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With Billick out of answers, no question he should go

The Baltimore Sun

Attention! Attention! DEAD COACH TALKING.

"I really don't have an answer for you right now," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We have to go back and analyze it and see if we can come up with a better answer than what we've come up with previously."

Pigskin repugnance - the foul sort that the Ravens have sold to fans these past couple of weeks - can be difficult to stomach. You wake up the morning after the latest embarrassment, a 21-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and there's really only one thing that sounds satisfying: the head coach's headset served up on a silver platter.

That time has come. The most important man not named Lewis in this team's short history has reached a point of ineffectiveness.

In relation to Billick's fine career pacing the Ravens' sideline, the 2007 season feels like an old rock band getting wheeled out on stage long after the music died. Billick's song has faded. He no longer moves the fans - but that's not really the problem. Unfortunately, Billick no longer moves his players. There's no harmony, no new notes. Where we used to bob our heads to the beat, we now shake our heads in defeat.

Attention! Attention! Dead coach talking!

"The only way you can [maintain confidence] is to work through it," said the man who once upon a time brought a Super Bowl trophy to Baltimore. "There's no other formula for it. You go about your work and see if you can find some kind of combination, isolate what it is that's going on, and work forward, individually and collectively."

No, Billick didn't throw those two interceptions or lose those four fumbles yesterday. As with any game or any season, you don't evaluate a coach on a single play or a single decision. It's a cumulative judgment, and just nine games into the current season, Billick's ninth with the Ravens, it's already clear that the coach has failed.

This script was written well before a down of football was even played. For the first full season, Billick finds himself coaching without a net. There's no buffer, no scapegoat, no one named Cavanaugh and no one named Fassel. Last season's amazing midseason turnaround feels like fabulist fiction. The jolt that followed offensive coordinator Jim Fassel's firing was due to a crude cattle prod, not the design of football genius.

This year, there's been no jolt to save face. In just a few short weeks, Billick has been exposed. His inability to make meaningful mid-game adjustments - or even noticeable week-to-week adjustments - offers absolutely no reason to think a turnaround is on the horizon. Not next week. Not in December. And not in the offseason.

The Ravens' brain trust is among the very best in the NFL, but they made two missteps heading into the '07 season - misjudging the remaining usefulness of a veteran quarterback and offering Billick a new four-year contract

Fortunately, in the NFL, you're able to erase your mistakes. The new contract for Billick never felt right, and it will surely cost some money. But a few zeros and commas will be a lot easier for a passionate owner to swallow than being force-fed an offense that has clearly lost its way.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has already been on Billick's case - before last season - and the details of that new contract in the offseason should be removed from the equation. Bisciotti is too smart of an owner and too devoted to having a winning team in Baltimore to allow this train wreck to pile up any further.

At M&T; Bank Stadium, at the start of the third quarter, the boos rained like hail; by the start of the fourth, they were hurting like hell. "I don't really listen to what people are saying," said linebacker Terrell Suggs, pointing out that popular opinion as a compass has its glitches. "Paris Hilton's famous," he offered.

In truth, she might as well be carrying the clipboard each Sunday. The Ravens have too much talent on offense to go five straight quarters without scoring, to manage just one late touchdown against a Bengals defense that had been giving up 30 points per game.

There's simply no imagination, no sophistication. By this point, after years of screaming yourself hoarse, you know exactly what you're going to get each Sunday: an offense that can't move and a head coach who won't.

Billick's stubbornness has finally got the best of him. His inability to at least try something new is costing this team its season and will eventually cost him his job.

Attention! Attention! Dead coach talking!

"A huge amount of frustration," said the man with the headset. "But you have to deal with it and go forward, and work your way through it. It's the only answer I have for it."

The only answer he has. The Ravens' problems are much bigger, their answers much more apparent. It's past time this franchise moves forward. To do that, it needs to part ways with the best coach the team has ever known.

Attention! Attention! Dead coach walking!rick.maese@baltsun.com

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