We had the opportunity to interview Fox Broadcaster and former Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick in the lead up to the Super Bowl. Brian Billick’s interview is courtesy of Thuzio, an online platform for the public to book top sports figures for appearances from corporate and charity to personal meetings and experiences.
Q: It’s an interesting Super Bowl matchup for you, because your former team is in the game, and you call games for FOX and saw San Francisco quite a bit. I think Steve Bisciotti is one of the underrated owners in this league, and I’d like your thoughts on how he set the stage for success.
BB: Well, Steve is one of the best owners in the league for my money. You’re right, not one that you see on the fore front a lot, but he’s a huge part of putting together the culture and structure that he wants for the Ravens, implemented through obviously Ozzie Newsome, Dick Cass, the president, and John Harbaugh, the head coach, but very much a part of–he wants that organization run with a certain interactive culture, and he very much sets the tone for that.
Q: Now in San Francisco, there was a big move they made this season in switching quarterbacks and going to Colin Kaepernick. What do you think of their offense and how it evolved when they made that move?
BB: Well, it’s obviously unique in what he brings to it, but the key is, he can beat you from the pocket, and that’s the key. All this read option stuff, and getting outside the pocket is all well and good, a nice addition and makes you deal with it. But at the end of the day, he’s shown the ability to win from the pocket, like he did in the Atlanta game.
Q: It was obviously a bold move by Harbaugh to make a change for a team that had been in a championship game. You come from some experience on that, back in 2001, you were involved in looking for a quarterback, with Dilfer, Brad Johnson on the market, and Elvis Grbac on the market. Back then, you said:
“We have to change the dynamic a bit if we want to go back to the Super Bowl. I don’t think there’s any mistaking what our intentions are. We aren’t sitting back, We feel these are huge steps in getting us back to the Super Bowl.”
I think you recognized like Harbaugh, that you could not stay pat, things worked out differently, but take us through the thought process there.
BB: Well, it’s an organizational decision. We made the decision that to think we were going to go back and repeat as Super Bowl champs, by being the all-time scoring defense in the league, in history, and by running the ball as well as we did, that that wasn’t going to happen–that we needed that extra dimension.
When we made the change at quarterback, subsequently in training camp we lost Jamal Lewis, we lost our running game, so we really had to rely on the passing game. We found our way back into the divisional round of the playoffs. Like every organization, you have to make those moves that you think will make a difference to ultimately get you to the Super Bowl and win, because that’s the way you will ultimately be judged.
Q: How close did you come to signing with Brad Johnson, who signed with Tampa Bay that year, because you had a prior relationship with him?
BB: Yeah, it was tough for me, because I did have a close personal relationship with Brad, and very much wanted to have Brad, but this was an organizational decision. And so, mistakenly probably on my part, I removed myself from the process a little bit because I didn’t want my bias for Brad to interrupt the process of deciding which direction we were going to go.
Q: President Obama made some comments this week saying he was not sure if he would let his son play football, if he had a son, and I saw a little feature that you did on that and I’d like you to expound on that.
BB: It was simply a matter that I understand it as a parent and a grandfather, I have a 10 month old grandson. I don’t want him to play football, I don’t want him to ski, I don’t want him to drive. I don’t want him to do anything, I want to be protective. At the end of the day, you know that is unrealistic. If he finds a passion for the game, then obviously, you are going to let him follow that passion. Will I worry about it? Yes. Is it a physical and violent game? Yes. At the end of the day, there is any number of things, and you can only protect them so much.
Q: And football has changed quite a bit over the history of the game, and it’s different than when you played in high school and at Air Force, and as an assistant. Where do you see the game going as we gather more information?
BB: I think the league is doing absolutely everything they can to make it as safe a game as possible. At the end of the day, it is a physical, violent game, and there is only so much you can protect. I use the analogy of driving, you know, we do a lot of things to make it a safer experience, but accidents happen.
Q: Back to the Super Bowl, obviously this Ravens team is a little different than the one you took, Ray Lewis is the only one still there, the dynamic is different, with Joe Flacco and the offense. What have you seen from that offense since they made the coordinator change?
BB: Well, I don’t know that it is a huge difference, other than their commitment to getting the ball to Ray Rice, they’ve been very vertical, Joe Flacco’s been given more latitude to do more things at the line of scrimmage, and it fits the personality of the team. I don’t know if X and O’s wise it’s schematically different, but the run/pass ratio and the mentality and overall approach is different for them.
Q: One thing I’ve noticed is his sacks have cut down about in half, he’s only been sacked four times so far in the playoffs, and he’s never been a guy like Marino or Manning who has been low in the sack totals. Have you seen that as a difference in play-calling, or an emphasis on Rice?
BB: I think they are opting for protection a little bit more, looking to protect more, leaving the tight end a little more, chipping with the back.
Q: We have a matchup where San Francisco has been pretty good all year, and dominant at times, the Ravens have gotten hot and we’ve seen teams like the Ravens win in recent years, how do you think the game will turn out?
BB: It’s too close to call, it really is. Most of the games over the last ten years, you kind of point at, and say this team is better or that team is better, doesn’t mean it turned out that way. This literally is too close to call, I think it is a pick ’em.
[photos via USA Today Sports Images and sfgate.com/AP]