To say Saturday’s loss was devastating would be a major understatement. Losing to a bitter archrival in such an embarrassingly ugly way after having the game in control is about as easy to take as a 3 hour lecture from the Terrible Towel waving Dan Dierdorf.
Today we are left to study the carnage, assess the damage and to begin the healing process.
Clearly there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Ravens from the non-clutch play of the supposed franchise quarterback to questionable play calling; from some shoddy pass protection to allowing a receiver to get behind a prevent alignment; from dropped passes to a grossly incompetent display of how to protect the football.
This one hurts like hell!
Sunday morning was as welcoming for me as sunlight to the characters of True Blood. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I tried to convince myself that that loss was just a bad dream – a nightmare.
Fortunately the dust has begun to settle. Clarity draws near along with a sobering reality – the Ravens are a good team but they aren’t good enough. They are like a B student from whom we are expecting A’s. They have “A” potential but somehow along the way, the student and teacher just aren’t connecting.
After the game, the Ravens’ battery mates had some interesting comments.
"The bottom line is [The Steelers] are better at winning right now than we are”, according to Joe Flacco. “We have to improve. We’re just not there yet."
When asked to evaluate the Ravens’ 13-5 season, six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk replied: "It’s hard to frame it right now. It definitely hurts. I think that we’re the best team in football, but it’s the best team on game day that wins and gets to advance."
The best team in football…
Whether in life or in football when results fall short of expectations changes have to be made. That may come in the form of a new strategy or approach or it may come in the form of new personnel.
Cam Cameron has held the keys to the Ravens offense for the last three years. His “ride” has been retrofitted with some performance enhancers yet he struggles to consistently get the offense out of second gear, particularly against formidable opponents.
Despite the additions of Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Donte Stallworth and 2 promising rookie tight ends the Ravens fell from the 13th ranked offense in 2009 to the 22nd ranked offense in 2010. Perhaps even more telling is their record against the elite teams in the AFC.
The perennial AFC powerhouses are undeniably the Colts, Patriots and Steelers. When facing those three teams during Cameron’s tenure the Ravens are 3-11 with 2 of those wins courtesy of the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers. And the scary truth is this won’t change unless the Ravens change.
Sources close to the team will tell you that Cameron is a control freak and that Joe Flacco has few pre-snap bail out options. After all this is a coordinator who believes that audibles are overrated. For all intents and purposes Flacco has been reduced to little more than a robot on the receiving end of Cameron’s remote control.
So how does Flacco grow?
If he’s asked to simply do as he’s told how will he learn from someone else’s mistakes?
Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn was suppose to deliver a former player’s insight and perspective to the Ravens’ signal caller and train him to be more explosive in the pocket. Maybe he too has felt the stifling effects of Cameron’s controls because Zorn looks more like a candidate for the lead role in the Weekend at Bernie’s sequel than he does a mentor for Flacco.
More concerning however, is the waning confidence the players have in Cameron’s system, something that is pretty apparent in the expressive body language of Messrs. Boldin, Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason. If they don’t believe in the system, how can they produce results?
If you’ve paid attention at all to these players over the course of the season, you get the feeling that they harbor a sense of responsibility to their teammates and that they need to deliver in order to pick up the defense from time to time – one that has essentially carried the team for years.
Should Cameron return for the 2011 season and he fails early on, it isn’t hard to imagine the offense once again becoming a collection of underachievers who continue to lose to the likes of the Colts, Patriots and Steelers. And that’s exactly what will continue to happen unless the Ravens make the right changes. To keep doing the same things over and over and expecting better results amounts to little more than the quintessential definition of insanity.
Cameron has to change or be changed. There’s really no way around it.
Otherwise, the Ravens will become the Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, they’ll be in the postseason mix pretty regularly and like the Eagles they’ll be sent home fairly early just as regularly.
If that’s good enough for John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti then the rest of us will all have to reset our level of expectation. But something tells me that Bisciotti will rally his veteran offensive players for a little pow wow to discuss Cameron similar to the way he discussed Brian Billick’s future 3 years ago.
Then it was determined, and rightfully so, that change was needed.
Unfortunately for Cameron, change is calling once again.