Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MOMENT OF TRUTH: Ogden Should Retire...Ray is a Liar

I found it interesting that just minutes before Jonathan Ogden was supposed to go on the air as ESPN 1300’s Anita Marks’ week long side kick from radio row in Phoenix, he was on air with WNST. To their credit NST wasted little time and tried to get Ogden to fess up and reveal his plans for the 2008 season. Ogden bit his lip but if it’s possible to predict an action based solely on tonal inflections during an answer, my guess is we’ve seen the last of Jonathan Ogden in a Ravens uniform. And that’s a good thing!

I mean no disrespect to J.O. Who among us could question his contributions to the organization? But it’s time to move on. It’s time to see if Adam Terry can get it done if told left tackle is his job to lose. He’s performed well at LT when he’s been given a chance to stick his toe in the water. Let Terry take a full body plunge and give him the job in ’08. Here’s hoping that J.O. hangs up the big toe.

Ray Lewis has spoken out in the past and he’s clearly been the instigator of controversy. Last week while on the set of The Best Damn Sports Show, Ray was a mock contestant in a mock version of Fox’ TV show “Moment of Truth.” For those not familiar with the show, the contestant is put through a series of increasingly difficult questions and the truthfulness of the responses is validated by a polygraph machine.

Ray was asked if Brian Billick was a good head coach. He said yes. He was asked if he was better than Brian Urlacher. He said yes. He was then asked if he could get away with it would he take performance enhancing drugs. Ray said no. Finally Ray was asked if he believed that the Ravens could win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback. Ray said yes.

The polygraph confirmed that only one of Ray’s answers was a lie. More on that in a bit…

Few around the league would find fault with the Ravens’ drafting prowess and their ability to evaluate collegiate talent. If there is a weakness in the Ravens approach on draft day, that weakness clearly lies in their inability to produce an impact player in rounds 2 and 3.

I will tell you that Ravens’ Director of College Scouting Eric DeCosta is a driven, determined and emerging NFL executive. His character is such that he is openly more critical of his own mistakes and more interested in mending them than accepting praise for the many right choices he’s made since assuming the reins from Phil Savage in 2005.

Some critics have said the Ravens front office hasn’t been the same since Phil Savage left. To that I say, “You better take a closer look!”

Savage’s last draft with the Ravens was by far their worst. The Ravens left their war room on day 2 of the 2004 draft with Dwan Edwards, Devard Darling, Roderick Green, Josh Harris, Clarence Moore, Derek Abney and Brian Rimpf. Four of the seven aren’t even in the NFL and the others have produced very little.

Clearly Phil Savage’s star is rising a bit after a successful campaign in Cleveland. Let’s see what they do this year now that they aren’t near the top of the draft and that they don’t have a No. 1 pick thanks to the trade they made with the Cowboys to nab Brady Quinn. Clearly the jury is out on Quinn but you would think Savage may have learned from the 2003 trade with New England for the rights to draft Kyle Boller.

Some also seem quick to forget that Savage was hanging by a thread in Cleveland. If not for a successful 2007, Savage and Romeo Crennel could have been on their way out. Instead they stay. Crennel even received an extension through the 2011 season. Crennel had two years remaining on the five-year deal he signed in February 2005. The extension is believed to be worth about $4 million per season.

I wonder if Phil Savage is familiar with Brian Billick’s 2006 contract extension. Hello, McFly!

Back to Ray Lewis and the mock game of “Moment of Truth.” Ray’s answer that was refuted by the lie detector was his “yes” answer to the question, “Did you think the Ravens could win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback?”

Wonder if Ray had something to do with the Ravens acquiring Elvis Grbac…

Surely I jest…

I think…

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

WNST Continues to crush Steve Bisciotti

As I surfed the AM dial yesterday to quench my insatiable appetite for Ravens news, I hit on 1570 WNST to check in with Drew Forrester, Casey Willett and Nestor Aparicio. The trio was live from the cool dessert and they shared their thoughts on the newsworthy topics that litter the sports landscape.

I have to give it to Aparicio – he can be very thoughtful and insightful while offering an interesting perspective or ten on something topical. But just when I think that I’d like to hear him more regularly on air, the whining begins again and I’m reminded why I don’t miss his on-air talents at all. It’s a shame, because when Aparicio brings his A-game he’s as good as anyone on the dial.

On Monday the whining was centered upon Steve Bisciotti – again. WNST has beaten the Ravens’ owner regularly since the season ended and firing the station’s best buddy (Brian Billick) has fueled incessant complaining that collectively sounds like the pediatric ward at GBMC. I would have paid the in studio board op to hit that crying infant button that Nestor used repeatedly during his on air days.

