Where are the Ravens headed?
Not necessarily in 2016, but as a franchise, in which direction are they going?
Four years ago this looked like a team that had figured out the formula for success. Consistent playoff appearances, a franchise quarterback, a successful head coach and a soon to be Super Bowl title. The Ravens were a team that had it all. So what happened?
2013 brought a bad decision by the team’s front office to trade the biggest factor in their Super Bowl run outside of Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin. A Super Bowl hangover ensued and a disappointing 8-8 finish was the result. 2014 brought a glimmer of hope as the team rebounded with a 10-6 record. A competent offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak established a system that worked and 2013 looked like it may have been an aberration, just a minor blip on the radar.
2015 dashed that hope quickly.
But there was still reason for optimism.
The struggles in 2015 could be attributed to an unprecedented rash of injuries. Twenty plus players on injured reserve would bury any team. After the organization had the chance to take a nice long look in the mirror, 2016 would be a true indicator of where this team was headed.
So far it doesn’t look great.
Their 3-0 record was largely smoke and mirrors. They beat three teams that combined for a 1-8 record after three weeks, and weeks 4-6 brought better competition and the schedule set up well. The Raiders, Redskins, and Giants don’t fall in the top tier of NFL teams, but they were a step up from the competition the Ravens faced the first three weeks of the season. It gave them an opportunity to gauge where they were before a brutal second half stretch.
A three game skid was the result.
So back to the question at hand, “Where are the Ravens headed?”
Joe Flacco has proved that he can win when he has the right pieces around him, but he’s not going to be the outspoken leader of this franchise. He never has been and he never will be. The identity of the team won’t be forged by him.
John Harbaugh has proved he can motivate his players, even in situations like the end of last season where there is little to play for. That’s great, and it’s not an easy task, but he came unraveled in the first half of last season, and he has made costly decisions in the first half of this season. Besides, the identity of a team needs to be established by the players on the field. The coach plays a large role but he can only do so much.
As Ravens fans we’re in unfamiliar territory. After seventeen years of big personalities, clear cut leaders, and players that could be considered some of the best at establishing an identity in NFL history, the current fan favorite and most exciting player on the Ravens is their kicker.
Week seven has been deemed a must win game by many, and maybe it is. But one thing is for certain, this team is at a crossroad. If they head into their bye on a four game skid, capped of by a loss to the reeling, Geno Smith led Jets, this team isn’t going anywhere in 2016.
And this season should be the least of our worries. Where is this team headed beyond 2016?
At the moment, it’s a scary thought.