NEW ORLEANS — — There are times where it seems like it was only a couple of years ago and he remembers everything, the way Baltimore fans rallied around his team, the Ravens' march to Super Bowl XXXV, even his pointed criticism of the national media about its treatment of his star linebacker, Ray Lewis.
Then, Brian Billick is reminded that it was a dozen years since his Ravens stormed into Tampa, took apart the New York Giants and captured the Ravens' first Lombardi Trophy.
"When you hear that it's a decade, you kind of go, 'Whoa, has it been that long?," Billick said while at media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "But it didn't resonate like it does now because the Ravens are in it. The fact that it's been a decade plus and the Ravens are in it, yeah, it resonates a little bit more. Does that mean I feel really old? Yeah."
Billick is 58 and he's been out of coaching since he was fired by the Ravens following the 2007 season. Now an analyst for Fox and the NFL Network, Billick still lives in the Baltimore area. Like everyone else, he admits to being caught up in the Ravens' run, from losers of four of five games to close the regular season, to their three playoff victories that have them facing the San Francisco 49ers here Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII.
It's the Ravens' first trip to the big game since Billick took them in 2001, culminating a banner season with a 34-7 throttling of the Giants.
"It's been great for me because I get to be a part of it from that end now," Billick said. "When you're involved with it, you're a little absorbed in your situation, your circumstance. Now to be a part of it the way that I am and see it from that fan's view, it's great. It's exciting, it's energizing."
"Wow, is that nirvana or what?," Billick said when asked about the possibility of Ogden and Modell getting into the Hall of Fame and the Ravens winning their second Super Bowl, all on the same weekend. "I hope that happens. It would be nice."
With the Ravens back at the Super Bowl, Billick has had plenty of time to reminisce about his title-winning time. He also couldn't help but poke fun at himself. It was at a Super Bowl press conference 12 years ago when the brash head coach told the media that it wasn't "qualified" to analyze Lewis' legal issues a year earlier in Atlanta. The comments left him in the crosshairs of the national media, but they served their purpose, according to Billick.
"I called you all ambulance chasers and said that you weren't qualified, which went over real big by the way. I still hear about it to this day but it served its purpose because basically we were trying to say, 'We've been down this road, we're not going to redo this,'" Billick said. "Now, the time removed from it and him being able to finish the career the way he has, it's been a fairy tale ending."
Billick talked about how so many accomplish veterans, like tight end Shannon Sharpe, safety Rod Woodson, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and defensive ends Rob Burnett, set the tone for the 2000 team, but were willing to step aside and allow the then 25-year-old Lewis to lead and show his talents.
"I always used to say, we had a lot of characters but we also had a lot of character," Billick said. "That's what that team was built around. A lot of them had all the other things. … They were at that stage of their career [where they said], 'We had all the other things. We'll give up whatever individually because we already got that. I don't need more records, I just want the ring.' That's what that made the group special."
They also had a defense that is regarded as one of the most dominant groups ever. Asked the obvious questions about how the current Ravens stack up with the 2000 squad, Billick didn't blink.
"This Ravens offense is spectacular," he said. "I love Joe Flacco. Ray Rice, how do you stop him? The vertical threat of Torrey Smith. They wouldn't have scored [on us]."