When Aparicio sinks his teeth into something he holds on like a pit bull might cling to a hunk of raw porterhouse steak. He beats it and beats it to death. Maybe he’s grown bored beating a deserving victim silly (Angelos) and now he’s turned his attention towards an undeserving victim (Bisciotti) claiming that he no longer runs the Ravens the way Art Modell ran them and seriously questions the manner in which Bisciotti handles personnel decisions.

Isn’t that interesting?

Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

I wonder what Spiro Morekas, The Swami, Terry Ford and Jeremy Conn might say about Aparicio’s human resources acumen.

And by the way last time I checked, Steve Bisciotti became a billionaire on his ability to make personnel decisions.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Random Ravens Ponderings...

Random ponderings on a Thursday afternoon while awaiting that first snowflake…

Junior Seau is clearly a role model of sorts for Ray Lewis. Most thought that Seau had reached the twilight of his career, particularly the Chargers. Arguably he was to the Chargers what Ray is to the Ravens yet like other hometown heroes affected by the salary cap (Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott) Seau was jettisoned yet his passion for the game has guided him to more success.

Bill Belichick’s handling of Seau as a situational player has extended Seau’s career and deepened his wealth. Might someone do the same for Ray? The handwriting appears to be on the wall because these kind of career transitions for highly paid players almost always end with the player leaving his long time employer. Where might Ray end up in 2009? Your guess is as good as mine or the weatherman who predicted snow today.

I think my colleague Dev Panchwagh is on to something with the tag and trade scenario involving Terrell Suggs. If the Ravens can find a way to combine the productivity of a maturing Antwan Barnes with that of a rookie (No. 8 pick) like Vernon Gholston and add a player like Larry Fitzgerald through the tag and trade….in my best Jim Carrey voice, “I like it a LOT!”

What is The Sun's David Steele thinking about with Cleo Lemon? Lemon is the answer to the Ravens QB woes? Please. I would prefer Troy Smith working with Cam Cameron in a New York nanosecond to the former Ravens’ camp fodder QB. Haven’t the Ravens had enough lemons at quarterback? Give Cam a chance to work with Smith, a player who is very coachable and one with great leadership skills. Seems to me someone with those qualities who is also vertically challenged did pretty well for Cameron. Anyone familiar with Drew Brees?

Staying with the Ravens QB situation, does anyone really believe that Steve McNair will be the team’s starter on Opening Day 2008? Don’t count me among those that do. Brian Billick while he still believed he would be the Ravens head coach in 2008, hinted strongly that McNair may have played his last down for the Ravens and that’s coming from someone who has mastered the art of holding a press conference without saying a single meaningful word.

The Ravens can’t win with McNair. He ran out of gas in ’06 when the Ravens were good. Why would anyone think that he would be any better in ’08 after another surgery and two more years of wear and tear than he was in ’06? Save the money, make the cut, thank him for 2006 and move on.

Clearly the Ravens have done well with their first round picks over the years. But it seems to me they fall in love with those picks too and shell out way too much money to keep them. Want proof? They wear the numbers 20, 21 and 86.

Some believe that Chris McAlister could transition well to safety and extend his career given his physical style, much like Rod Woodson did. But McAlister doesn’t have the maturity or leadership of Woodson and he isn’t exactly a student of the game. McAlister might follow that path but let him do it elsewhere.

The older I get the more I hate winter. Ok, go ahead and call me a wuss. I am when it comes to cold weather. I felt like an even bigger wuss watching the Packers’ bikini girls out there by the frozen tundra. Brrrrrrrrr…

I am so appreciative of J.O. and his contributions to the Ravens and I will be like a proud brother when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That said count me among those that hope he hangs up the big toe and calls it a career. It’s time to move Adam Terry to left tackle and see if Jared Gaither can step in at right tackle. Move Yanda to right guard and shift Ben Grubbs back to his collegiate position of left guard. Given the girth of nose tackles these days, I don’t think that Chris Chester can handle them consistently. Jason Brown can. Move him to center.

If I’m Cam Cameron one of the first things I’d do is find a great teacher to fill in as my offensive line coach. A similar move did wonders for the Green Bay Packers. Cam might also consider James Lofton to coach his receivers. Lofton worked well with Cameron in San Diego.

If Rex Ryan can swallow the prerequisite humble pie, his return could work although the move would not be without risk. There is always the chance for sour grapes to rear their ugly heads and there is also a chance that Rex could leave after ’08 anyway. If Rex comes back the Ravens should identify a candidate in house who could take over for Rex should his return be a one and done deal. If they don't bringing Rex back is a waste of time.

