FRAN THE FAN: The Remains of a Season Lost

Street Talk FRAN THE FAN: The Remains of a Season Lost

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News and Notes from a Fan’s Perspective 

It’s been two weeks since that bitter loss to the Steelers and, like a Monday morning hangover I can’t quite get the taste of it out of my mouth.   Now, I’m not going to beat a dead horse that has already been to the glue factory, so I’ll leave it at this: we had them where we wanted them, and we let them get away. 

Most of the Ravens players, save those playing in the Pro Bowl, have had their season-ending physicals and exit interviews, and are off to the first off season of labor uncertainty since 1987.  But the Ravens have stayed in the news, and not for all the right reasons.

In moves thought by many fans (including this writer) to be simple scape-goating , John Harbaugh offered up offensive line coach John Matsko and quarterback coach Jim Zorn as the sacrificial lambs for the abject failure of an offense of which much was expected, but delivered surprisingly little.

I guess it doesn’t matter that the Ravens played without their bookend left tackle, Jared Gaither, for the entire season which left a large part of the line playing out of position.  The Ravens played with 3 Pro Bowl caliber wide receivers and a fourth who has jack-rabbit speed, but the Ravens, in many instances, decided to play it safe.  Donte’ Stallworth, the only Ravens receiver who could stretch the field, had more running plays than passing plays.  Go figure.  But all this is Matsko and Zorn’s fault.

Bottom line (to quote Ray Lewis), the Ravens will enter the 2011 season (assuming there is one) with as many questions as they did in 2010.

Around the Ravens and Around the League – a Fan’s Football Tweets

Ed Reed:  Condolences to Ed and his family on the loss of his younger brother Brian.  While initial reports indicated that he was a fugitive from the law, the true story is much sadder.  Brian had a history of mental problems that evidently played a large part in his untimely demise.  I wish for Ed and his family peace of mind during this difficult time.

Goodbye to Read and React:  With Greg Mattison moving back to the college game, the Ravens promoted Chuck Pagano to defensive coordinator.  I haven’t seen many tears shed over Mattison’s departure.  He utilized a “read and react” defense that many thought took some of the air out of the Ravens defense.  I like this promotion.  Press conference talk is cheap, but it looks like Pagano wants to bring back the attacking defense we’ve come to know and love under Rex Ryan. 

What’s the difference between the Ravens offense and a dollar bill?  You can get 4 quarters out of a dollar.  (Thanks, Steve!) Cam Cameron has become, and rightfully so, the lightning rod for the fan’s disgust with the offensive production.  Now he will assume the additional role of quarterback coach which has the fans in more high warble.   This may have a silver lining as next year there will be No Excuses.  If the offense falters, Cameron will surely pay for it with his job.  It’s just a shame it will come a year late.

The Ravens have a boat load of Free Agents, restricted or otherwise, that need to be resigned.  We probably can’t keep them all, but we made a start with place kicker Billy Cundiff.  Here’s my wish list, in no particular order:

·         Haloti Ngata – how do you spell slam dunk in Samoan?  He will command Ndamukong Suh money

·         Sam Koch – should have been the AFC’s Pro Bowl punter

·         Chris Carr – quietly had a great season, finished as the Ravens best corner, wants to return

·         Josh Wilson – came on strong at the end of the year

·         Marshall Yanda – Mr. Mauler on the offensive line, best position is a guard

·         Chris Chester – under-appreciated, but he can play either center or guard

·         Jared Gaither – I know this is unpopular, but if he’s healthy and his head is screwed on straight, bring him back. Everything works best when Gaither plays left tackle.

·         Le’Ron McClain – when used correctly, the best fullback in the league

·         Marc Bulger – if he finds a starting gig, he’s gone.  If not, he’s the best insurance in the league

Restricted Free Agents to resign: only two stand out for me; Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. I’ll go with Tavares Gooden and Jameel McClain if the money is right.

Free Agents of Note I wouldn’t Necessarily Bring Back

·          Dawan Landry – plays best close to the line of scrimmage when he isn’t missing tackles.  A liability in coverage.

