for this. You come out of the interview process and you think I'm ready to go. Then, you're on the job two days and you say I'm lost.
(prior to last year, was there a time as a head coach that you were tempted to take over the offense)
Yeah, you're always tempted to. You're a little like ownership and fans. Sometimes, you're on the field going, ‘What the heck are you doing or calling?' You have to resist that a little bit because you recognize no matter how confident you're working with, they're not going to do it exactly like you would. You have to hold that instinct off. Quite frankly, you always fall back on that comfort zone.
(What tipped it for you last year)
We were at the point in the season where even at 4-2, the players needed that ultimate sense of accountability that could only come from me. By doing so, it put the responsibility back on me. I said, ‘Ok guys, this is dramatic but I feel like we have to do it. But if you think I'm going to come in here with a magic set of plays or be any better playcaller, you're nuts. We're going to have to do this together or it's not going to work.'
(is the game moving in that direction)
The game goes in cycles. For a while, most of the head coaches called the offense or the defense coveted the bigger role of GM and personnel guy because that's where the money was. That single focal point, picture of the organization model is only so successful. So, now we have this team approach with a top personnel guy. That frees you up to maybe focus more on the football side of it because I don't have to do the other things. It's cyclical.
(do coaches fire coordinators to look for scapegoats)
To a degree. But you do that enough … if you're firing a coordinator for that reason -- and I wouldn't disagree that doesn't happen -- you could lay pretty good odds in Vegas that you're out the door the next year. So, that's not the answer. You had better be doing it for other reasons. The money has escalated. You're paying coordinators now what head coaches were making five or 10 years ago. The expectations are now much higher.
(why weren't you able to keep Adalius Thomas)
The hardest thing in free agency is that when a player leaves, it intimates that you didn't think he was good enough. That's not the case. Everybody has to allocate their resources the best way they can. As much as we would have loved to keep Adalius Thomas, those numbers didn't add up for where we're at and what we needed to address. It doesn't mean Adalius isn't good or that we wouldn't love to have him. What gets you beat in this league is not paying for bad players. What kills you in this league is overpaying for great players. There is a threshold. It varies from team to team and that's not to say New England is overpaying. When I say overpay, I mean overpay given the confines of where you're at in the cap, how it projects out and what your current team structure. That's a lot of balls to juggle in the air.
(thoughts adding communication with defensive player)
There's a lot of things that we can overdue. It was a good thing offensively to have that quarterback-coach communicator. I don't know why the same wouldn't be true for a defensive player. It speeds up the game a little bit. I guess at the end of the day, you have to ask, ‘Why not do it?' I have not heard a viable argument why not to do it.
(issue of Jonathan Ogden retiring)
I had lunch with J.O. when I was in Las Vegas last week. We didn't really talk football. We talked about blackjack, building houses and how kids piss you off. I can't speak for J.O. I believe J.O. will be back. He is just now starting his offseason conditioning. He's doing what he needs to do to get ready. Whether he has definitely made that decision, I think some of that has to do with the [injured] toe. As the toe continues to rehab and starts to feel good, that will have a lot to do with it. If it lingers and he might struggle with it, that would certainly change it.
(what challenges face a head coach to not have an offensive coordinator)
I came into this league as a head coach believing that wasn't a smart thing to do. Most of the critical decisions that you have to make as a head coach happen when you have the ball. When it's third-and-inches at your own 40, the coordinator says let's go for it. It takes the head coach to go, wait one minute, maybe we should punt. What's different for me right now is the support structure I have. I have so many great people around me that I know that I know everything is going to be set up the way I want it. If you don't, something is going to be cheated. There is a lot of guys that have called it right from the get-go and are comfortable with that. But maybe they were a lot smarter, I guess.
(McNair's next step)
What we did offensively -- 67 percent completion and nearly 50 percent on third down -- during the season was phenomenal. He didn't have a great playoff game. I don't think anybody can look at the season and not say he had a helluva year. We got to be better in the playoffs, and he'll tell you that. Like he says, they're going to win bunch of games without me. I'm here to win playoff games and go to a Super Bowl. With that benchmark, he'll tell you I've got to play better. He knows that is his next step with regards to the Baltimore Ravens.