Still no snowflakes…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Please turn down the volume!

During a week when radio sports talk show hosts have plenty to talk about, one local host spent an inordinate amount time talking about unusual sports injuries and another about Super Bowl parties she planned/hoped to attend.

While the topic of sports injuries is clearly in bounds, discussing injuries to testicles excessively is not only not funny, it’s boring. If that topic is worthy of the A-list, I’d hate to hear the B-list.

On to the BS-list, does anyone really care whether a talk show host has a hook up to the many celeb parties that are a huge part of the Super Bowl landscape? Apparently name dropping is a sport of choice nowadays on the afternoon drive at ESPN1300, second only to discussions about American Idol.

ESPN’s Dana Jacobson certainly wishes that the volume was down at a recent roasting of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. Word is Jacobson tried to get into some playful verbal sparring with Mike & Mike and peppered her trash talking with some way below the belt smack. With University of Notre Dame grad Golic as the target of her unnecessary vitriolic attack, Jacobson slurred F--- Notre Dame, F--- Touchdown Jesus and F--- Jesus.

While some have opined that ESPN was wrong to hand down a week long suspension to Jacobson for her comments given that they were splattered at a roast, someone in her position needs to understand that such highly inflammatory remarks bear consequences.

There could be more to this story, particularly if sponsors threaten an exodus unless Jacobson is reprimanded more severely.

No one asked me, but as of this writing the host of ESPN First Take got off easy. Way easy.

At least for now…

Guess we’ll call this one the F-List.

The Coaching Carousel...Enjoy the ride!

This coaching carousel is pretty entertaining don’t you think? Let the carnival music begin and let’s hop on and enjoy the ride…

Over there is former Ravens linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald. Fitz has always been a fiery guy and it’s nice to see him land on his feet but did he have to land in the AFC North? He’ll be helping another former Ravens coach Marvin Lewis in 2008.

When Marvelous Marv left B’more he traveled south a bit to Snyderville to become the Redskins’ defensive coordinator. He stayed there one year. One year removed from being fired as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, Jim Fassel now looks like he’s going to be the successor to Joe Gibbs.

You think Fassel might ask Brian Billick to be his offensive coordinator?

Who might be Fassel’s defensive coordinator? Could it be Rex Ryan? Now that would be interesting. Some in Owings Mills questioned Fassel’s commitment to his O.C. position and there was once a widespread rumor that the Ravens’ defensive coaches were not very impressed with the collective work ethic of their offensive counterparts.

Now Rex Ryan just learned today or somewhere thereabouts that he would not be named the Falcons’ new head coach. That job is going to Mike Smith, a former Ravens’ defensive assistant and the most recent defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mike Smith also happens to be the brother-in-law of Brian Billick.

You think Smith might ask Brian Billick to be his offensive coordinator?

Back to Rex Ryan for a moment, now that the Falcons have moved in a different direction, where is the offer from the Ravens to keep Rex in B’more? I recall Steve Bisciotti saying, "I think very highly of Rex. I talked to Arthur Blank and if Rex doesn't get the Atlanta job, I hope he does, then I hope he stays here.”

Hey Steve, he didn’t get the Atlanta job, so now what?

It will be interesting to see how they spin this one if and when Rex doesn’t stay. If Rex does end up in DC would Skins’ current defensive coordinator Gregg Williams make his way up the BW Parkway?

One coordinator who will make Baltimore his home in 2008 is Cam Cameron. Cameron comes to B’more by way of Miami and San Diego. He goes from the Gas Lamp District to Ocean Ave. in South Beach to the Baja Beach Club on Lombard Street. I’m sure Cam’s wife is ecstatic.

The move to get Cameron appears to be a good one, one that some thought would only be possible if Marty Schottenheimer was named the Ravens new head coach. But Cameron has ties to John Harbaugh that go back 27 years and during his conference call this afternoon Cameron said he is “excited.”

Unemployment has a way of lowering one’s expectations now doesn’t it?

During the conference call, members of the media pressed Cameron on the changes he envisions implementing for the Ravens’ offense. Please, give the guy a break and let him assess the situation a bit. To do anything less would be the equivalent of hiring a new chef to cook up a better tasting meal without assessing the ingredients.

That said, if I were Cam I may have replied, “We plan on scoring more points.”

Hope you enjoyed the ride…please exit to the left.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jason Garrett picks Ginger over Maryann

Many of us have been there. You date someone and you think she’s ok. You have fun, she’s pretty cool but she doesn’t exactly rock your world but you play along anyway and go with the flow.

And then there’s the X girl...the one you’ve aspired to be with yet she wasn’t quite available or even worse – she wasn’t attracted to you in the same way.

