While sitting at my desk today, I watched a mad dash of Twitter notifications come in from Ravens’ beat writer Jeff Zrebiec. Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh, and Ozzie Newsome held the season review press conference. Zrebiec’s tweets all covered highlights expressing disappointment in the season, but also, a loyalty to the men he hired to shape this franchise.
Then one tweet quoted Bisciotti and captured a sentiment that should guide all NFL teams.
Bisciotti: "I didn't get where I was by just firing people. I think it's a bad model, especially in this business."
To put that in perspective, Bisciotti is a self-made billionaire. This guy’s ideas of running a business might hold a little water. Only a year out of college, he started a business that grew into the largest staffing company in the United States. Consistency, in any industry, is a major key to success, and despite some fans’ wishes, he committed to bring his guys back for next season.
I know the Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs three of the last four years, but blowing up the front office and coaching staff is a recipe for disaster. Since the Ravens moved to Baltimore in 1996, they’ve been one of the most successful franchises. Only four other teams won multiple Super Bowls during those 21 seasons, and only seven teams made the post season more times.
Consistency is a big reason for the continued success. Only three head coaches have led the Ravens on the field; furthermore, only Ozzie Newsome controlled the roster. NFL teams that fail to follow this model, fail on the field. Oakland experienced their first winning season in 14 years in 2016. In the 21 years of Baltimore Raven football, the Raiders followed a distinctly different model with 12 head coaches, and only four playoff appearances to show for it.
Many other franchises left a killing field of discarded coaches with little success to show. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns only appeared in the playoffs one time. Currently, they employee their ninth different coach. The 49ers succeeded under Jim Harbaugh, but the team’s ownership dysfunction reared its ugly head again. San Fran is getting ready to hire their fourth head coach in four years.
I can list these teams all day. Buffalo (10 head coaches since 1996), Miami (10 head coaches), Washington (8 head coaches), and Detroit (9 head coaches) all like to bring in the new guy to give them the same old, bad results. The Bills own the longest playoff drought in the league. While Washington and Miami think they have their guy, how long until their impatient owners pull the plug? Even in Detroit, talks of Jim Caldwell’s firing crept up after their loss to Seattle. This from a team who just made the playoffs for the fifth time in 21 years.
You are free to your opinions of John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome. I happen to like the model that Steve Bisciotti has in place. This group has brought large amounts of success to the city of Baltimore. Their stability emulates other great franchises in the league like Pittsburgh (2 head coaches since 1996), New England (3 head coaches), and Green Bay (4 head coaches).
I know we hate the Steelers and for good reason, but the Rooney family’s continued success finds its basis in stability. Chuck Noll was hired in 1969. Only two others were head coaches for Pittsburgh. That’s three guys in 47 years just so we’re all on the same page. Noll’s first winning season came in his fourth year. Bill Cowher went 6-10 in 2003 which would put him on ice with many other teams. However, he retained his job and won the Super Bowl two years later.
So, put away the pitch forks and torches. The sustained success of the Baltimore Ravens is deeply mired in consistency of the team’s leaders. Next time you want to can Harbaugh, talk to a Browns fan. When you can visibly see the pain in their voice while discussing the repeated failures of coach after coach who was fired after two years, then maybe you’ll start to understand.