You know what, Joe? It IS your fault.
The decline continues unabated.
After their second loss, I wrote this. And little has changed.
We’ve read all the excuses. To wit: “They’ve been in every game until the last minute!” “Look at their injuries! No team could survive that!” “Every team has a bad year; they’ll be fine next season!” “It’s just bad luck!”
The Ravens are a bad football team, folks. There are no excuses or illusions anymore. Having been embarrassed repeatedly in games by both the other team and their own personnel, the Ravens may very well be on the verge of utter collapse, bottoming out to the point of roster demolition and dreams of drafting someone – anyone – that can provide immediate help to this abomination posing as an NFL franchise.
With the Ravens sporting a 1-6 record, haters everywhere are rejoicing. In New England, the faulty notion that the Ravens are somehow responsible for their offseason melee with the NFL still carries weight, and therefore, it dominates the thinking of most of their irrational, deluded fanbase. The general hatred of the Ravens stemming from the Ray Lewis case over 15 years ago still permeates most fanbases looking for a negative comparison to elevate their own teams. Because of the “bully” persona that this team exhibited over a decade ago, they’re branded as such forever in the eyes of most NFL fans. And the well-documented case of Ray Rice placed the team under a heavy amount of scrutiny.
And they’ve earned every bit of it. There are no excuses for their current level of play; not when the team is providing visual evidence of their ineptitude every week. Historically, they’ve done most of the things that other franchises and fans accuse them of and despise them for, meriting every bit of criticism that they’ve historically received. Ray Lewis may indeed be a murderer. Ray Rice is certainly a batterer. Jamal Lewis was indeed trafficking cocaine. John Harbaugh most certainly whines an inordinate amount about the game’s inevitabilities. Ozzie Newsome has drafted a lot of busts in recent years.
These are not good building blocks for a successful franchise.
The apologists – and there are still a few – look at the point differential in their losses as evidence that this team “isn’t far away”. They identify with the notion that all teams go through down years, which is reasonable. But this is shaping up to be a down decade. Consider this: The Ravens have lost coaches and coordinators almost every year, which makes it tough to build continuity. Outside of linebacker C.J. Mosley, they haven’t had a true success in the draft since drafting quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice in 2008. Contributors? Sure. But no stars of any import, which title-contending teams desperately need at positions other than MLB.
The salary state of the roster is a mess, and it won’t get any easier next season. Joe Flacco’s salary will double to $29 million, which will absorb all of the dead money relief the team would receive from shedding the salaries of former Ravens Haloti Ngata and Rice. Perhaps Flacco will renegotiate, because he most certainly won’t be cut, not with a dead-money figure of $25 million. It’s tough to envision any team trading for him, not with that salary, unless the Ravens are willing to cover a significant portion of it. Prep yourselves for at least another year of watching an overvalued, overpaid bumbler at times single-handedly ruin his team’s chances for a victory…just like this past Monday night.
“But he has no weapons! It’s not all his fault!”
Well, yes and no. His weapons – starting wideouts Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken – aren’t exactly objects of envy around the NFL. Running back Justin Forsett is a nice piece, but, like any back, will only go as far as the offensive line allows…and this one isn’t allowing much, including time for Flacco to throw. Tight end Crockett Gillmore has been one of the few surprises this season, but his role is borne of necessity. It’s tough to imagine him having any impact on a team with legitimate receiving weapons.
So that leaves Flacco, warts and all, in place. He throws interceptions at the worst possible times. He is seemingly oblivious to blitzers, because he’s really concentrating on that one receiver…coming open…
The secondary isn’t improving either. For all the accolades regarding the progress of cornerback Jimmy Smith, he’s been beaten often by routine, pedestrian wideouts this season, and fellow starter Lardarius Webb has been doubly awful, particularly late in games. The revolving door at safety, seemingly settled at the season’s outset with the addition of former Texan Kendrick Lewis, has been just as bad if not worse than the abysmal showing of last season’s group.
It may seem reactionary…but this season isn’t offering any recourse. It’s clearly time to blow it up, and begin the slow, unpleasant task of developing a new philosophy and a new roster. Players to keep? About eleven, perhaps. Mosley, J. Smith, NT Brandon Williams, DE Timmy Jernigan, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Rick Wagner, TEs Gillmore and Maxx Williams, LG Kelechi Osemele, K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch. Yes, I’m advocating that they cut ties with franchise stalwart LB Terrell Suggs, who has missed the better part of two of the last four seasons due to injury, and who is most decidedly on the downside of his career. Elvis Dumervil, the other aging pass rusher on the roster, is not suited for an every-down role and would be considered a luxury on most teams, not a player registering 50-60 snaps a game.
Head coach John Harbaugh has been mentioned as a possibility to take the recently-vacated USC head coaching job, which would be an ideal landing spot for a guy with Harbaugh’s personality and rah-rah go-team nature. It remains to be seen if this is simply rumor, but it resonates with those who know the game and recognize that this Ravens roster just isn’t listening to their coach anymore.
It’s rough, but teams undergo changes when the systems they employ cease to work, the players tune out the coaching staff, and discipline problems, both on and off the field, begin to emerge. The Ravens have experienced all of this since their fluke Super Bowl win in 2012, which plants a pretty glaring signpost stating that change is required. I’m sure these projections and roster determinations of mine will change by seasons’ end, as the team shuffles players in and out of the lineup in an effort to cobble together a team that can win more than one game this season.
Because this one can’t. And shouldn’t.
You reap what you sow…or something.