Vikings vs. Ravens or Tice vs. Billick?
[size=18px]Vikings vs. Ravens or Tice vs. Billick?[/size]
Updated: 12/23/2005 01:59:29 PM
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) - Back when they were both coaches for the Minnesota Vikings in the late 1990s, Brian Billick and Mike Tice had a relationship that can be best described as contentious.
Billick was the offensive coordinator and Tice was in charge of the offensive line.
"We would argue and dog cuss each other about game plans every week," Billick recalled. "We would get at each other. In the end, we'd be bloody, but we'd have a good game plan."
Billick left to become head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 1999, a position he still holds - albeit tenuously. Tice is now head coach of the Vikings, and his grip on the job isn't much stronger than Billick's.
It's been a rough season for both men, which will likely be the topic of conversation when they chat before the Vikings (8-6) and Ravens (5-9) play on Sunday night.
"I talked to Brian about three weeks ago to see how he was doing. I know he was under a little bit of heat," Tice said. "Of course, I know what that is like, so I figured I'd see how he was doing, since normally, five or six times a year, he calls me to see how I'm doing when I'm under heat."
Billick is under fire because Baltimore is headed for a second consecutive losing season. Tice has kept the Vikings in playoff contention despite a spate of injuries and an ill-fated team cruise in October on Lake Minnetonka. But if Minnesota fails to make the postseason, he might be out of a job.
Step 1 is beating the Ravens, who are 5-2 at home this season and are coming off a 48-3 rout of Green Bay on Monday night.
"It is going to be a good challenge for us," Tice said. "It is going to be a lot of fun."
This season has been anything but fun for Tice, but seeing Billick on the opposite sideline might take the edge off the intensity he usually brings into a game.
"I love it. I think it's great," Tice said.
Billick spoke during training camp about making a run for the Super Bowl, but the Ravens lost their first two games and never reached .500, leaving open the distinct possibility Tice's mentor won't be back for an eighth year in Baltimore.
It's been a humbling experience for a coach who won a Super Bowl in 2001.
"I go home and occasionally go up to my bedroom drawer and open it up and pull the ring out to remind myself I'm not the village idiot," Billick said. "What do we need to do better? We'll get about that in the offseason. But it's been a long year."
Beating the Vikings on Sunday night would ease the pain. It's the classic case of teacher vs. student, and Billick can only hope experience counts for something.
Before Tice and Billick worked together as coaches, Billick was tight ends coach for the Vikings in 1992 and Tice and veteran Steve Jordan were the tight ends.
"When you're starting out as a rookie coach with those two, my plea was, 'Act like you're learning something, OK, so I can keep my job.' They had something like 35 years experience," Billick said. "I would say, 'Tell me what you want to do and act like it was my idea.' They were great that way. You knew Mike would be a great coach."
Tice has expressed similar respect for Billick, but friendship isn't going to stand in the way of his quest to get Minnesota into the playoffs. Tice can only hope the Ravens don't duplicate their performance of Monday night.
"They played well against Green Bay the other night which, of course, is something you weren't hoping for. You were hoping they wouldn't play well," Tice said.
The Vikings, on the other hand, are coming off an 18-3 loss to Pittsburgh that ended their six-game winning streak. Unless Minnesota can reverse the momentum, all plans for the postseason will be gone.
"Mentally, we know where we are at. We have two games left, and it looks like whoever can win those two games will make it," Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson said. "We need some help along the way, but we can't worry about those other teams. We just have to go out and play a good ballgame against Baltimore. First things first, and we will go from there."