(what will it be like with a whole offseason with McNair)
That's the exciting part for me because we had no offseason. We had a training camp where he had to do a lot more than what a veteran quarterback of his stature normally had to do because he had to learn the offense. He came into the season probably a little more fatigued and not as confident as the system around him. This is his system now. He knows it. To be able to start the offseason [camps] with that, that's kind of exciting to think what we might be able to do offensively with Steve really knowing the offense.
(things that McNair does well)
He throws the ball as well as any quarterback I've been around in throwing while moving in the pocket. He can turn his back to the defense, play-fake and come out of it as well as any quarterback I've had, which lends itself to that 50-50 run-pass balance I talked about. We need to do more of that.
(adding Tomlin in Pittsburgh change dynamics in division)
Anytime you lose -- maybe short of an icon -- what Bill represented, certainly will change it. I don't know Mike real well, but Pittsburgh's been pretty good in their transitions and they're going to be a good football team again.
(Andy Reid) We go back to college together. The demands that this industry puts on you. I've always said, actors marry other actors because they are the only ones that know what this life is about. Not to be too philosophical about it, but until you sit in one of these chairs, it's hard to appreciate what's involved. There is not one of us -- whether it's a tragedy a coach went through last year or what's Andy is dealing -- that you don't realize that this is the life we're in. You're very aware and empathetic about it.
(can Randy Moss bounce back) I think Randy has a lot of upside left.
(what will it take) A re-commitment and focus on Randy's part, which I think he is capable of doing. Getting the right people around him, because you can't do it by yourself. I'm a Randy Moss around him.
(what people need to be around Moss) You have to have a group that has the same agenda and that agenda has to be winning. I believe Randy wants that. I don't think Randy is selfish. I think he believes in his heart of hearts that, if you get him the ball, you'll win.
(versatility at running back) One of the things that drew us to Willis McGahee was the versatility that he represents in both stretch runs, running downhill and catching out of the backfield. Anytime you have a player who is that multiple, that's a positive.
(calling own plays) The positive for me is I enjoy doing it and it brings me closer to the players. The negative is that you all [the media] will now have about 1,200 calls in a given year to shove up my [expletive] anytime one of them doesn't work.
Part 2....
What are your impressions of Bill Walsh? deep thinker?)
Where I don't think Bill gets his full due is it's not just offensively. In every aspect of this industry, Bill had a tremendous intellectual capacity to size up each of the components and how they interact. When I did the book with Bill, and sat with him for a couple weeks, I put a 150-page outline together about what I wanted to know. It was, OK, what does Joe Fan, Joe Coach, Joe Owner want to know about this industry?
And then as the book was going forward, Bill's secretary Jane and I became good friends, because you're constantly on the phone. And I knew his schedule. Because any time he'd come near where I was we'd try to hook up. Any time he had an extended phone call, I'd say, `Uh oh, the faxes are coming tomorrow.' Because he'd get on a plane for four or five hours, and I knew the next day I was going to get a fax of six, eight, 10 pages.
It would be 10 pages, and the first three pages would be on the depth of the receiver on 22-Z-in and the drop of the quarterback. Point 4 would be what the PR guy needs to do during the draft... and then Point 7 would be on the importance of the cap. It was, thank God for computers and drag and drop. It was, that goes over there, that goes over there.
He was like a web site that you'd hit, and then all of a sudden that triggered this, and that triggered this...
The thing I remember about Bill as a teacher, is no matter what the situation, he was a consummate teacher. He was meticulous in his presentation. He never rushed himself.... When he would sit and present a concept - even if it was a concept that had been presented 1,000 other times - there would be a couple salient points that he would come back to. He made sure the players understood: We... HAVE... to...do... this.
It was that purity of that teaching mentality that was a big part of his success.
(What about his ability to spot when players were peaking and get rid of them?)
Classic Bill Walsh. Typically Bill might do it a little ahead of the curve... That guy may have gone on and had a really good year the next year, but that was pretty much it.
(Did that create a motivating fear in the locker room that no one was safe?)
Well, I don't know it was something overt that he was doing as much as, `Guys, this is a business and you all have to perform. You all know that.' Bill was a master of, rather than getting rid of a player who was just about to go off the edge and therefore getting no value, he was the master of doing it when the player was just about there and getting something for that of value.
Bill was a huge believer that when a player hit the end, it was geometric. (Indicates dropping off a cliff) You're done. There was no slow glide. You convince yourself that he's still OK, and he kills you along the way. But when you were done with Bill, you were done.

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