You’re with Maryann but you prefer Ginger.

In the case of Jason Garrett he was courted by Maryann but he’s not quite ready for Ginger because she’s seeing someone else.

But he’s willing to wait.

And that in a nutshell is the story of the Ravens’ (Maryann) courting of the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator.

The skyward direction of Garrett’s silver spoon-in-mouth as he turned his nose up at the Ravens may end up being one of the best things that has ever happened to this franchise -- a blessing in disguise. And Lord knows the Ravens’ organization is due a little luck after a very unfortunate 2007.

Garrett just doesn’t seem like a fit for Baltimore. He used the Ravens as crash test dummies to hone his head coaching interview skills and to feel out the process but it’s obvious now he really had no intentions of coming to Baltimore. Good for us. I only wish the Ravens had withdrawn the offer prior to Garrett batting his eyes and saying thanks but no thanks.

John Harbaugh on the other hand is more our style. He strikes me as a grinder, a no nonsense lunch pail kind of guy who appears much more equipped to manage the strong personalities on the Ravens’ roster. He is well liked and respected by his peers and by the Philadelphia media. He’s been compared to a young Bill Cowher – a young Bill Belichick.

Maybe Harbaugh fits our Bill.

Maybe Harbaugh is our Maryann.

You know the old adage…Maryann for a lifetime, Ginger for a night.

Well we had our night with Ginger and it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

Good riddance to you and your phony interest and eyelashes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

McAlister on The Anita Marks Show

Yesterday I caught some of The Anita Marks Show when she had Daniel Wilcox and Chris McAlister on as studio guests. Wilcox, always the company man and team first guy, was quick to say that regardless of who the new coach is, he’ll get behind his new boss, compete and support him the best way that he can. Us Baltimoreans love guys like Daniel Wilcox.

McAlister on the other hand was the poster child representing the Ravens defenders who have openly whined about having to play for a potentially tough coach who believes that practice and camp should be a bit more physical and demanding than a Girls Scouts’ trip to The Enchanted Forest.

Personally, I’m fed up with that attitude. If Jonathan Ogden and Bart Scott and Chris McAlister and Ed Reed and Trevor Pryce don’t want to play for a tough coach, then please help Ozzie find a new home for you. I am so sick of the pecking order, of the “treating us like men” brigade and this sickening sense of entitlement while hiding behind a faux badge of accountability.

When you ask a Ravens defender what happened that allowed Joseph Addai to be wide open for a touchdown on a simple little swing pass or why the Chargers primary receiving threat Antonio Gates can parade around the Ravens secondary with no one around him as though he has leprosy, you hear them casually discard it as a temporary communication breakdown.

That’s accountability?

Where is all world safety Ed Reed when the Ravens give up big plays in the secondary? Well usually he’s doing his thing and wagging. What’s wagging you ask? Well that’s a phrase coined by my friend Bruce Laird – it means wild ass guessing.

Is that being accountable?

Since when does being “treated like men” mean you get a limitless supply of hall passes when you screw up? To me that’s being treated like a spoiled child.

Personally I’d rather have a collection of less talented players, far fewer Pro Bowlers who actually cared about getting better than a bunch of crybabies afraid of a little hard work.

It’s time for players like McAlister to go. If Ozzie can somehow absorb the cap figure and trade McAlister and find a willing taker to give up a first day pick for him, take it and run.

But Ozzie, don't forget to treat him like a man when you show him out the door.

Ravens' coaching search continues...Oh Happy Days!

The Ravens last head coach had a tough time admitting he was wrong when it was clear that he was. The behavior was reminiscent of “The Fonz” on the old ABC series, Happy Days. Now his potential successor Jason Garrett conjures up memories of Fonz’ old buddy Richie Cunningham.

But Garrett left town for Atlanta, or so they say. Did anyone see him board that jet plane?

So who’s next Potsie? Ralph Mouth? Mr. C.? Mrs.C.? Joannie? Chachi? Mr. Miyagi (I mean Arnold)?

I’ll tell you, you have to give Jason Garrett credit for owning a solid pair of cojones. Here’s a guy who has three years of coaching experience, two as a quarterbacks coach and one as an offensive coordinator and he has the stones to walk away from a four or five year multi-million dollar contract – at least for the time being. He’s playing a great game of Texas Hold ‘Em with a lousy hand and without the benefit of dark sunglasses. Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

Now aiding and abetting Garrett with his ample supply of testosterone is none other than Jerry Jones. You see Jones’ infatuation with Garrett gives the Princeton Grad leverage and those Princeton Tigers are pretty smart guys. So the Cowboys are Garrett’s ace in the hole. He knows that he is the heir apparent to Wade Phillips and one slip up by Phillips and Garrett will swarm in like a buzzard on road kill.

