Bisciotti is patient, but won't tolerate more failure

Owner Steve Bisciotti appeared calm and in a relatively good mood during the annual "State of the Ravens" address. He was disappointed in the team for failing to make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, but not too upset.

But minutes later, in the privacy of his office, he said a repeated "failure" would not be tolerated. It wasn't like Bisciotti's mood had changed after the TV cameras and tape recorders were gone. It was just business as usual.

"I have to be patient to let people fail, but I don't have to be patient enough to let people repeat failure," Bisciotti said. "I'll be more apt to get my way next year if their solutions don't change the problems. That's fair, that's where I am as owner.

"They know they've failed, they know they need to change, and to make improvements. If it's not the way I think it should be and then it fails again, then obviously it comes down to owner-head coach relationship."

That makes sense. There is no use sweating an 8-8 season after five good years, but Bisciotti knows the No. 1 priority this offseason is building an offense. Head coach John Harbaugh has usually had offenses that finished in the middle of the rankings, but the Ravens were No. 29 last season. They averaged only 83 rushing yards per game.

Bisciotti wasn't shy in voicing his disappointmentin the offense, but said he had no indication if Harbaugh was planning to fire any more assistant coaches after letting running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery go Friday.

There is speculation that Harbaugh might fire offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell if Caldwell doesn't get a head coaching job in Detroit, Washington or Tennessee. Bisciotti said he will talk with Harbaugh more about his staff this weekend in Florida.

"I won't engage with John about his coaching staff until a lot of this settles down because he [Caldwell] has some good opportunities in a lot of different ways," Bisciotti said. "I certainly can't give him a window and then just fire him.

"If John has made that decision he hasn't told me, and to be honest, I don't believe he has made that decision. Why would you if it could be out of your hands in the next couple of weeks? I think John deserves that time to watch things settle and see where things end up."

Bisciotti said he will offer suggestions to Harbaugh about his staff, but not make the final decision. It's not at the point where the suggestions will be "strongly" recommended.

Bisciotti even defended Harbaugh for bringing in Juan Castillo as the "run game" coordinator. Castillo's hiring divided the coaching staff, but Harbaugh said Wednesday Castillo was going to be given the title of "offensive line coach."

So basically the Ravens are saying it was the players' fault, not the scheme, even though changes were made.

"At the end the players were a lot more pleased with him than in the first four weeks," Bisciotti said of Castillo. "I don't think that relationship is deteriorating. I actually think Juan came in under a lot of pressure, working for a guy he used to work side-by-side with in John.

"Juan has had sustained success and he didn't stop being a great coach. He came in, saw some flaws and said 'I'm going to change this.'" He got the natural resistance from guys who don't want to make changes. I have to admit that he did come on too strong and ruffled some feathers."

As of last week, Castillo was Public Enemy No. 1 in Baltimore.

"I understand why fans want him out of here," Bisciotti said. "To get one of the best offensive lines coaches in the last 20 years and then put up the kind of numbers we put up. But it's not like he was some unqualified guy who came in. Some say John just hired his friend, but everybody is somebody's friend. You don't hire total strangers. You call around and ask who would you recommend, who is a good, up and coming coach or who is an icon?"

Bisciotti doesn't expect the Ravens to have a major rebuilding job during the offseason. He didn't think quarterback Joe Flacco had a good season, but pointed out that other top quarterbacks -- including two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons -- struggled also.

"A lot of these great quarterbacks have gone out on a limb and took chances that they probably shouldn't have," said Bisciotti, noting injuries and stalled running games. "I'm still happy. There is no greater hell on Earth than an owner without a good quarterback."

The big problem will be rebuilding the offensive line, according to Bisciotti. He has confidence right guard Kelechi Osemele can return from back surgery and the Ravens can re-sign left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

He isn't concerned about the team being close to the salary cap, and pointed out that the Ravens were in a similar situation a year ago and general manager Ozzie Newsome turned a poor defense into the NFL's twelfth-ranked unit.

Bisciotti has no regrets about the team getting rid of veteran players such as safeties Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and receiver Anquan Boldin, whose salaries were used to sign free agents such as defensive end Chris Canty and linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith.

Those three defensive players counted $8 million against the cap, while Boldin would have been at $7.5 million by himself. The one veteran player Bisciotti is concerned about is running back Ray Rice, who had only 660 yards on 214 carries this season.

"The offensive line frustrated me the most," Bisciotti said. "We don't want to talk about not keeping fourth quarter leads, but the 3.1 yards a carry. You know how many three and outs that forced, how many long drives we didn't get, time of possessions, first downs, punts instead of field goals and field goals instead of touchdowns?

"With Ray, I'd be lying if I said that question hasn't come up about him being through. But I've already talked about failure and repeating failure. I have no interest in being without Ray Rice. My coaches don't want to be without Ray. I think he learned that adding 10 pounds to his frame made him less elusive, not more powerful. I think he'll come back with a vengeance, down to 210, than the 217 or wherever he is now. And if he doesn't, then we'll be making a tough decision next year, probably."

That seems to be the situation for the entire team.

"I'm letting Ozzie and John solve it the way they think it should, and if they fail twice, then I will get more input into the restructuring," Bisciotti said.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

 
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