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Commentary: Bisciotti deserves some credit, too

Sitting just a few feet from the Lombardi Trophy awarded for his team's Super Bowl XLVII triumph, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti did his best to deflect credit Thursday in Owings Mills.

To general manager Ozzie Newsome. To coach John Harbaugh. To the players. To the team's 120-person staff. To anyone not named "Bisciotti."

"There is not much that I can hang my hat on," he said of his tenure as majority owner, noting only the brilliant move of replacing Brian Billick with John Harbaugh as head coach in 2008. "That's about the only major decision I've made in all these years, unless you can come up with something that I did."

The fact that fans can point to little else Bisciotti has done is, in itself, a very good thing.

Just ask fans of the Washington Redskins or the Baltimore Orioles how much they appreciate owner involvement.

Bisciotti told a great story of how he learned early on - during the 2002 draft, when he was still merely a minority owner - to let Newsome and the team's braintrust do their job.

"The top two guys left on the board were Lito Sheppard and Ed Reed," Bisciotti recalled. "We had Ed Reed above Lito, and I said to Ozzie, 'I don't understand this. If they both have the same grade, why would you not take a corner over a safety? It seems like that's a more important position.'

"Ozzie said, 'Because I am true to my board.' We took Ed Reed instead of Lito Sheppard, so I kind of learned from that point on that I better not engage too much and try and alter their decision-making."

Bisciotti does what owners are supposed to do, but often don't. He writes the checks. He is supportive and engaged, but he largely stays out of the way.

He has in place a management team he trusts and lets everyone throughout the organization do their jobs in an environment that encourages the voicing of opinions at all levels.

"What he has laid is an organizational structure where everybody works together," Harbaugh said. "There really aren't clear lines of demarcation between people. ... To me, that's the key to any success that we have."

And there has been plenty of success.

It didn't start with the Super Bowl title. That was the pinnacle. That was the chance for fans to celebrate and then express their appreciation in a heavily attended parade.

But even if the Ravens had lost early in the playoffs, the season would still have been a success. It was the team's fifth consecutive postseason appearance. No other NFL team can say that.

And while winning a championship is the ultimate goal at any level, Bisciotti recognizes that the real goal is "to be there."

In the postseason. Year in, year out. That's more the mark of a strong organization than titles. (The Marlins, for example, have won the World Series twice, but they've spent most of their history as a bottom feeder and they have a miniscule fan base to show for it.)

Bisciotti made it quite clear Thursday he's not interested in mortgaging the future to try to repeat. The Ravens did just that in 2001, restructuring numerous contracts to keep their Super Bowl XXXV champion team mostly intact. They lost at Pittsburgh in the playoffs that year and then missed the postseason in three of the next four seasons.

"We don't want to repeat - we want to be one of the 12 teams that has a chance to win every year," he said. "We are not going to get caught up in the moment and do things to our salary cap and make decisions in the euphoria of winning that could hurt us in 2014 and 2015.

"You have to make sure that the excitement of the day doesn't cloud what we promised to build, and that was a consistent winner."

That's exactly what they have built.

Newsome deservedly gets the credit for bringing in the players. Harbaugh deservedly gets the credit for coaching them up. And Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and the rest deservedly get credit for winning enough to reach the postseason and then outplaying the best teams to earn the Lombardi Trophy.

But Bisciotti deserves some credit, too. Even if he doesn't want any.

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