Note: If you are one of the optimistic Ravens fans that believe the season is still salvageable, than this post is not for you. I commend you for believing, but you don’t want to read what I am about to write. Nothing against you, but this team has broken my final straw.
Remember when “Play Like A Raven” was ringing throughout Maryland? Remember when that same team used to find ways to win, no matter how difficult they made it? I know I do. The Baltimore Ravens were once a team that used to punch teams in the mouth like the bully on the playground stealing a kids lunch money. Now, they look like that poor helpless soul panicking to hide said money in their gym sock in the hopes that the bully will leave them alone. The Ravens used to be one of those bullies in the AFC North. Now, they are easily the worst team in the division. Even the Cleveland Browns are better, and I’m not sure it’s debatable given yesterdays putrid performance.
There are many areas in which I can critique this team right now. It’s honestly too easy. I will make life easier. Rather than going on a long-winded rant about how pathetic the Ravens look, I will break this down section-by-section with each grievance I have about this team, the coaching staff, and their inability to build competent depth.
Let me start by saying this; Yes, I was one of those people that legitimately thought this team had a chance to go deep in January and make a Super Bowl run. Looking at the roster from the outside in, this was a talented team. Quite frankly, it still is. They have a lot of talent on the sideline dealing with injuries. This is a team that has yet to see what their first round pick has to offer. The team’s unquestioned leader was sidelined for the season during the season-opener against the Denver Broncos. The Ravens do have a cupboard full of talent, but they also have deadweight sitting on the team that must go.
I have a saying I like to use, and the Ravens encompass this very well; “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” That is what this team is doing this season. Trying the same things over and over and expecting the results to change. Well, surprising to no one, the results continue to be the same each and every week. The Ravens have to be thankful Josh Scobee is such an incompetent kicker outside of 40yards or they would be sitting at 0-5 right now. If Ben Roethlisberger was playing, it would have been an absolute massacre at Heinz Field, if we are being honest.
Let’s start with the coaching staff. I don’t know if John Harbaugh has become arrogant or is losing his way, but this is a man who preaches discipline on both sides of the ball. The Ravens have completely lacked discipline on both sides of the ball with sloppy tackling, bad penalties, and consistent playing out of position. We can sit here and blame the coordinators for a lot, and trust me, I will, but at the end of the day, all of this falls back on the head coach. Harbaugh is just as much to blame, if not more, for what is going on. Now, let’s not get hasty here. I am in no way calling for his job here. But he must take a look in the mirror at the end of this season and make the necessary changes not only within himself, but the coaching staff and roster to make this team competitive once again next season. As Pauley (@AMPs_Randomness) said on Twitter, this team is softer than kitten shit, and that is 100% a mentality issue. Harbaugh needs to re-institute that mentality in his team.
Ahhhhhh, now we get to one of my favorite parts; The coordinators! Dean Pees. Here we meet. I have hated your soft, passive play-calling for about three years now, and it hasn’t changed to this day. You inherited nearly the same defense Chuck Pagano made a top-10 defense in 2011, and made it soft. Now, I am a man who gives credit where it is due. He can coach a front seven about as well as anyone. With that being said, his blitzes are so unimaginative and bland. he calls blitzes Pagano and Rex Ryan call in the preseason when you don’t want to show your hand. When Pees does call a good stunt and blitz, the Ravens get sacks. Imagine that! A lot of people argue that the Ravens don’t have the personnel to play aggressively. The secondary is too weak and can’t cover long enough. Here is the thing: when your secondary struggles, you have to get after the quarterback. Make him make quick decisions. Throw off the routes a little bit. I am tired of watching the corners play ten yards off the receivers while Pees sends a four-man rush. That doesn’t add up. You can do that when you have Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil coming off the edge. When you take one of them out of the equation, you have to find ways to get there. I am not saying send seven guys, but my goodness, can you send more than four? And when you do, can you at least disguise it a little better? When Pees does this, there is a lot of success. He just doesn’t do enough of this, and that is the exact reason the Ravens need a change.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows how I have felt for years. I would have fired him years ago. Actually, check that. He wouldn’t have even been my first choice. Teryl Austin was the guy I would have pegged for the job. Dean Pees falls in the line of Greg Mattison for me. Too soft. That is not how the Ravens play defense.
Now we move on to Marc Trestman. Yes, his daughters are hot. That is why nearly every guy in the city of Baltimore was more than happy to see him pegged as the guy to succeed Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator. While the Ravens have put up a solid amount of points this season, there are some underlying issues within this offense. For starters, the route concepts are horrendous at times. These 5-yard out routes on third-and-8 are becoming a bit annoying. Trestman also seems to have fallen in love the screen pass, running it probably five too many times every game. I know he loved doing it with Matt Forte, but could you try something different? Oh, and one more thing. Does every other first down play have to be a play-action throw the flat for a one-yard gain That’s becoming annoying. Truth be told, the Ravens had a chance to put their foot on the Browns’ throat Sunday, but failed to do so with horrible play-calling. We want to act like the Ravens putting up 30 points is a great thing, but this game could have been put away long before the Browns started chewing apart the defense like a large dog does to a dollar store chew toy. Trestman and the offense failed to do so.