And don’t think for a second that the Cowboys’ head coaching job isn’t the apple of Garrett’s eye. Here’s a guy whose ties to the Cowboys date back to his playing days, when he was Troy Aikman's backup on two Super Bowl championship teams. His father, Jim Garrett, also had been a longtime scout for the Cowboys. Oh and don’t forget that beautiful new ball yard that Jerry Jones will Christen to start the ’09 season…

Now if the Cowboys go 13-3 again next year and they advance in the playoffs, Garrett won’t get that job – at least not in 2009 unless of course Phillips decides he’d rather raise longhorns and watch Texans games with his dad Bum in Houston.

But then again, Garrett might be courted by other NFL teams seeking new head coaches after the 2008 season. Are those jobs more attractive than the Ravens’ job? They could be. Clearly the Ravens’ position is a good one but it doesn’t come without its problems as well.

So what will happen with Garrett and the Ravens?

It’s hard to say. Garrett could go back to Dallas and fall flat on his face. It isn’t inconceivable that Terrell Owens has a meltdown in ’08, loses his mind on the sidelines and barks up one side of the red head and down the other as Dallas’ late season struggles continue through ’08. Then what?

The Ravens played their card yesterday. It’s now time for Garrett to make a move.

Hold ‘em or fold ‘em?

The guess here is that Jerry Jones gives Garrett a raise and he stays in Dallas. But then again, he could fold and take the Ravens reported $2.5 to 3 mil per year. Either way, give Garrett props for riding a hot hand and getting the most out of a rather shallow resume.

I mean really, the guy might have potential but what has he really done?

Anyone seen Potsie?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Radio killed the Ravens big stars?

What is Tony Romo thinking about? Ok well I know, it’s pretty obvious that it’s not the Dallas Cowboys and who among us, if given the chance to go on vacation with Jessica Simpson and frolic in the Mexican surf wouldn’t?

But let’s face it, if the Cowboys lose to the Giants (and by the way I’ll go on record and say that’s exactly what’s going to happen…Giants 23 Cowboys 20) how much flak will be tossed Romo’s way and who do you think will become public enemy No. 1 in Dallas?

I don’t know about you, but after I go on vacation, my employer has never gotten the best from me immediately after my return. Sometimes it takes a week to settle back in after surfacing from chill out mode.

Poor Jessica….

Many around town think that the player radio shows are a distraction for the Ravens. Why? Did Ray’s show hurt his performance? Did he say anything during his show that he wouldn’t have said otherwise? Willis McGahee says little of anything and he certainly performed well. Jonathan Ogden…would his toe have healed faster if he didn’t talk? Bart Scott…would he have adapted to his new role better if he didn’t show up on his off day at Della Rose’s? Derrick Mason…103 catches…nuff said!

I will admit that 5 shows plus Brian Billick’s was overkill. Add in the Monday Night Lives at Piv’s Pub and there’s even more overkill. Perhaps there was too much of it but it’s doubtful that the radio shows affected performance on the field. But hey, for those that want to put an end to the player shows, don’t listen. No listeners = no sponsors = no money = no shows. Pretty simple solution if you ask me.

Clearly Rex Ryan is the player’s choice to replace Brian Billick. That was evident on this week’s Bart Scott Show. Bart suggested that Rex Ryan forces the defense to be accountable and as a result they not only play for Rex but for each other. (I must admit that I wonder where that accountability was against the Colts)

Bart’s impassioned plea for Rex is certainly persuasive. I must admit that I initially did not think that Rex would be a good fit as head coach for the Ravens. But when Bart convincingly argued that Rex could bring a measure of accountability to not only the defense but also to the offense and special teams, he changed my thinking momentarily. I got caught up in his passionate support of Rex and for a moment, I had changed my mind.

I’m pulling a Bisciotti and changing it again.

Seems to me the more the players want Rex, the less I want him. The needed cultural change at One Winning Drive can’t happen with Rex in control.

Could Rex return as defensive coordinator? Maybe. But that would require a very strong head coach with experience and it doesn’t sound like at this point that’s the way the Ravens want to go. It looks like they want to hire a young up-and-comer. Having Rex around in that situation may place an unnecessary burden on the new coach and the entire organization.

Ed Reed is the Ravens sole representative on the All-Pro team. Congrats to Ed but I wonder if such accolades will make him even more un-coachable than he already is.

Finding Waldo, finding Ravens new head coach...which is easier?

