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NFL: Week 17

Ravens give Billick boot

Coordinator Ryan also sent packing

BRIAN BILLICK A 5-11 record in 2007 BRIAN BILLICK A 5-11 record in 2007
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Associated Press / January 1, 2008

Brian Billick never came close to duplicating the success he enjoyed early in his career as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and it finally cost him his job.

Billick was fired yesterday, less than 24 hours after his team concluded a season of high expectations with a disappointing 5-11 record. His entire staff, including defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, also was dismissed.

"I believed that it was time for a change, I believed that we have the nucleus of a team that can get back to the Super Bowl, and we felt that in the next five years we had a better chance with a new coach than leaving Brian in that position," said owner Steve Bisciotti, who made the decision after consulting with team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Billick, 53, won the 2001 Super Bowl in his second season with the Ravens, but since Bisciotti took over full ownership in 2004, Baltimore was 33-33. That included two losing seasons and only one playoff appearance, a one-and-out performance in 2006.

"It's a gut feeling. I have one job here, and that's to have a leader that I think gives us the best chance," Bisciotti said. "We have been losing more than winning lately."

Billick led the Ravens to a franchise-best 13-3 record in 2006. But Baltimore lost a team-record nine consecutive games this season before ending the skid Sunday with a 27-21 win over Pittsburgh.

Bisciotti said he made the decision to fire Billick hours before kickoff, and carried out the move yesterday morning in a meeting at the team's practice facility.

"He had to make a hard decision, and he did what he believes is best for the Ravens," Billick said in a statement. "We are friends and will remain friends."

Billick had three years left on a contract that pays $5 million per season.

Levy steps down

Turns out, Marv Levy's job was to restore order in Buffalo. It'll be on someone else to turn the Bills into a playoff contender.

Ten years to the day he retired as the Bills coach, Levy called it quits again, stepping down after two years as the team's general manager.

As encores go, his second stint in Buffalo didn't come anywhere near to matching the first, when Levy established his Hall of Fame credentials by coaching the Bills to an unprecedented four consecutive AFC titles in the early 1990s.

Despite consecutive 7-9 finishes and an eight-season playoff drought, the 82-year-old Levy leaves confident in the franchise's future.

"It has been an experience that I have enjoyed immensely," Levy said in a statement released by the Bills. "Dick Jauron, his coaching staff, and an admirable core of high-character players are heading in the right direction."

Bills owner Ralph Wilson credited Levy for bringing stability to a franchise that had alienated its fans and been undone by questionable coaching and personnel decisions under former team president Tom Donahoe, who was fired after the 2005 season.

"I will always be grateful for his service," Wilson said. "When we needed a new focus and direction, Marv improved our organization's morale, attitude, and environment: All of that, plus the stability we needed to move forward."

Fox is in limbo

A day after Carolina finished out of the playoffs for the second straight year, John Fox remained confident that he'll return as the Panthers' coach. But speculation about Fox's status won't end until owner Jerry Richardson makes his decision public. When asked if Richardson soon would address the status of Fox and general manager Marty Hurney, a team spokesman said it was unlikely . . . Carl Peterson said he will return for a 20th year running the Kansas City Chiefs despite a disappointing season that left many fans unhappy. "We have a plan and it's being implemented," the team's president and general manager said. "I have no intention to leave before the job is finished." . . . Javon Walker stopped short of demanding a trade like he did two years ago in Green Bay, but he suggested it might be best for everyone if the Denver Broncos sent him packing. "It's not that they don't want me here, but I just don't think it's the best fit for me," Walker said as he prepared to meet with coach Mike Shanahan for his exit interview. The Broncos (7-9) expected to compete for a championship but they lost Walker for two months after he underwent a third operation on his right knee, and Denver posted its first losing season since 1999. Also, according to the Denver Post, longtime offensive tackle Matt Lepsis yesterday told Shanahan he is retiring.

Titans' Young iffy

Tennessee quarterback Vince Young will be day-to-day this week after reinjuring his right quadriceps, and his status for Sunday's AFC wild-card game with San Diego could be in question. "I can't really say right now if Vince is going to play this week," coach Jeff Fisher said. "I have a good feeling he'll be back on the practice field, and we'll see how he goes." Young missed a start Oct. 21 at Houston after straining his quadriceps in Tampa Oct. 14. He said he aggravated the muscle in the first half of Sunday night's 16-10 win at Indianapolis and tweaked it further in the third quarter . . . The only AFC team currently not playing like it belongs in the playoffs is Pittsburgh, losers of three of four and four of seven entering Saturday night's wild-card home game against Jacksonville. The Steelers have won only six of 11 since they were 4-1 and, in a very bad combination with the postseason now here, are giving up big yardage rushing and passing. "We've got to be razor sharp," coach Mike Tomlin said. The Steelers are hurting, too, with star running back Willie Parker (broken leg) and defensive end Aaron Smith (torn biceps) out the rest of the way.

McDougle arrested

Jaguars offensive tackle Stockar McDougle was arrested Friday in Miami and charged with battery on a person 65 or older when he pushed the owner of a landscaping company and a female clerk because of a dispute about a bill . . . State and private officials conducted a preliminary inspection of an escalator that malfunctioned at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Saturday night, injuring seven people after the Giants-Patriots game . . . The Jets plan to reinstate the sale of beer next season at Giants Stadium despite a ban in the season finale that appeared to curb fan rowdiness . . . Atlanta Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler wants to visit imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick soon. Vick was sentenced three weeks ago to 23 months in federal prison for his role in an interstate dogfighting conspiracy.

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