Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ravens Lack Leadership

John Harbaugh’s decision to try the onsides kick against the Jaguars made no sense. Sure he can try and spin it his way but I’d respect him more if he just said, “Sorry guys, I screwed up!”

But don’t hold your breath on that.

Let’s reset the situation.

The Ravens score their first points of the night and close the gap to 9-7 with 2:02 to go. They have 2 timeouts left and the benefit of the 2 minute warning as an additional timeout.

Billy Cundiff, aka Mr. Touchback knocks it through the back of the end zone as the Ravens give it back to rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Now you know Jack Del Rio isn’t going to put the ball in the air at this point. He’ll grind it out on the ground and eat up some clock and force the Ravens to burn their timeouts.

So chances are the Ravens would get the ball back and take over around their own 35 yard line with about 1:30 to go and tasked with advancing the ball 40 yards to set up Cundiff for a walk off win. If after 3 plus seasons and 61 starts you don’t have confidence that your quarterback can make that happen, then you’ve got the wrong guy leading your offense.

Look, this wasn’t Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or even Ryan Fitzpatrick that the Ravens were going up against. This was Blaine Gabbert who after 4 sacks and 92 yards passing to that point was probably one more nervous play from soiling the bed.

Now compare Harbaugh’s clock management in this contest to that in the team’s other loss in Tennessee. Down 23-10 with 7:03 left in the game and facing a 4th and goal from the Titans 11, Harbaugh decided to kick the field goal and give it back to a red hot Matt Hasselbeck and ask his tired defense to stop the Titans’ offense not once but twice AND answer those stops with two scores of their own.

Add it up and the logic is missing. Harbaugh was willing to send out a struggling defense to thwart a hot 3 time Pro Bowl QB yet afraid to ask an effective defense to stop a rookie QB in the national spotlight.

Seems to me the Ravens head coach is about as “consistent” as his quarterback.
Where Harbaugh does show consistency is in his highly crafted ability to spin doctor team issues without really meeting them head on – at least not publicly.

“I decided I wanted to go for the onside kick because I felt like we needed the short field and I felt we were going to get the onside kick,” Harbaugh said.

“I think when you watch the way it was executed, we would have gotten it if it was kicked a little further. You’ve got to kick it 10 yards; Billy [Cundiff] knows that. If we could have gotten it, we would been in good shape and it gave us the best possible chance to win. That’s why we did it. But you can certainly make a case the other way.”

That’s your leader ladies and gentlemen. Come to think of it the only effective leaders on this team (and this includes the coaching staff) are all on the defensive side of the ball and it’s this lack of leadership that suddenly brings the team’s coaching staff into question.

The Ravens offensive line is a mess. Is first year offensive line coach Andy Moeller capable of fixing it?

Cam Cameron’s track record speaks for itself and the message isn’t all that great. But as bad as he is, what would the Ravens do if he says, “I’ve had enough” or if he and Joe Flacco have such a strained relationship that they can’t work together? Who would create and implement the game plan and make the in-game play calls?

Harbaugh? A guy who has never been an offensive or defensive coordinator?

You know Brian Billick was many things, some good and some bad but one thing he wasn’t was afraid to surround himself with the best coaches available, many of whom have gone on to be head coaches in the NFL. The Ravens faced one on Monday night.

Who on Harbaugh’s staff is head coaching material? You could make the argument that Chuck Pagano could one day be capable but other than that, where is the depth and quality in coaching? Who has the cache to step up and challenge Harbaugh when needed?

Could it be that Harbaugh doesn’t want coaches surrounding him who during tough times could threaten his job? Maybe that explains his unwavering support of Greg Mattison.

Sure, this loss in Jacksonville was just one game but I can’t help to think back to the 2007 season when a talented Ravens team with a struggling quarterback was 4-2 and coming off a very sloppy win at home over a bad St. Louis Rams team. The signs and the problems were there but masked brilliantly by Brian Billick’s clever spinning – at least temporarily.

Eventually those problems manifested themselves in a 9 game losing streak and the end of the Billick era.

That’s not to say that the same can or will happen to the 2011 Ravens. But once again, the signs are there. Ray Lewis’ face says it all.


Jerry B said...

Have to agree with you, TL! Harbaugh's explanation is inexplicable! In fact, if you're so "sure" that you're going to recover that onside kick, why not use it on every.....kickoff! Ridiculous and calls into question not just his leadership, but his coaching acumen as well. As I stated elsewhere, I believe the Ravens have lost confidence in their OC, if not their HC, and are playing like it. It wasn't the personnel that impeded the defense last year as Pagano has proven and it isn't the personnel that's been impeding the offense the past two years! Unfortunately, with no Zorn, Saunders or Jackson waiting in the wings, we'll have to..... wait 'til next year!