Billick era begins in Baltimore

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The Ravens opened the 1999 season with renewed hope following the offseason hiring of head coach Brian Billick after a 6-10 finish the previous year under Ted Marchibroda.

As Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, Billick put together one of the most potent attacks in the NFL led by quarterback Randall Cunningham and receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss. The Ravens hoped he could build a similar offense in Baltimore.

Cornerback Chris McAlister was selected as the team's first round pick (10th overall) in the 1999 draft, and in a move that would change the face of the organization for years to come, the Ravens traded their second round pick for the Atlanta Falcons first round choice in 2000.

Billick's head coaching debut was spoiled in a 27-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams in the season opener. At the time it was a disappointing loss, but the Rams stunned the NFL by going on to win the Super Bowl with former Arena League quarterback Kurt Warner.

After a Week 2 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Billick earned his first victory with a 17-10 win over the expansion Cleveland Browns. Stoney Case started the game at quarterback, replacing Scott Mitchell, who became the first bust of the Billick regime.

The Ravens won their second straight game with a 19-13 overtime victory in Atlanta on a 54-yard touchdown from Case to wide receiver Justin Armour. The Ravens then lost four of their next five games. Tony Banks took over as the starting quarterback in the last of those losses, a 13-10 decision to Buffalo.

The team responded to the quarterback change by winning six of its next eight games. In a 41-9 victory at Cleveland, safety Rod Woodson intercepted a pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens scored 20 or more points in seven of the games Banks started at quarterback.

The 7-game stretch included a 22-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the first shutout in team history. The win also gave the Ravens a franchise-high eight victories.

The Ravens closed out the season with a 20-3 loss at New England. Banks struggled and was replaced by Case. Despite a poor performance from Banks in the season finale, the Ravens believed he would be the future starter.

In the team's 6-3 finish, the Ravens outscored opponents, 229-142, displaying a stingy defense and an offense that could be explosive at times. The Ravens finished 8-8, just one game behind in the hunt for the final wild-card spot, and the team's improvement under Billick was significant.

Five players were named to the Pro Bowl: linebackers Peter Boulware and Ray Lewis, defensive end Michael McCrary, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and Woodson.

The Ravens' defense finished the year ranked second in the NFL. The successful finish would be a glimpse into the Ravens' future, although no one expected the achievements of 1999 to culminate so quickly in the special season that lie ahead.

Season Highlights

  • QB Tony Banks threw a career-high 17 touchdowns a career-low 8 interceptions.
  • RB Priest Holmes rushed for 130 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • WR Qadry Ismail had six receptions for 258 yards against the Steelers.
  • P Kyle Richardson had a punt of 63 yards against the St. Louis Rams.
  • Banks threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Ismail against the Steelers.
  • S Corey Harris had a 66-yard kickoff return against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Holmes had a 72-yard run against the Tennessee Titans and a 64-yard run for a touchdown against the Steelers.
  • K Matt Stover kicked 50-yard field goals against the Titans and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Year in the NFL

  • The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23-16 to win their first Super Bowl.
  • The Cleveland Browns returned to the field for the first time since 1995 and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in overtime in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
  • Adelphia Coliseum opened in Nashville, Tenn. before a crowd of 65,729 with the Titans defeating the Atlanta Falcons 17-3 in a preseason game.
  • Titans DE Jevon Kearse set a rookie record with 14 1/2 sacks and forced a league-high 10 fumbles.
  • Indianapolis Colts RB Edgerrin James was voted Offensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Miami K Olindo Mare set an NFL record with 39 field goals.
  • The Cleveland Browns select Kentucky QB Tim Couch with the first overall pick in the draft.
  • The Rams beat San Francisco in the fourth game of the season to break a 17-game losing streak against the 49ers.
  • Rams QB Kurt Warner became only the second player to throw 40 or more touchdown passes in a season.

The Year in the World

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