American Football: Billick sacked by Baltimore

The Baltimore Ravens have sacked their long-time head coach, Brian Billick, following a disappointing 5-11 season. Billick, 53, won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in the 2000 season but the club went on to win only one play-off game over the next seven years.

The Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, said the firing "was in the Ravens' best interest". He added: "I believed it was time for a change. I believe 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'd have a better chance with a new coach."

Billick spent nine seasons in Baltimore and was the Ravens' most successful coach with an 85-67 record.

"It has been a great ride with the Ravens and the fans here," Billick said in a statement. "The passion, the dedication and the willingness to work by the players is so appreciated. Even in this difficult season, they fought through it.

"My respect for the players, every single one who has played for the Ravens in the last nine years, is hard to articulate. They have my complete respect and admiration."

Bisciotti denied reports that he had been talking with the former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who won the Super Bowl in the 2005 campaign, to succeed Billick.

"I have never met Bill Cowher," he said. "I have not spent one minute thinking about Brian's replacement."