For many fans in Baltimore, Saturday night’s epic meltdown to the Steelers was arguably the most difficult loss to accept in our city’s football history. Some might say that the loss to Joe Namath’s Jets in Super Bowl III was a bigger heartbreaker; others may point to the Divisional Playoff loss to the Colts at M&T in January ’07.
For me, Saturday’s loss was the most humiliating kick in the football crotch made worse but virtue of the Jets win over the Patriots. Just when I had accepted the loss to the Steelers, after conceding that Pittsburgh is just better at winning than the Joe Flacco led Ravens, Rex Ryan’s Gang Green puts the exclamation point on a frustrating weekend.
A hometown fan’s dream – hosting a conference championship slipped through our fingers faster than a snap from Matt Birk to Flacco.
I was 8 when the Jets pulled off that upset in Miami over the Baltimore Colts and while I can recall my sadness it was nothing compared to Saturday. Back then I’m sure an ice cream cone helped subside my melancholy thoughts. This weekend I only wish the Petron could have been as effective.
Back in 2007 I remember sitting at M&T with my son, staring out on to the field after the Ravens fell to the Colts 15-6. That 2006 edition of the Ravens had some plus mojo going on and no one expected the Colts to roll into Baltimore and leave with a win.
But they did.
And while they celebrated their win, those of us numbed by disbelief drifted deeper into shock as the stadium’s PA system played Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come.
Change will most definitely come for the Ravens. With 17 unrestricted free agents plus the bloated contract of Willis McGahee in ’11 the team’s roster will undoubtedly sport a new look. We can only hope it’s for the better but being better next season won’t be that easy.
Many of us, me included, were frustrated often by the team’s performance in 2010 and that frustration on so many levels is interesting given the club’s 13-5 overall record. Yet throughout the season the team never seemed to find a groove – never really had any consistent momentum that forced opponents to take pause.
Defenders of the team (some might say apologists) would argue that with just one play during each loss going in a plus direction the Ravens could have been 16-0 and not 12-4. Conversely the critics would say that the team could have finished 8-8 if not for a little luck and a fortunate bounce of the ball here and there.
Whether defender or critic I think it’s safe to say that most would define 2010 as an unusual season.
So where do the Ravens go from here?
Clearly the team has many needs on both sides of the ball. Personnel is one thing – coaching another.
It’s incumbent upon John Harbaugh to collect his staff, check the egos at the door and dress down each coach with the sole objective being to get better individually and collectively in order to milk more from the team’s talented roster, particularly on offense.
And Harbaugh should be evaluated similarly.
A look at Cam Cameron’s resume suggests that he is capable of guiding an offense into the playoffs but once given a postseason dance card his teams often crumble. They need to figure out why. Many have called for Cameron’s head. Put me down as one of them. I don’t sense a willingness to change on his part.
Insiders will tell you that Cameron is stubborn and that he is a control freak and a statement he made earlier this season that “audibles are overrated” supports that notion. Control freaks don’t welcome constructive criticism but if the Ravens aren’t changing Cameron then Cameron needs to change his approach or they will fail again.
I’m sure Cam knows more about offense than Harbaugh and that’s ok. He should! But there needs to be an intervention here. Harbaugh needs to throw his weight around and get Cameron and Flacco on the same page. Cameron can’t make Flacco his robot – it retards the growth process and I’d offer you the offense’s body of work in 2010 as evidence.
But Cameron and Flacco haven’t been on the same page in three seasons particularly against formidable opponents. And there’s little evidence to suggest it will change. When you have a strong personality like Cameron’s dictating to a passive personality like Flacco, the result is hardly a collaborative effort.
It’s a bit mind boggling, perhaps disconcerting that Harbaugh hasn’t forced the issue between his OC and QB. Maybe he’s just too close to the situation to see it clearly. Judging from one of Harbaugh’s comments yesterday his view of the situation is hardly 20-20.
“[Cam is] the same guy who was the offensive coordinator three years ago when everyone said we surpassed our expectations. Yeah, we had a tough year [this year] statistically, but we did win a lot of football games with that offense. There are things we can do a lot better and we will go to work on those things."
Perhaps that last place schedule in 2008 helped. Cameron’s offense seems to feast on the has-beens.
But that aside, is anyone wondering why “those things” weren’t worked on during the season?
Anyone else find this comment to be an insult to their football IQ?
Speaking of insulting, I’m not sure who among you watched Harbaugh’s entire press conference. I’m sure it’s available on BaltimoreRavens.com. But I have to tell you, I was a bit taken back by how happy Harbaugh appeared to be. Maybe it was all those zeros to the left of the decimal point on Harbaugh’s new contract offer that had the Ravens head coach seemingly giddy.
But could you even for a nanosecond ever imagine Mike Tomlin so happy when addressing the media after collapsing in the playoffs against his archrival?
As a fan of the Ravens, I’ve lowered my expectations for 2011. Obviously it is way early and admittedly I’m protecting my emotional psyche here but if the Ravens coaching staff remains intact, I find little reason to expect different results next season.
And they could be worse unless of course there’s an intervention championed by Mr. Steve Bisciotti.
Maybe he can be as pissed off as the rest of us that we aren’t going to M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday.