Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RAVENS HQ: A trip down One Winning Drive

Some, including our very own Fran the Fan, have criticized Ozzie Newsome for moving up to No. 18 in the 2008 NFL Draft to select Joe Flacco. Don’t count me among them. It’s obviously too early to jump to any conclusions but of the three QB’s in camp, Flacco stood out. He can make all the throws and can adjust his arm angle depending upon the situation. Not only is his arm powerful, it is equally accurate. He could be special. If he ends up being like Ben Roethlisberger only with a better arm and more mobility who will complain? Would you really fret giving up a pick to move up 8 spots for Flacco when you could instead have drafted OT Duane Brown or CB Antoine Cason?

That’s what I thought...

The Ravens wanted Flacco after they couldn’t get Matt Ryan and they got him. At some point you have to trust the Ravens front office more than your own opinions that have in large part been formulated from the opinions of league observers who are far less in the know than the brass at One Winning Drive.

It must be that time of year when we are all drilling down to find interesting and compelling things to discuss about the Ravens. Here’s one for you! Have you seen the new $5 bills? If not on the back of the bill in the lower right hand corner is an enlarged No. 5. The number is displayed in Ravens purple. Omen?

When John Harbaugh left the practice field after the first day of Mandatory Mini Camp, he was grinning from ear to ear. What better way of showing that the culture in Owings Mills will be different from this point forward than by dragging out his pacified vets into the rain for an old fashioned practice? Granted the team was dressed in shorts and practice jerseys only but the mood was spirited and rather intense marked by physical contact that you would not have seen during the Billick regime.

For the record the differences so far under Harbaugh include: practicing in the rain; no more cliques; no more veterans leaving the summer training camp hotel; no more Ravens Wired TV segments; quarterbacks dress in red; the offensive coordinator is really the offensive coordinator. Are the player radio shows and Ray Lewis’ dance next to go?

Summer camp sure does promise to be new and exciting and will undoubtedly be more physical featuring more live scrimmaging. The guess here is that this will help the team get off to a better start. The question is will they fade later in the year much like Mike Tomlin’s Steelers did in ’07 due in part to the team’s early season physicality on the practice field?

Some have been critical of Steve Bisciotti recently and they worry about the owner’s seemingly increasingly meddlesome ways. I’m not buying. Folks around town are a bit too paranoid about owner involvement thanks to the team across the street and the self anointed very available man owner. Bisciotti is the antithesis of Peter Angelos and challenges his employees to drill down and come up with solutions to improve performance and efficiency. That is how he built his fortune. He believes that determined and talented people can and will improve if placed in the right environment. But that doesn’t exclude Bisciotti’s involvement. Any good organization should give him the red carpet treatment to be involved.

On draft day, Bisciotti has been a staple in the Ravens’ war room over the past few years. His role has gradually changed and from what I’m told, the change is very welcomed. What Bisciotti brings and offers to the war room isn’t additional football acumen. There’s an abundance of that already in the room.

What he provides is a measure of reasonability and a finely tuned sense for reading people. Understanding people and what motivates them and drives them is the key to his fortunes. If Bisciotti didn’t offer such understanding and people reading skills to the war room, the war room would be less efficient.

During Day 1, the Ravens discussed Fabian Washington with the Raiders. The Raiders initially wanted a No. 2 or a No. 3 pick in exchange for the former first round pick out of Nebraska. Bisciotti listened in as Ozzie Newsome tested the waters with Al Davis & Co. Reportedly Ozzie ended that conversation while leaving the door open with the Raiders. Processing what he had observed, Bisciotti was convinced that the Ravens could get Washington for a No. 4 pick. His confidence was embraced by the rest of the war room and it helped the team stay true to its board and not reach for a corner despite the obvious need. All were of the opinion that Washington would be a Raven in exchange for a fourth rounder and all shared the opinion that whichever corner was still available in the draft, he would not approach the skill set of Fabian Washington.

So when are you going to let us know J.O.? All signs point towards retirement for the player who will undoubtedly become the first Raven inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But what is he waiting for? Those that defend J.O.’s procrastination suggest that he shuns the spotlight and doesn’t really want all of the attention of a press conference to announce his retirement. If that is true, here’s a suggestion J.O. That brief press conference can be trimmed down to a minimal amount of pomp and circumstance. Take ten minutes, get it done and then there’s no more questioning and wonderment about your retirement or possible return. Delaying the announcement generates far more attention than a press conference intended to confirm what most suspect anyway.

By the way, what is Jerry Jones thinking? His Cowboys had a bad game and his quarterback had an even worse game in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants yet still nearly won. He wasn’t that far away. So why bring in a player like Pacman Jones when you are that close? It makes no sense. Roger Goodell would be doing Jones a favor by just saying no to Pacman. I don’t care about providing Pacman with the ability to pursue a livelihood. When you are a re-re-re-re-repeat offender, don’t you lose that ability at some point? After losing face with Spygate, it would be hard to envision Goodell in a forgiving mood anytime soon.

Ever hear of the theory of global warming? I just walked in from outside on this late May morning. Uh, what exactly does global warming mean again?


Anonymous said...

We shouldn't compare Harbaugh to Tomlin in terms of strictness just yet. Tomlin had multiple two-a-days in training camp and what not. What Harbaugh has done so far has been more or less league-average in terms of strictness with the players. Tomlin also had a full week of practice during the bye-week. Harbaugh hasn't indicated that he's taking it to that level. We've just gotten so used to soft training camps under Billick. Players not staying with the team during training camp? Are you kidding me?