Billick is expected to coach in the future. He will continue to live in Maryland and is building a new home on the Eastern Shore. According to one league source, Billick might be interested in coaching the San Francisco 49ers if Mike Nolan is fired.

"It has been a great ride with the Ravens and the fans here," Billick said.

But the ride didn't end on the best of terms, especially with the players.

Several players declined to comment when asked whether Billick had lost the team. Most supported the firing of Billick, who was tied with Philadelphia's Andy Reid for the third-longest current run with the same team.

"We need a change," said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. "We need to move forward and try to take a different direction."

Billick did not speak to the team yesterday, which seemed to hurt some players. Others said they understood that it's a difficult situation.

"I'm not either agreeing or disagreeing with the decision, but I am saying that change is sometimes necessary," said kicker Matt Stover. "Our leaders on this ballclub felt like that was the way to go. I'm going to trust that."

Most of the criticism has been focused on the Ravens' lack of offense under Billick. After setting offensive records as coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings, Billick has watched his offenses finish in the bottom half of the NFL in eight of his nine seasons.

Billick created a spark last season when he fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and took over the play calling. But he failed to sustain that success this season, as the Ravens finished 22nd in offense.

A possible breaking point came during a loss at Buffalo on Oct. 21, when Billick decided to throw the ball three times, starting with second-and-one at the Bills' 49 with less than two minutes to play. All three passes were incomplete, and the Ravens offense didn't get the ball again.

Linebacker Ray Lewis later expressed his frustration over that decision on his radio show.

"I think some players just thought that he should have let Rick [Neuheisel] take over as offensive coordinator or just some of the play calling," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. "And some of the play calls, I think some of the guys didn't agree with that either."

Arriving in January 1999, Billick transformed the Ravens from a losing franchise to a Super Bowl-winning one.

In the first five seasons under Billick, the Ravens reached the playoffs three times, capturing their first Super Bowl title in the 2000 season and winning the AFC North in 2003.

But the Ravens hit a rut under Billick recently.

"In order to be successful, you have to take chances. In order to take chances, you have to listen to your heart and go with your gut," Bisciotti said. "You believe with a track record that when you get the answer, you go with it. It doesn't mean that you don't pray on it and it doesn't mean that you fear being wrong."

Billick finished as Baltimore's all-time winningest NFL coach, leaving the Ravens with an 80-64 record.

"I hope that over time that Baltimore views me as a quality of an owner as Brian Billick was head football coach," Bisciotti said. "So, I've got some catching up to do to the man I just asked to step down today. The jury is out on me. Brian's already got his Super Bowl. I'll try to make you all proud."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com