I said over the weekend on my sports program that the Baltimore Ravens organization led by Owner Steve Bisciotti reminds me of the San Francisco 49ERS of the 80s and early-mid 90s who was once owned by Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Both Eddie and Steve came from successful business backgrounds, DeBartolo developed shopping malls as part of his father’s company, the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation, which became one of the largest public real estate businesses in the United States. Bisciotti along with his cousin Jim Davis started Aerotek, a staffing company in the aerospace and technology sectors. Bisciotti and Davis produced $1.5 million in sales in the first year. Aerotek grew into the Allegis Group, which is now the largest privately held staffing firm in the United States and 4th in the world.
Both are hard working Italian’s from blue collar towns, (Youngstown, OH and Baltimore) and both extremely passionate about their teams. Both learned on the job although Bisciotti had Art Modell to lean on before he took over complete ownership of the team. They both ended up making coaching changes early on in their ownership that would make a major impact on their organization. DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh and Bisciotti hired John Harbaugh. The parallels are endless but where they compare the most is the investment they made into their teams. Everything was done first class when DeBartolo owned the team, he spared no expense. In the same way Bisciotti had a state of the art facility built that serves as headquarters for the entire organization and continues to make sure the Ravens have the latest equipment, technology and are constantly staying on top of new trends, information, education, etc.
They have made indelible marks on their organizations by doing things first class all the way. The philosophy is if you give the players everything possible to succeed and treat them top notch that that investment in the players will pay off as the players will in return give all they have and do everything they can to be at their best to perform on the field. Of course talent has a little something to do with success as well, okay well it has a lot to do with it but that added investment made can be the difference of a win or loss between two great teams in a given week. Its a formula that has paid major dividends for both organizations in the form of a combined 7 Super Bowls.
Truth be told Bisciotti makes very little money off the Ravens with all that he puts back into the organization. He could choose to keep it himself but instead chooses to reinvest it to put a winning product on the field. While he may be worth over $1 billion and owns a highly successful NFL Franchise and Corporation, his humble blue collar roots lead him to let the players and coaches soak in the glory and be at the forefront while he would rather be in the background away from the cameras and media. This was never more evident then last week when he chose not to attend the White House ceremony honoring the Ravens for their Super Bowl 47 victory. That is the one difference between DeBartolo and Bisciotti.
Eddie DeBartolo, Jr won five Super Bowls as owner of the San Francisco 49ERS. Steve Bisciotti has won two (one as a minority owner, one has sole owner) in a much more difficult environment with the Salary Cap. A big part of the 49ERS success was Bill Walsh’s “West Coast Offense” which was actually developed in the Mid-West with the Cincinnatti Bengals. Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens have copied the “First Class” approach from Eddie DeBartolo and become the “Class of the NFL”.