·          Fabian Washington – fell off the defensive backfield radar really quick

·          T.J. Houshmandzadeh – will be looking for a better deal, anyway

·          Prescott Burgess – strictly a special teamer

·          Donte’ Stallworth – on the fence with this one; never really got a chance to show his stuff except on end-arounds that didn’t work.

Ravens an Elite Team?  Not until they beat Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning in a playoff game.  Let’s face it, fans……they’re in the Ravens heads and they own us until proven otherwise.

Joe Cool is Hot. Not his play, but his reaction to Jim Zorn’s firing.  Another unsolicited indictment of the Cam Cameron offensive scheme.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Ravens Biggest Draft Needs:

Matt Vensel of the Sun has written a thoughtful column that needs no retelling.  His thoughts are here.  Ravens Draft Needs 

Last Word on Coaching Moves:

Tom Cable’s Raiders finish 8-8, 6-0 in their division, their best record since 2002, and gets fired.  Good luck, Hue Jackson, you’re next on Al Davis’ “fired for cause” dance card.

It took a while, but Jeff Fisher got his wish.  Now the Titans will have neither Fisher nor Vince Young.

Mike Singletary is inspirational and has great sound bites, but his inability to manage his players in a professional and adult manner cost him his job.

I thought Marvin Lewis was a goner, but he’s back for another season with Mike Brown and the Bungles.  I guess misery does love company.

Twitterings:

Remember when athletes complained that the media were constantly misquoting or spinning their statements?  Now with Twitter, athletes can remove those annoying middlemen and avoid being understood.  Everything’s hunky-dory, right?  Uh, not so fast my friends.  In a great column in the Orlando Sentinel last week, writer Mike Bianchi hit the nail on the head:

“Remember when athletes used to think the media attacked them and made them look bad? Little did they know the media protected them and mostly just wanted to make them look good.

And now that athletes have their own media — social media — with complete editorial control, sports fans are seeing many of them for what they truly are:  Fools.”

Brilliant!  See Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Jay Cutler, Matt Hasselback vs. Antonio Cromartie, Aaron Rodgers vs. the Packers, and LeBron James versus the world.  We are witnessing a new variant of hoof and mouth disease.  I’ve resisted joining Twitter because I have enough trouble keeping up with email and Face Book, but this stuff is too good to resist.  I’m all in.

CBA Update:

There is none.  No meetings, no nothing, except hot air. Highlights include the fact that Roger Goodell will forego his 10 million dollar annual salary is there’s a work stoppage, and DeMaurice Smith says the players union is “at war.”   Bottom line: 33 days and counting to a lock out.

A Fitting End

When all is said and done, when bloggers like myself have finished their bitching and whining, I can’t lose sight of the fact that the Ravens went 13-5 and were only a couple of dumb plays away from playing in the AFC Championship game.  In fact, it was a pretty good year and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I joined a Ravens Roost (#94) and made a host of new friends who share my passion for all things Purple. 

As we move past Super Bowl XLV – and celebrate a Packers win – our attention will turn to the draft, free agents, and the 2011 season. 

Here’s hoping we have all three.

 

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Fran "The Fan" Vojik

About Fran "The Fan" Vojik

Fran Vojik has been a contributor to the Ravens24X7 site since 2005, first as a regular on the "Letters to T.L." page, then as the author of the Fran the Fan column. A huge Orioles and Ravens fan, he defines the term “homer.” A former season ticket holder of the Baltimore Colts, he now roots on the Ravens from his corner end zone seat in M&T Bank Stadium. His work makes him a regular traveler to various MLB and NFL cities and he’s watched both the Birds and Purple and Black in a variety of away stadiums. He brings a passionate and humorous perspective to the world of professional sports. Born in Highlandtown, and a graduate of Calvert Hall College and the University of Maryland, he lives on Furnace Creek in northern Anne Arundel County. He and his girlfriend, Sandy, have recently renovated his Man Cave, known as the “The Sports Palace," which contains many mementos from the Colts, Ravens, and Orioles. On days the Ravens play at home, Fran can usually be found tailgating at the Baltimore Fire Fighters Union Hall Local 734 , supporting the organization’s Widow’s and Orphan’s fund. More from Fran "The Fan" Vojik

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