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?

WRONG!

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

4 comments :

Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Sykesville, Jan 2, 2008
Tony well put. I hope the new Coach will add some Discipline. I love Bart Scott and fully understand what led up to him trying out for the ORIOLES Pitching staff by throwing the Flag in the stands. He had put up with 3 hrs of pushing off by the New England Receivers..Enough was enough.
But, still you must be in control out on the field as long as the game is going on.Save that emotion for the sidelines.
I agree...that Ryan, although a terrific coach... should not be the head Coach..not here..not now...
Atlanta Maybe.. also..he can hire his long haired brother, whom I understand was let go by the RAIDERS??
I listened to the JO BIG SHOW tonite and He seems to think that KIRK FERENEZ would be a good choice.
I have no Idea what the Ravens will do; Know this..they'd better get it Right this time..or the man doing the Selection; could be the next man OUT!
Harry O 29, Sykesville

Anonymous said...

Wow, Tony. Just Wow. I don't even know where to start. I think you said out loud what a number of fans were thinking -- that it would have benefitted the Ravens to have lost to the Steelers. But while it's naive to think stuff like that doesn't happen in the real world (i.e. teams lose on purpose to get a better draft pick, despite all the hype to the contrary), it sure sounds harsh reading it in black and white.

Also, one can look at it from a slightly different point of view: that what we were able to see in Troy Smith MIGHT just have prevented us from using a 1st round draft pick on Ryan or Brohm, focusing instead on a top tier CB or DE.

I'm not ready to say that Troy Smith is "the answer", but from what I saw in that final "meaningless" game -- contrasted with what I really didn't see in Matt Ryan -- the Ravens might be better served by taking the core of the team we have, making some necessary cuts, and focusing our attention on areas other than a QB out of the 2008 draft, so we can hit the ground running with our new coaching staff.

And speaking of our new coaching staff, I've done a 360 with regard to Rex. My first thought was "he's the guy", Then I thought he definitely was NOT the guy, because he was too close to all the problems (i.e. too many penalties, too much chest thumping, etc.) and, as such, it would be unwise to promote him to HC, or even bring him back as DC.

But the more I thought about it, while we watched the team melt down this season, isn't it accurate to say that the primary cause of the meltdown was Brian Billick's inept offense, and the team's reaction to that? J.O., Ray, and others.

Now that Billick is gone, do you really think the locker room mutiny would re-surface? Do you really think those guys just go off at the drop of the hat? Or was what we saw in terms of their dysfunction fundamentally rooted in Billick's dysfunctional way he ran the team for nine years?

I think we can avoid the need for a totally new course and take full advantage of what Rex brings to the table -- his players just don't like him and give lip service to him, THEY GET UP AND PLAY FOR HIM. Now, granted...the D looked lethargic and undisciplined a lot this year. But I'm willing to bet it was because of the weight of having to carry the offense yet again.

I'm not excusing it; I'm just saying that the source of their discontent is now gone. And I think they had a legitimate beef. I don't necessarily like the way they handled it, but remember -- it took a long time under Billick's nonsense for this to blow. I would bet that we'd see a return to just good old smash mouth football under Rex, with the offense free under a new OC to do what should have been done around here the past 9 years, and things could click. I do not think the team is in need of desperate changes the way Miami and Atlanta are.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind rolling the dice with someone like Garrett, or Jim Caldwell from the Colts. I would not like to see Marty here UNLESS what he showed after the Ravens game in 2006 -- that he'd be willing to TOTALLY give the offense over to the OC (and now that Cameron has been fired, maybe a reunion of Marty and Cam here on the East Coast might be interesting) -- has carried over to 2008. And Marty is almost DUE to win a SB. I mean how many tries has he had with no SB?

And I could live with Cowher, although he's a little too conservative for me, and I don't think QBs were handled too well up in Pittsburgh while he was there, and that's a real red flag around here. But I think he's better than Billick, and a comfortable fit here because of his style -- he understands a defense-based team, without necessarily choking the offense to death. I think he'd have no problem letting the OC run the offense, and the DC run the defense.

But my preference at this point would be Rex. And like you said...this is going to be an interesting off season, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Tony,

I totally agree that the Ravens squandered an opportunity to move up significantly in the draft. Every step in the draft, particularly in the top 10 is priceless. In addition, it affects every subsequent round. Our team needs so much...

I also agree with your comments regarding Billick, his replacement and Rex Ryan. We need a new culture of football here in Baltimore. We need players that are accountable for their penalties, their missed routes, their blown coverages.

Although I would love to have Bill Cowher as a coach, I think it would be wonderful if we followed the lead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and find a young coordinator who is ours to keep for a long tenure.

As far as our young owner is concerned, I am pleased that he had the courage to reshape the franchise, even if it looked awkward and everyone in the media is complaining that they were not given the scoop.

Tony Lombardi said...

From one of our visitors:

Tony, big Ravens fan here who looks at your blog. One correction on the draft pick issue – Ravens would have picked sixth and no higher had they lost to Pitt. The Ravens’ strength of schedule would have been greater with a loss – the Steelers would have been 11-5 instead of 10-6. Once you factor that in, we would have fallen behind Oak, Atl, and KC. So the win, while costly, wasn’t as bad as you suggested in your piece.



Steve


Thanks Steve...and you are correct!