November 11, 2007

The End of an Era

In Baltimore today, we saw the end of an era. No matter what happens the rest of the season (unless they run the table), the Ravens will be rebuilding in the off-season. Billick will be gone, after overstaying his welcome by only about 3-4 years. McNair is finished as a starting quarterback in the NFL (there's no shame in that, he had a great career, but he's past his prime). The talk of Kyle Boller as a potential starter is done for good.

Billick managed to save his job last year by what, in hindsight, was clearly some amazing luck. He took over play calling at a time when the team got hot and rolled off a few wins. This year has proven that his play calling isn't anything special, certainly not good enough to make up for the fact that he's an asshole.

The quarterback situation in Baltimore has been a disaster for as long as I can remember, the only period of stability was McNair's run last year. And really, even that wasn't very stable, because everyone knew that he only had a limited amount of time before his aging body caught up with him. Boller has managed to hang around by being just good enough not to get cut. He's impressive in low-pressure situations, like pre-season games and the waning minutes of blowouts. Other than that, he sucks.

The defense, which for years was the pride of the city, is a shadow of its former self. The Ravens defense is still good, but it's certainly not as good as the players think it is. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs aren't striking fear in the heart of opposing players any more.

Food for thought:

  • The Ravens are 0-4 in the AFC North. It's not like they're playing the Colts, Jaguars, and Titans twice a year. And regardless, you have to win a few in your division every year. Otherwise you end up like the Browns.
  • Number of points the Ravens have scored in the past two games while the outcome was in doubt: 0. That's right, zero. Last week, the Ravens touchdown came after it was already 35-0 in the first half. This week, the touchdown came late in the 4th quarter after it was 21-0 Bengals. So the Ravens offense has been even worse than it has looked on the scoreboard lately.
  • I know this point was beat to death during the telecast, but it bears repeating here: the Bengals defense was ranked dead last in points allowed. They hadn't allowed fewer than 20 points in a game all year. The Ravens only managed to avoid being shut out by scoring a meaningless touchdown late.
  • The Ravens are 1-8 against the spread (of course their one cover, the blowout win over the Rams, was the one time I picked against them).
So for Ravens fans, the question becomes: What Now? The answer is rebuilding.

  1. Bring in a new coach. People will suggest Rex Ryan or Rick Neuheisel, but what the team really needs is fresh blood. Find a young assistant somewhere else, and bring him in (like the Steelers did with Tomlin).
  2. Let the new coach pick his QB in the draft, and be willing to trade up to get the guy he wants (probably Matt Ryan is a reasonable choice).
  3. Go through the roster and cut players to find cap room. Jon Ogden has been an institution for the Ravens, but he's done. McNair is done. There's plenty of fat to be trimmed, and the Ravens need cap space to be able to go after some select free agents in the offseason.
  4. Pick a few current players to build the team around (including the new quarterback). Willis McGahee, Bart Scott, Ed Reed, Kelly Gregg.
  5. Get ready for a few years of losing, because it's a long road back to the top (and don't be too jealous of the Steelers' success).


I agree with most of what Brien said, except that I don't think full-on rebuilding is necessary. The Ravens have one weak position on offense (QB, obviously) and one weak position on defense (CB). Otherwise there is good depth and talent at all positions.

It was a very strange atmosphere in the stadium today. People were ready to boo from the first drive, but most negativity was directed at Billick. When Cincy went up 9-0, the stadium acted like the game and season were totally over, and they actually relaxed and got quite funny. For a while there was a running joke to start chanting the name of a horrible quarterback we used to have, like Eric Zeier, Scott Mitchell, and Stoney Case. Then a younger guy had a huge sign that said "We Want Marty" (Schottenheimer, and I wouldn't be opposed to that) and he got a pretty good cheer going, but most of the drunks just started yelling things about Marty Bass.

When McNair randomly dropped the ball in the fourth quarter, the entire stadium erupted in laughter at the same time. It was actually a very pleasant atmosphere in the second half because most of the grumps walked out at the end of the third quarter. I think everyone accepted at the same time that a) we don't have a quarterback and b) we don't have a coach who can work around not having a quarterback. So the season's over, but now that expectations are gone it's actually more fun to go to games. Plus, it'll actually be exciting if we can beat Cleveland next week, rather than just a relief.

Two other highlights: the popped up kickoff that Cincy recovered was hilarious. I was yelling "fair catch! fair catch!" and I was legitimately surprised not to see one called. On the play that Billick challenged where the Cincy receiver made a great toe drag at the sideline, the entire stadium had already seen the replay and people were saying "That's a great catch" to each other. When Billick threw the challenge flag, the entire stadium booed. It was definitely Fans v. Billick, not Ravens v. Bengals."

For the record, I favor Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Cowher (he's Carolina's or Washington's though) or Rex Ryan as the next head coach. The offense is too tainted to allow Neuheisel to take over. I am not opposed to letting Rex have the interim coaching gig for the rest of the season.

3 Responses:

Jeremy said...

I'm not sure what Heap's status is contract wise, but in the league right now, the drop off between premier TEs and everyone else is extreme. Heap is being paid like a premier TE and he just doesn't perform like one. I think the Ravens would do well to cut him loose and spend that money elsewhere.

In happier news, I bet I win my bet with the brother-in-law over who will finish with more wins (Redskins over Ravens). Even though the 'Skins certainly choked the game away today, their SOS is much weaker the rest of the way and they at least have shown some offensive pulse.

J-Red said...

I think "I bet I win my bet" is doubling down, but I'm not taking that action. I thought 6-10 was worst case, but now I'm thinking I might see Troy Smith playing QB in a tight game against Miami.

"ben" said...

Jeremy, didn't you win the same bet of Nats vs. O's?

Now if you can just talk him into DC hockey and basketball vs. Baltimore hockey and basketball, you'd really have something.

Summer is here and there's never been a better time to try your hand at online sports betting. Place your bets on your favorite horse with horse racing or even try your luck with your favorite football team. Enjoying sport is just a click away!