A Team in Crisis
Who are the Baltimore Ravens?
What kind of team are they?
What defines them and for crying out loud, where have all the playmakers gone?
They have morphed into the NFL’s melba toast. Plain, boring and extraordinarily ordinary and lately they are defined by coaching blunders. Fans have taken notice and they’ve become detached.
Just look around M&T Bank Stadium during home games. Thousands of upper deck seats are empty and more visiting fans invade The Bank than ever before. Broker ticket prices have fallen. Tickets available for sale on Facebook are as common as a request to play Candy Crush Saga.
Steve Bisciotti surely has taken notice.
Defensively the Ravens were once physical. They beat up opponents. They were menacing and haunted opposing quarterbacks. Remember all of the stats on how uncommonly low passer ratings dropped when teams visited the crazy crowds on Russell Street?
Offensively the Ravens were caretakers of the football. They too were physical and exerted their will on opponents. They were patient and steadfast and splashed in some big plays while eating clock and winning the battle for field position. Sure, they stumbled at times on offense, but you always knew your Baltimore Ravens.
Today the Ravens lack an identity and if you were forced to assign one to them, it probably wouldn’t be very flattering. They are Forrest Gump’s definition of life, and you really never know what you’re going to get.
Maybe the best question for the Ravens to ponder organizationally is, “What kind of team do you WANT to be?”
Given the way that the Ravens have drafted lately, it’s reasonable to conclude that the scouts and the coaching staff aren’t on the same page. This past Sunday second-round pick Kamalei Correa was a healthy scratch as was fourth-round receiver Chris Moore and fifth-round OLB Matt Judon. In their places were:
* Chris Carter: 6-year veteran, 5th-round pick in 2011 (Steelers), 4 teams, 20 career tackles
* Dan Brown: 2-year veteran, UDFA 2015, 6 career catches
* Darren Waller: 2-year veteran, 6th-round pick in 2015 (Ravens), 2 career catches, fresh off suspension
Correa was a beast early during training camp and was all over the field. Now, word is the coaching staff has loaded him up with more responsibility while playing new positions and it has slowed his reaction time and diminished his effectiveness.
Moore has shown promise and an ability to create separation AND has also contributed on special teams. His ability to separate would have been welcomed against the Redskins’ man coverage, particularly after Steve Smith, Sr. went down.
Judon has shown an ability to pressure the quarterback and that is a skill clearly lacking on the Ravens roster, but instead, the Ravens find it more important to dress three special teams players, none of which registered a single statistic.
You have to wonder if special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has more say in matters than he should.
But more importantly, are the Ravens coaches doing enough to develop the talent that the scouting department drafts. We’ve beaten to death the failure that was the 2013 draft. Matt Elam and Arthur Brown were colossal flops. Now the 2015 draft class and its collective lack of productivity is being questioned.
Yesterday during John Harbaugh’s presser he was questioned on the productivity of the 2015 class. His response was telling.
“I haven’t thought about that. I couldn’t even tell you who’s in that draft class right now off the top of my head. You’d have to help me. But I think Breshad has a lot of upside, and I really believe he’s going to be a good player.”
He doesn’t know who’s in that class?
Of course he does! He’s intimately involved in the laborious process of the NFL Draft. He sees these guys every day. He studies film and pours over personnel decisions every single day.
Could “I couldn’t even tell you who’s in that draft class right now off the top of my head” be a backhanded shot at the scouting department? Might frustration levels be reaching their boiling point? Could finger pointing soon creep into team headquarters?
The Ravens regularly let high-priced free agents go because they are betting on their ability to draft less expensive players who can provide similar production. They’ve operated in part by the 80/20 rule – 80% of the production for 20% of the cost.
But what happens when they can’t get the 80% part of the equation? Who is to blame?
The scouts will begin to blame the coaching staff and the coaching staff will blame the scouts. Divisiveness could filter in and that could be the start of wholesale changes.
The first of those changes happened yesterday when offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was relieved of his duties. If things continue to spiral downward, who’s next, particularly if there are more boneheaded sideline decisions that lead to losses?
Could the scouts claim that the coaches don’t do enough to put the young talent in positions to succeed?
Harbaugh’s staff has regularly consisted of older coordinators who don’t present a threat to his throne should things go awry. But it’s fair to ask if the guys in charge of the X’s and O’s are innovative enough to keep up with the changes in the game. Trestman is 60. He’s gone. Marty Mornhinweg is 54, he’s “new”, and given his (5-27) record as a head coach, he’s no threat. Dean Pees is 67.
Has Harbaugh stacked the game of thrones?
Something has to change. This team is broken.
Are they really that much different than the 2015 team that finished (5-11)?
Is that who the Baltimore Ravens are?
The next two weeks should reveal a lot.
Keep your hands inside the cart and enjoy the ride – if you can.