As the Ravens search for Brian Billick’s replacement continues, speculation abounds as to who the next sheriff in town will be. Here are a few meandering thoughts to add to the speculation…

What if the Ravens' guy is Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones lets the infatuation with Garrett play out just long enough to help Jones gauge the cost to keep Garrett? Then Jones antes up a little less to have Garrett stay in Dallas with the promise that he’ll be Jones’ guy when Wade Phillips steps down or is removed. You have to believe that all things being equal, Garrett would prefer to stay in Dallas over a move to Baltimore, right?

But back to Phillips, do you think that all his gushing over Tony Sparano and Garrett is totally sincere? Don’t you think that at the end of the day there’s a little self-interest influencing those statements of wonder about Phillips' assistants? Eliminating the natural successors certainly aids one’s job security.

Jon Gruden has only one year left on a contract that pays him $4.5 million annually. Usually head coaches who are standing on solid footing are offered extensions when only one year remains on their contract. Could Gruden become available and if he did, might he be a fit? Or might the lack of an extension for Gruden simply be a case of the Glazers learning from the mistake made by Steve Bisciotti when he extended Brian Billick two years too long?

Perhaps even Wayne Weaver in Jacksonville is paying attention as well. After the 2005 season Jack Del Rio was given a three year extension for $10 million that terminates after the 2008 season. Jacksonville is one of the least wealthy teams in the NFL. You with me?

Del Rio has hardly been a favored son in Jacksonville's front office. GM Shack Harris who lost a power struggle with Del Rio over Byron Leftwich would not be crying in his beer if Del Rio left and chances are Weaver (who publicly voiced his displeasure over Del Rio’s open consideration of high profile collegiate jobs like the one at LSU) might not be broken hearted if the former Ravens’ linebackers coach hightailed it out of town – particularly if they get smoked in New England on Saturday night.

No one asked me but if in the unlikely event the Ravens would even consider coughing up draft picks for a head coach, Del Rio is a better choice than Marvin Lewis.

Like many of you, I was left scratching my head over the Ravens consideration of Brian Schottenheimer and John Harbaugh as head coaching candidates. I mentioned that in my blog earlier this week.

Since that writing I’ve learned from a well-placed source that Harbaugh is highly regarded and has been compared favorably to a young Bill Cowher or even Bill Belichick. If true, Harbaugh’s success might require some patience. During Belichick’s first six seasons as a head coach (5 with the Browns, 1 with New England), the cheating future Hall of Famer was 41-55. Then Drew Bledsoe went down and Belichick was forced to go with Tom Brady. Since Brady took over as the starter in Game 3 of the 2001 season (and he’s yet to miss a game since) Belichick is 86-24.

Funny how he got so smart after Brady arrived on the scene.

Just say no to Marvin Lewis

There are still folks who believe Marvin Lewis, not Brian Billick won Super Bowl XXXV. The truth is neither won Super Bowl XXXV. That 2000 defense is responsible for bringing Baltimore another Silver Betty – a defense that was not Lewis’ brainchild but rather a marvelous (pun intended) collection of athletes assembled by Ozzie Newsome.

The 2000 defense was very basic. There were few intricate schemes, exotic packages and hybrid formations. They simply played fast, played hard and tackled flawlessly. Each member of that defense understood their assignments and rarely did anyone freelance. Lewis helped to cheer them on, reminded them to keep “chopping wood” and encouraged them to be mindful of their roles. Other than, he stayed out of their way.

Recently Mike Preston of The Sun championed the idea of bringing Lewis back to Baltimore as the Ravens new head coach. He “rationalized” that the Bengals might be willing to release Lewis from his duties in Cincinnati for a draft pick or some combination of picks.

Mike, I think the fumes of The Sun’s printing press have gotten to you!

What a ridiculous idea! I had to look at the calendar to see if it was April 1.

What did Lewis do when he left Baltimore? He went to DC to coach up a very talented Redskins’ defense. The result: 365 points allowed, good for 21st in the NFL.

After that he went on to Cincinnati and has compiled a record of 42-38 – in other words mediocre. And the Ravens should give up a draft pick for that to a divisional rival?

Upon hearing the rumors that the Ravens could entertain the idea of “trading” for Marvin Lewis, polled Bengals fans overwhelming voted in favor of the idea.

Preston suggested that maybe the Ravens defenders would play hard for Lewis. I have to tell you and I hope this message goes from my keyboard to God’s ears – the Ravens need players that will play hard ALL OF THE TIME. Not just for Marvin or Rex. They need players to simply give 100% to their jobs 100% of the time.