Now brings me to the issue of leadership and heart, something this team doesn’t have. The Ravens have never had a shortage of leaders. Since Ray Lewis stepped onto the field in 1996, he was the unquestioned leader of the team. He helped mold Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs into leaders so even when Lewis and Reed moved on, there was still a leader that the players respected. Now that Suggs is away from the team after tearing his Achilles and Haloti Ngata was traded to the Detroit Lions, there are no proven leaders on the roster. Steve Smith certainly is with his fire and desire to win, but outside of him, who? I have been waiting for Joe Flacco to step up as a leader, but at least from the outside looking in, it isn’t evident he can rally the troops together when the chips are stacked against them. Will Hill, Jimmy Smith, CJ Mosley and Daryl Smith are a few other names I had hoped would step in and lead, but I have yet to truly see anyone step up. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe they are leading on the inside. But I don’t see it on the field on Sunday’s.
This is a team that completely lacks heart and the desire to win. If it weren’t for Steve Smith, I am certain they never even sniff getting back into the game against the Bengals. Smith willed that team back into the game.
Let’s take a look on the field while we are at it. We may as well start with Joe Flacco. Flacco gets a slight pass with the Canadian Football League level receivers he has to throw to. With that being said, these last two games have obviously not been his best. He has made some silly mistakes, as we have learned to live with, and he has the pocket awareness of a blind squirrel. On Sunday, instead of simply taking a sack, Flacco fled ten yards backwards before taking the sack, setting the Browns up with even better field position. Ten yards is a big deal at this level, and Flacco cannot continue to keep making these boneheaded mistakes. This is season eight for him, and I still see some of the stupid mistakes that make me want to throw a brick through my television. Now let’s not start the “cute Flacco chants.” That would be ridiculous. He is still a good quarterback, he just needs to clean it up.
Now, to that semi-pro receiving corps. I won’t even discuss Steve Smith because he is one of the few players who has done their job this season. Kamar Aiken has played decently, which is all anyone could have asked. I am taking my sights at Marlon Brown. I want to be nice here, but I simply can’t. This guy has declined sharply since his rookie season in which he caught seven touchdowns. For a 6’5″ receiver, he plays like a 5’8″ one. He doesn’t use his body to his advantage over smaller defenders and couldn’t catch a cold if he was standing in Antarctica with no clothes on. Maybe Brown should spend less time worrying about “White Girl Wednesday” and more time hitting the jugs machine because if I see him drop one more catchable pass, I am going to lose my mind. Darren Waller now has a concussion, so that’s awesome. By the time all these injuries stop, the Ravens will be holding open tryouts at the stadium like the Eagles did in that movie “Invincible.” Hey, maybe I could end up being the Ravens next Julian Edleman. I certainly can’t be a whole lot worse than what they have now! (Yes, that is sarcasm)
The offensive line and defensive lines have been fine lately, so they get spared for this moment, but let’s go ahead and just take care of the secondary as a whole. Jimmy Smith played well Sunday, but has had an up-and-down season. Lardarius Webb is playing better than ANYONE will give him credit. Go ahead and disagree, but if you watch the film closely, he really hasn’t played poorly at all. Not top-notch, but solid. Kyle Arrington is terrible. I sincerely thought he was a solid addition as a nickel corner, but boy was I wrong. This guy plays like a cheap violin. Rashaan Melvin is just as bad as we all remembered after having a strong preseason, and the one semblance of hope was Will Davis, who tore his ACL Sunday. GREAT.Just what this team needs, more injuries. Will Hill has been inconsistent this season, but overall, has played well. He was bad against the Browns, but his overall makeup has been fine. Kendrick Lewis hits hard, but doesn’t do a whole lot more. Poor in coverage, misses tackles. This is like 2013 all over again when the Ravens had two strong safeties back there. Only difference is Will Hill is fine in coverage.
The Ravens are a team with no direction at this point. They have no hope of getting out of this tailspin they are currently in, and the end is not in sight. Realistically, the Ravens would have to finish 9-2 the rest of the season to have a prayer at the playoffs. That is simply not happening. This team looks more like a top-ten pick in the NFL Draft team than they do a playoff team. At some point, fans have to recognize that this season is sunk. This team is heading nowhere fast.
At seasons end, it is time to clean house. With the exception of John Harbaugh, evaluate every coach and send the ones packing that don’t fit into the future. The same goes for players. trade away the ones of value that aren’t part of the future plans, and start building around the core players. Get what value you can, and rebuild. I am tired of seeing the same mistakes over and over again with players that have no passion and fire. This team needs a shift in mentality, and the players who aren’t part of that desire and plan need to hit the bricks. Take a stand and make it happen.