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Iâ€™ve been asked often by folks around town what I think of John Harbaugh and how I think the Ravens will do this year. Letâ€™s start with Harbaugh.
John Harbaugh is tailor made for the Ravens and for this city. First off, he seems to me to be the prototypical guy for Steve Bisciotti. From an observerâ€™s perspective and after speaking with folks who have worked for Bisciotti both as owner of the Ravens and with The Allegis Group, Bisciotti seems to take pride in hiring people who have something to prove, possess a strong work ethic, can work with and be respectful of their peers, superiors and subordinates and deliver more than they are expected.
That to me is Harbaugh. Heâ€™s a Bisciotti kind of guy. He strikes me as a scrapper, a battler, a hard hat guy who refuses to leave any stone unturned.
Jason Garrett in my opinion is none of those things. Harbaugh is Baltimore. Garrett is DC and if you are from these parts, that should tell you all you need to know.
Now how might the Ravens do?
To me the response is not different than itâ€™s been for the past few years. If the Ravens get consistently efficient quarterback play, they will be a team that can join the dance in January. If they donâ€™t, they wonâ€™t! Itâ€™s that simple.
Admittedly that is no cutting edge thought. Itâ€™s just the truth.
The Ravens donâ€™t need a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Carson Palmer at QB. They just need consistency. Steve McNair provided that in 2006. His play was hardly spectacular. It was pretty average really. Yet the Ravens won 13 games that year.
But McNair was an experienced pro and despite his physical shortcomings he was battle tested and he knew the game. He knew how to win when he could stay upright and his right arm wasnâ€™t shattered like a Stonesâ€™ song.
So what can we expect from the Ravens trio of Smith, Boller & Flacco?
Unfortunately at this point itâ€™s hard to confidently expect consistency and consequently I donâ€™t expect the Ravens as a team to be very consistent. They might beat a team or two they shouldnâ€™t and theyâ€™ll lose a couple that on paper they should win.
My guess is that Troy Smith will open the season as the starter. He will have his ups and downs and as a result Kyle Boller will get a spot start or two. Both will give way to Joe Flacco by about the 12th game of the season provided the offensive line has shown signs that they can adequately protect the key to the Ravensâ€™ future. Iâ€™m thinking come January 1, 2009 the Ravens will be looking back upon a 7-9, 8-8 season.
It will be a fun season â€“ a season of change and the teamâ€™s style of play will prove to be a breath of fresh air, not far removed from the results of the 1999 season.
Next year, who knows? Brian Billickâ€™s first season ended 8-8 and we all felt optimistic about 2000 although no one besides Phil Mickelson thought a Super Bowl XXXV victory was possible for the Ravens.
Can 2009 be on par with 2000? Possibly.
But until then, while Iâ€™m not comfortable predicting a final 2008 record for the Ravens I can very safely say that it will be fun beginning with a training camp at McDaniel College that promises to be much different than anything weâ€™ve seen in quite some time. Treat yourself to a road trip to Westminster this summer, provided of course youâ€™ve saved enough money for gasâ€¦
Someone who wonâ€™t be making a road trip to these parts is Brett Favre. Look itâ€™s natural for some of these national media folk to fill the dead NFL air with stories that very loosely make sense. Favre keeps stirring the ambers of his comeback flame instead of pouring a bucket of Gatorade on them once and for all. And until he does, there will be speculation when thereâ€™s not much else to discuss â€“ like now!
But Favre to Baltimore makes sense only in fantasy football. With solid play at quarterback the Ravens can contend and Favre could be the missing piece. Thatâ€™s about the only sensible thing to arise from such speculation. Yet there are compelling reasons not to consider Favre and the guess here is that such discussion is no more than comical conversation over a couple of cold summer beers for members of the Ravensâ€™ front office.
Favre to Baltimore will only happen if Brett craves steamed crabs. Otherwise it is nothing more than fantasy football speculation for Anita Marks and Kurt Backert on MASNâ€™s Fantasy Blitz. Simply put, thereâ€™s no cap room to pay a player who is more indecisive than The Clash.
One minute heâ€™s retired, the next heâ€™s not. Then heâ€™s retired followed by a cry-me-a-river retirement press conference followed by â€œIâ€™ve got the itch againâ€ to play. Should he stay or should he go now?
Just go and if you donâ€™t Brett, just donâ€™t tell anyone that Baltimore would be a good fit for you.
Itâ€™s not. In my best Ben Stiller voice, nothing could be Favre from the truth.
The future is Bazooka Joe — as in Flacco. Letâ€™s not take our eyes off the ball here folks.