Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ravens outdone by their fans in Miami

Can we consider the loss to the previously winless Miami Dolphins to be the low point in the history of the Baltimore Ravens? It’s really hard to think of another more embarrassing moment.

Sure there were those woeful games during the Marchibroda era but then the expectation level for the team was nowhere near what is was at the start of the ’07 campaign. Expectation clearly is a measuring stick for disappointment and after a 13-3 season in ’06, few if any ever expected the Ravens to be visiting South Florida this past weekend sporting a 4-9 record. Consequently the disappointment has reached unprecedented levels.

And that is the story of the 2007 season for the Ravens – a season during which anything that could have gone wrong almost did.

The loss to the Dolphins is hopefully rock bottom and in a way that may be just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps the entire organization needs to stare into the abyss and each individual member needs to determine what can be done to fix a team that suddenly has an alarming number of holes.

Ravens fans in Miami didn’t seem all that upset by the loss. Perhaps they’ve grown accustomed to losing. If you think about it the team is fortunate (or unfortunate depending upon your perspective) to be 4-10. Take away a dropped pass here and there and the Ravens could easily be sitting at 2-12 right now.

The Buffalo Bills who probably thought they would be receiving a low third round draft pick in the Willis McGahee trade are undoubtedly having a private chuckle over the Ravens’ misfortunes. Who could blame them?

Yet McGahee is one of the few bright spots for the Ravens this season. Given an offense that brings about as much firepower as a Red Ryder BB Gun and the high level of transition on the Ravens’ offensive front, McGahee’s accomplishments are just short of a modern day miracle. When we look back upon this season when it is thankfully over, McGahee will be considered one of the few Ravens who actually performed as expected.

But back to Miami…

What wasn’t expected on Sunday was a Ravens’ loss to the winless and hapless Dolphins. What will make this an even more embarrassing loss for the Ravens particularly as time goes on is that they will be remembered in perpetuity as the team that enabled the Dolphins to escape a winless season. And they did it behind the quarterbacking prowess of yet another Ravens’ reject, Cleo Lemon.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Most coaches will tell you that you play for the win on the road and the tie at home to force overtime. Brian Billick, just as he’s done so many other times in so many situations bucked conventional wisdom and went against the grain.

Down by 3 with 0:12 to go from the Dolphins 1 foot line, Billick opted to kick the field goal on fourth and goal. A 4-9 team with nothing to lose plays for the tie on the road.

"I know this: had we gone for it, if they could have snuck a 12th man onto the field, all 12 would have been up in the gaps and sold out totally for the run," Billick said.

"That's from our analysis. I guarantee it, knowing Dom Capers, that's exactly what they would have done. Not a commentary on us offensively or on the line or the ability to run the ball, but they were going to shove everybody in there."

And fans have three more years of this cowardly decision making to look forward to?

What kind of message did he send to his team?

The message that reverberated like a hymn throughout Dolphins Stadium just after the game ended was Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins…

The fans were jubilant and it had the feel of a playoff victory. The Dolphins faithful got what they deserved. Fans who sit through a 0-13 season and still show up in support deserve to be rewarded and the great Greg Camarillo did exactly that when he scampered past Ed Reed and Jamaine Winborne after snaring a short slant pass and taking it 64 yards for the winning score.

Folks that enjoyed the trip to Miami will probably get a chance to do it again next year. If the Ravens finish in last place in the AFC North (and there’s little reason to think they won’t) they will travel to take on the Dolphins again in ’08. Other non-divisional road games in ’08 include Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas and the NY Giants.

Let’s just hope that next year the Ravens are as ready to travel as their fans who showed up in numbers nearly 10,000 strong in Miami.

Here's to a better 2008 season under your Christmas tree this year.


Anonymous said...

With all due respect, the loss to Miami was a drop in the disappointment bucket compared to the loss to Indy last year. Expectations couldn't have been higher to vanquish the Blue & White Irsays, and then to see that pathetic performance last year just sucked the life right out of me and a lot of other Ravens fans.

Losing to Miami? Big effin deal. To begin with, it was a battle of two lousy teams. Second, it helps secure better draft picks in 2008. And maybe -- just maybe -- it will help generate a one-way ticket for Brian Billick straight out of town.

And it's not even close to being the biggest disappointment in 2007. That would go to Steve Bisciotti's failure to do what he should have done at the end of the 2005 season -- fire Brian Billick. Billick should have been fired during the bye week so we could have started the post-Billick rebuilding process. Instead of making that tough call and moving on, all we got were more stupid Billickisms and more lame excuses.

And sadly -- and as insane as it is -- it looks like we're going to be "treated" to more of the same in 2008. The thought of possibly drafting a franchise QB, only to have Billick ruin him with his "play not to lose mentality/high school-ish play book" is just more than my mind can wrap around.

Did you see Troy Smith's excitement at the prospect of going for it on 4th and a foot get summarily snuffed out by Billick on the sideline? That's just the tip of the iceberg. And there isn't enough purple Kool-Aid in the world to make that one go down and stay down. Every time I hear a Billick presser I just want to puke.

And 2008 is going to be an even bigger disappointment than 2007, even if we end up around the 8-8 mark. Because it'll be yet another sad reminder that when you strip away all the hooplah and big-mouth bravado trash talking that always seems to surround the Ravens, we're basically a mediocre, 8-8 team (.560 during Billick's tenure). And the reality that we could have been so much more if only Billick had had a clue how to develop an NFL offense is about as disappointing as it gets in my book.

Anonymous said...

I'm still astonished that we didn't try to win the game from 1 foot out, but elected to kick the field goal. I don't care how many players Miami puts in the box. At 4-9 you play for the win on the road.

For once, show some faith in your offensive line that they can pick up 18 inches of football field. Why does he get a free pass on this? If the defense configures to stop the run, how about configuring your backfield to punch it in? What about a 2 or 3 back formation with McGahee, Musa Smith and Mike Anderson? Why does this moron think that a play action pass is his only alternative to running the football? This idiot calls play action passes when the team is down by 3 TDs.

Like you,I have been a supporter of Brian Billick through the years. When you look back at the New England game, the Miami game from this past Sunday, the playoff game against the Colts, the playoff game against Tennessee in 2003, and even as far back as the NFC championship between the Vikings and Falcons when he was the OC in Minnesota; what do they all have in common? A coach that calls the game not to lose rather than to win. A chicken-s--t loser's mentality that hasn't changed.

Now he will not even give the fans the opportunity to watch Troy Smith get a start in Seattle, because he believes that Kyle Boller gives us the best chance to win. Last I saw, Boller hasn't won a road start since 11/14/2004. How much more of this must we take? When will this embarrassment end?

When you act like a p---y, you get screwed. This coach is afraid to make the right moves. Why? God only knows.

ravcol said...

By losing to Miami the Ravens are not guaranteed better draft picks for 2008, but a better draft Position - a huge difference.