Save the draft picks and pass on Lewis.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ogden Provides Clues to Ravens Woes

Rex Ryan seems to be a popular choice among fans and certainly among Ravens’ players as the successor to Brian Billick. Sorry to all you Rex Ryan fans but that won’t happen unless the Ravens’ search goes into a tailspin due to reasons outside their control. Why would the team assemble such a large panel (that includes no less than Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, George Kokinis, Kevin Byrne and Pat Moriarty) to seek out Bisciotti’s “Hall of Fame” head coach simply to hire someone already in house?

The answer is they wouldn’t. Rex Ryan’s only chance to be Billick’s successor is if all of the other top candidates say no to the Ravens. Given the limited number of head coaching opportunities this off season in the NFL, that is an unlikely scenario. Ryan’s chances are slim to none.

Odds & Ends: Some have compared the Ravens’ possible hiring of Jason Garrett to that of the 1998 Vikings offensive coordinator, Brian Billick. While I don’t believe that the comparison is very accurate I would still argue, “So what’s wrong with that?”

If Garrett can come in and do for the team what Brian Billick did during his first four seasons, I say bring it on! That said, I do think that Garrett’s resume is more steeped in experiences conducive to becoming a solid play caller, clock manager and in-game strategist.

On the other hand, Josh McDaniels the Patriots OC would be more like a young Brian Billick in my opinion. New England features a stud offensive line, MVP quarterback and skill position players to complement the home run hitter – Randy Moss. No truth to the rumor that Josh chose not to interview with the Ravens because they refused to change the name of McDaniel College to McDaniels College.

Anyone watch the replay of Super Bowl XXXIV (featuring the Rams and Titans) recently? Therein lies all the proof you need to conclude that Steve McNair is now but a shadow of his former self…Brian Schottenheimer and John Harbaugh are really head coaching candidates for the Ravens? There must be an ulterior motive right?... How about this quote from Jonathan Ogden: "Of all the names that have been mentioned, I think Marty [Schottenheimer] would probably be the best fit. But I would not want to play for Marty personally. Nothing against the man, I just know his style. He had Bruce Smith doing the Oklahoma drill when he was with the Redskins." What does that tell you about the mentality and make-up of the Baltimore Ravens? Read between the lines of Ogden’s comments and you’ll find a novel that could challenge the volume of War and Peace…

Friday, January 04, 2008

Talking Heads Compare Bisciotti to Angelos

There’s a lot of whining going on about how Steve Bisciotti pulled an Angelos and stuck it to Brian Billick. I think if you pay $600+ million you’ve earned the right to change your mind regarding decisions that impact the welfare of your investment.

Look, let’s face it Billick’s time was over. The team’s effort or lack thereof against the Colts, Dolphins and Seahawks was obvious. He had lost the team. But that aside, wasn’t it clear to everyone who watched the press conference to announce the firing that Bisciotti was very torn? He was torn about a decision to fire a friend, not unlike what Brian Billick had done to Jim Fassel just one season ago.

And just like Billick’s firing of Fassel, Bisciotti did it for the benefit of the team.

Or so he believes.

He’s earned that right just as Billick did.

Maybe Bisciotti wanted to believe that the Ravens could find an offensive coordinator to come and sweep up the debris otherwise known as the Ravens’ offense. But what capable offensive coordinator would move his family to Baltimore knowing that if things didn’t go well, he’d be out on the street again and have to move his family twice within a 12 month span?

Perhaps when that light bulb – that realization struck Bisciotti he changed his mind before it was too late. Time will tell if his change of heart was the right move but my money’s on the top cookie.

Now for those who've championed this silly notion that Bisciotti’s actions were Angelos-esque, please come in from outside your mind!

Do you think Angelos would pay Billick $15 million to sit on his butt down in St. Michael’s for three years? Do you think Angelos would have addressed the media nearly heartbroken? Do you think Angelos would have allowed the assistant coaches to use the warehouse facilities and OPACY to help assist them in finding other employment? Do you think that Angelos would have paid all of the assistants for a season of work that they are no longer obligated to complete?

These talking heads and radio station owners who are accusing Bisciotti of behaving like Angelos need to get over themselves. Seems to me that one such radio station owner has shown a pattern of behavior in the past infinitely closer to Angelos’ behavior than anything Steve Bisciotti has ever done.

NFL rumors are flying like planes in and out of O’Hare and they’ll continue to fly for awhile. One rumor originated on San Francisco coach Mike Nolan’s radio show. Apparently word is that Nolan mentioned Billick as a potential new offensive coordinator for the 49ers. What’s Nolan packing in his pipe these days? Do you think that Brian Billick would swallow enough humble pie to become the coordinator for his former coordinator just two seasons removed? If Billick waits another year, he might be a replacement candidate for Nolan.

