Speaking to a communications class yesterday at Towson University, former Ravens coach Brian Billick told the students scattered around the half-filled lecture hall that he was in a similar position to some of them - at a crossroads of his life.
Unlike those who are a month or so away from graduating, Billick, 54, is trying to decide whether to return to the coaching ranks - if and when an opportunity presents itself - or move on to another phase of his professional career.
Billick was fired after the Ravens finished the 2007 season with a 5-11 record, having coached the team for nine years and leading it to a Super Bowl victory in the 2000 season.
"I believe my passion for coaching is as strong as it's ever been," Billick said after the class. "I have one of two choices to make. I can sit for the next year and obsess and drive myself nuts - 'Geez, am I going to get a job in January?' - or I can go about at 54 looking around to see if there is something that is a new challenge for me that might fill that same competitive and intellectual drive that I have.
"That doesn't mean I'm not obsessing about coaching. Those that say, 'He does not have the passion,' they are mistaking the fact that he doesn't have anything else to do. There's a difference. It wouldn't be fair that if I do go back into coaching next January, that I don't do it for the right reasons, that I do it simply because I really can't think of anything else to do."
Billick has the freedom of being choosy: He has three years remaining on a contract with the Ravens that will pay him $15 million to $18 million.
He is in the process of writing a book and is "getting close" to being hired by Fox or CBS to serve as an NFL game analyst.
"It's a new field for me. It's a matter of finding what the right fit is," said Billick, who is also continuing to spend much of his time giving motivational speeches to corporations.
Billick said he is not interested in working in the studio.
"It will be too detached from the game for me," he said. "I have no doubt that in the end, I would say, 'This is not what I want to do.' I've never done that [game analyst], but it looks like I will be given that opportunity and we'll see if it will engage me and keep me close enough to the game without the day-to-day grind that coaching does."
Billick had kind words for Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti during his talk, saying he was "very thankful for my time I had," but later added he has yet to talk with his former boss since he was fired the day after the season ended. "We will, at the appropriate time," he said.
Though he spent most of the 75-minute class talking with the students about the communications skills they might need to succeed in the business world, he did make references to football.
At the start of his talk, Billick asked whether there were any Washington Redskins fans in the audience.
"You Redskins fans keep your dang questions to yourself," he said jokingly.
Then he asked if there were any Philadelphia Eagles fans.
"I'm wearing my Super Bowl ring," he said, "something that you've never seen before."
Billick said during his talk that his passion as a coach was often misinterpreted as simply ego, but he acknowledged: "That's not to say I haven't crossed that line. When you talk about arrogance and ego, you're really talking about a very selfish perspective and you're making that passion and conviction about you.
"I think I'm experienced enough and old enough to know the difference. I tend to think that those who think of me in that way tend to be those who never visited with me."
One of the most humbling experiences for Billick since being fired came during a recent one-week trip to Iraq, where he spent time with the troops. One soldier in particular left an impression on Billick. The soldier was from Baltimore, and his job in Iraq was to drive the lead convoy between Baghdad and Kuwait City detonating bombs.
Billick asked the soldier, who had a month left in his deployment, whether the first thing he would do when he returned home was have a beer.
"Sir, I'm not old enough to drink," Billick recalled the soldier telling him.