Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ravens: From first to worst and wishes for 2008

From first to worst…not even the biggest Ravens’ detractors could have predicted the steep downward spiral of the 2007 Baltimore Ravens. A team that many believed had very few holes back in August now looks like a squad that has too many holes to fill in a single off season.

Yet no one can deny that injuries played a major role in the Ravens’ ’07 woes. If key players such as Trevor Pryce, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle and Todd Heap return from injuries in ’08 and compete the way they have in the past, health alone could solve several problems. That said the Ravens need to be careful and not assume that all of the former Pro Bowlers who ended up on Injured Reserve aren’t nicked up again in ’08.

Speaking of those Pro Bowlers, the Ravens PR Department is notorious for promoting the number of Pro Bowl appearances by their players and they favorably compare that to rosters around the league as if it really mattered. It doesn’t! No one asked me but adding Pro Bowl to a player’s resume means that it will cost more to keep them and that eats heavily into available cap space.

The downside to keeping a roster filled with players having star power is that it thins out the roster. The depth isn’t as talented and if and when those Pro Bowl players fall to injury, the depth is exposed and that is in large part what triggered the Ravens misfortunes in ’07.

Yet injuries alone aren’t the sole culprit for the Ravens miserable performance in 2007. They were sloppy and they lacked discipline. That was apparent during the preseason and the poor execution continued right on through the regular season. Yet the Ravens hold on to the injury excuse as a crutch, a cop-out and the justification for inaction as it relates to Brian Billick’s job stability.

Billick isn’t THE problem, he’s just one of many problems with the Ravens that need to be addressed. With that in mind, here are a few wishes for the Ravens as they kick off their premature offseason and begin making reparations for the start of the 2008 season.

To Steve Bisciotti: A big slice of humble pie, the stones to write off the $15 million still due Brian Billick and Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett.

To Brian Billick: A comfortable chair alongside JB, Boomer, Marino and Sharpe.

To Terrell Suggs: A healthy Trevor Pryce and the realization that you are NOT a difference maker and that you shouldn’t be paid as one.

To Kyle Boller: A road victory

To Willis McGahee: A chance to stay on the field on third down.

To Troy Smith: Cleats with lifts and a chance to prove yourself behind an offensive line not doing its best impersonation of a New Orleans levee.

Rick Neuheisel: A victory over USC.

Ravens future offensive coordinator: No ball and no chain.

Marshall Yanda: Stamina

Ravens fans: October road game v. Miami and a South Beach dinner consisting of grilled dolphin and blackened tuna.

Rex Ryan: A stud defensive end and another chance.

Bart Scott: An extension and a flashback to 2006.

Jonathan Ogden: September tee time in Vegas. THANK YOU!

Mike Anderson: An answer.

Sam Koch: Improvement inside the 20.

Matt Katula: A rediscovery of your "swing."

Derrick Mason: A third down pass beyond the first down marker.

Steve McNair: Early eligibility for an AARP card.

Ray Lewis: Some healthy dogs in the house and a restructured contract.

Antwan Barnes: More PT

Yamon Figurs: Confidence

Dan Cody: 2 healthy knees for 1 full season

Eric DeCosta: A solid quarterback falling into Round 2.

Ozzie Newsome: Caffeine, it's time to wake up. The 2007 draft is over.

And to all a happy, safe and prosperous 2008. Happy New Year!!!


Anonymous said...

Dear Tony,

Well the spirit of the upcoming New Year, I'll say this -- you walked a fine line with regard to your take on Billick's position in the pecking order of Ravens problems, but at least you didn't backpedal off the map completely. While he's not the sole reason the Ravens have the problems they do, he is the major reason.

He's responsible for the perennially lousy offenses, consisting of lousy game prep, play calling, clock management, game time adjustments, O-line coaching, etc. He's responsible for the lack of discipline. He's responsible for the highly questionable personnel calls (i.e. Billick's Dog House). He's responsible for the total lack of confidence on the part of the offensive unit because of his incessant "play not to lose" mentality. And he's at least co-responsible for the total inability of the Ravens to have developed a top tier QB (a subset of the perennially lousy offenses.)

With regard to the injuries -- of course injuries impacted the Ravens this year. But so did stupid play calling, stupid penalties, questionable personnel (mis)management, and a general overall lack of effort put forth on the field. I don't know about you, but given our current 4-11 record, (soon to be 4-12, I'd imagine), I think we could have won at least 4 more games even with all the injuries. That's what good teams do. And while that wouldn't have been good enough to get us into the playoffs, it would have at least allowed us to end the season with some degree of respectability.

With regard to Suggs -- I think if he's not careful, the Ravens might decide that Vernon Gholston can do pretty much everything he can, maybe even more. And maybe even at a considerable discount.

With regard to Ozzie, I think Ravens fans need to look beyond just the fact that Ozzie has brought in great players; we need to start looking at how much money he has doled out, and to whom, and how that's hampered the team's ability to cover more ground with less highly paid players -- something you did mention as well. I'm just highlighting the person who is usually given a free pass when it comes to Ravens problems.

As a gift to Steve Bisciotti -- I'd give him the wisdom to bring in a Parcells-like individual and give that individual total authority to clean up this mess once and for all. The Ravens have been the beneficiary of great defenses which have covered over a multitude of weaknesses, and it's time to bring all of that into the light so it can finally be addressed and resolved.

In that sense, yes, you are correct -- the Ravens problems do go much deeper than just Brian Billick. The problems involve Ozzie, the entire coaching staff, some of the players, and the owner. It took a long time for Huizenga to come to the realization that he needed to do something major -- not just some Band-Aid approach -- to address the 'Fins problems.

I honestly don't know if Steve Bisciotti is old enough and/or wise enough to follow suit. But I certainly hope so. If not, it's going to be a much longer, more painful process. Like that old commercial used to say: "You can pay me now, or pay me later". The later the payment, the more it's going to cost. Wise up, Steve. And the sooner, the better. I think we'll all know after Jan 2 whether or not Steve has chosen wisely.

Happy New Year, 24x7.

Your buddy,


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! My wish has come true. Brian Billick has been fired.

Thanks for the SB, Brian. Best of luck to you.


Harryos29 said...

Jan 1, 2008 Harry o 29
Well put TONY and the two previous writers. I would have swooped down to the Locker room and Sent the Coach Packing after the Bills Loss. That loss to me; was worse than the stupid.."kick Field goals and play not to lose in MIAMI".
However, PROPS to the Owner for having the STONES to do the right thing and fire a close personal Friend. Its funny how history repeats itself; Billick Fired Fassel in 2006: Now, Mr Biscoitti fired Billick in 2007.
I just hope, like Mr Biscoitti said.. I don't want to be sitting here in this position, again, for a long long time.
I hope that they make a careful analysis of what they want and don't want in a new head coach and bring in someone who is both competent and one who brings some Excitement and production to the Offense in 2008!
Its a new year...THANK GOD!!!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Harry.

Happy New Year!