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Ravens' head coach already thinking about next season
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- After a sleepless night, Brian Billick was looking forward, not back.
"Of course we want to repeat," the Baltimore Ravens' head coach said Monday, less than 12 hours after his team won the Super Bowl by beating the New York Giants 34-7. "But we have to recognize that teams turn over and that all kinds of things can happen. I think the people in St. Louis, in Baltimore, are happy we don't have dynasties any more."
Prognostication is, indeed, impossible these days -- six different teams have been in the Super Bowl the last three seasons.
A year ago, the St. Louis Rams, coming off a 4-12 season, beat the Tennessee Titans, who were 8-8 the previous season. The Ravens were 8-8 a year ago and the Giants were 7-9, unlikely candidates, then, for this year's game.
Billick never got to bed after the game as he celebrated Baltimore's first NFL championship in 29 years before showing up to say farewell to the media he had chastised regularly in the week preceding Sunday's victory. Ray Lewis was there, too, to accept the game's MVP award.
It was 180 degrees from the same night a year ago for Lewis, who was involved in a postgame fight after the game in Atlanta that led to him being charged with murder. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice and received probation.
This time, the evening was spent with his four children, including his 5-year-old son, Ray III, who chided him for dropping a couple of potential interceptions.
Lewis will be back with the Ravens next season. But coordinator Marvin Lewis, the architect of the great defense, may wind up as a head coach somewhere else.
So next year's Ravens will look different. Billick said Monday as of now, Dilfer is the team's quarterback for next season, but added: "There are a lot of other things we have to consider."
Dilfer is a free agent and may have been a caretaker QB. Billick coached Washington's Brad Johnson in Minnesota and Johnson is probably the premier free-agent quarterback available this year.
But signing a relatively high-priced quarterback may not leave cap room to re-sign Sharper, who was overshadowed by Lewis on the Ravens' record-setting defense but was probably the most valuable player in Baltimore's victory against Oakland in the AFC Championship Game.
The Ravens (and the Giants) also had few major injuries this season -- one of the prerequisites for getting this far because the cap doesn't allow for much depth.
All of that makes free agency a major factor.
"We've finished with the competitive part of the season. Now comes the business part," Billick said. "I encourage my players during this phase to consider their financial futures. If that means moving on, then so be it."
The other factors against repeats are the same ones that have always been there.
The schedule gets tougher. There will be more night games -- the Ravens didn't appear on Monday night this season -- and more late Sunday starts.
Then there's the incentive of the opponents. The Super Bowl champions have bullseyes on their jerseys and complacency can sometimes sink in -- players sometimes lose that slight edge that drives them to their first championship.
The Ravens' defense is being compared with the best in history, including Chicago's a decade-and-a-half ago. But those Bears won only one Super Bowl -- after the 1985 season.
"This year our level of expectation was to get to the playoffs," Billick said. "Next year, we'll try to set our own agenda. But we realize that the bar now is pretty high."