I have to wonder if Nolan’s suggestion was a mild back handed slap in the face at his former boss…

Another OC mentioned as a possibility for Nolan is Mike Martz. Some in these parts would like to see Martz in Baltimore. Are you kidding me? Do you know who just assumed Martz’ coordinator responsibilities in Detroit? None other than Jim Colletto! Jim Colletto, the former Ravens offensive line coach who Brian Billick wouldn’t even give a sniff to when he campaigned for the Ravens OC job.

Mike Martz as Ravens’ OC…now that’s funny.

This off season will be immensely more entertaining than the 2007 regular season.
You can bank on that!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ravens Dealt Costly Win

It’s tough to root against your home town team especially when they are playing their bitter rival. But I have to admit that was exactly what I was doing on Sunday.

No, I haven’t had a momentary lapse of reasoning and no I didn’t get any Hines Ward jammies for Christmas. What I had hoped for was a loss that could have been a big long-term win and I didn’t care if the loss came against the Steelers. Besides, does anyone really think that the Ravens’ win over the Steelers was meaningful? The only value it brings is that we don’t have to talk about the Ravens 10 game losing streak come September.

As for the April draft, the Ravens will get the eighth pick and since Mike Tice won’t be drafting ahead of the Ravens, they will get the eighth overall player (remember the 2003 draft?). But that pick could have been the sixth pick or better. Had the Ravens lost to Pittsburgh they would have been tied with Atlanta, Oakland and Kansas City with identical 4-12 records courtesy of opponents with a winning percentage of .516.

Think a few slots in the draft don’t make a difference?


In 1998 just one pick ahead of Duane Starks the Jaguars selected Fred Taylor. Fast forward to 2000 when the two picks prior to the Ravens selecting Travis Taylor with the tenth overall pick were Plaxico Burress and Brian Urlacher.

Whatever pleasure you savor from that meaningless and potentially damaging win against the Steelers will long be forgotten if the next Brian Urlacher is chosen by the New England Patriots one slot before the Ravens and they end up instead with the next Travis Taylor.

Recently I’ve received emails suggesting that I am a Brian Billick basher. I once received emails claiming that I was a Brian Billick “hugger” although that wasn’t quite the word used by one emailer. Actually I am neither.

I like Brian Billick. I just don’t like him coaching my favorite team any more. I appreciate what he did. I once admired his style. He was a breath of fresh air after the mealy mouthed Marchibroda Administration. Now he’s nothing but hot air and unfortunately the players hear or feel the same.

The Ravens need a new face and a new voice and a new slate. Billick grew stale by the end of October when all of the hype surrounding the Ravens would amount to nothing more than that. His time has come and gone. Thanks for the memories. I hope that as time goes on Billick is remembered more for the skillful way he led during the 2000 season than for his inability to assemble a consistently effective offense here in Baltimore.

Many have wondered how Steve Bisciotti could just a week or so ago give Billick an endorsement and the thumbs up on his return in ’08 only to reverse field on New Year’s Eve. Sorry, but I don’t think it went down that way. From what I hear, Bisciotti wasn’t too happy after the Colts debacle back on December 9. In fact that could be the understatement of the decade. Imagine your $600 million investment being an embarrassment on a national stage.

My guess is that around that time, Bisciotti watched very closely and paid attention to the way in which the team carried itself. He was looking for clues as to whether Billick had lost the team. Injuries aside, it’s hard to find even an average team effort in the games against the Dolphins and Seahawks.

Yet even after those substandard efforts (and I use the term loosely) I still think that Bisciotti was prepared to give Billick one more chance although he publicly never gave such assurances to Billick. But something happened and what exactly went down isn’t really all that important. What is important is that whatever happened, it must have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and it finally persuaded Bisciotti to do the right thing – FIRE BILLICK!

So where do the Ravens go from here with their coaching search?

Some have said that the brewing public battle between Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer is the prelude to Lewis looking for a return to B’more. Others say the next Ravens head coach already calls Baltimore home – Rex Ryan.

I say pass on both!

Marvin Lewis did not win Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens defense did. He didn’t do anything magical. It was a vanilla defense played beautifully by very fast, aggressive and physical athletes.

Rex Ryan is too close to the Billick culture. If you are going to cut the head, the body has to go with it and Ryan is part of the body. He’s an outstanding assistant and it’s possible, perhaps even probable that he could be a very good head coach. But not here, not now.

The Ravens need a completely fresh approach and I’m afraid the Ravens defenders have ruled the roost too long. Ryan’s appointment to HC would only extend that rule and it’s not working.

This will be an interesting off season...

Photo by Sabina Moran