In all probability the Baltimore Ravens will be a postseason participant for the fifth consecutive year. At this point how they might perform on the “dance floor” is anyone’s guess particularly in light of their inconsistencies.
Only fans completely blinded by their devotion to the team believe that the Ravens are as good as their record suggests. Fans with a more objective outlook understand that their (9-3) mark is extremely fortunate. Seriously, does anyone really think this edition of the Baltimore Ravens can win a Super Bowl?
But what if they Ravens do something never before seen during the John Harbaugh era and finish the 2012 season on a five game skid? Let’s consider the benefits that comprise the silver lining in this unlikely but perhaps beneficial scenario.
2013 NFL Draft
First the obvious, the Ravens would move up in the 2013 NFL Draft. We’ve seen all too often how much a couple of slots in the draft can help a team. The costs to trade up aren’t as high and the draft position could be coveted by other trading partners. Or the Ravens simply may have a better opportunity to get the best available player at a more desirable spot.
Let’s consider the New York Giants. Over the course of the last 5 seasons the Giants have won 2 Super Bowls. They have also been ousted from playoff contention two of those seasons. During one of those seasons (2010) both the Giants and the Titans had their eye set on defensive ends. The Giants drafted Jason Pierre-Paul with the 15th pick and the Titans took Derrick Morgan. One draft position lower, but significant differences in production.
Clearly the Ravens have issues on offense. They’ve invested 4 of their last 5 first round picks on offense. They’ve invested heavily in Ray Rice and Joe Flacco is on deck. Marshal Yanda got his big payday and at this point they still don’t have an above average left tackle or a legitimate center who isn’t long in the tooth or under-sized. That means there’s going to be still more investment in an offense that today ranks 19th overall, 15th in passing and 23rd in rushing.
Making matters worse there has to be some disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff. How else do you explain the signing of G Bobbie Williams and the retention of T Bryant McKinnie when they rarely see the field and when they do it’s a train wreck?
If the Ravens make the playoff, there’s less focus on these issues and John Harbaugh will have a better argument to support his mysteriously unwavering devotion to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Failure to make the playoffs is more likely to result in an overdue pink slip for the OC.
Money, Money, Money, Money
Go to the playoffs and Joe Flacco will have the Ravens over a barrel. How this highly capable front office and owner managed to fumble away any leverage they had in the Flacco negotiations is nearly unconscionable. But failure to make the playoffs could be a welcomed “turnover” by Flacco for the front office.
Flacco would still hold the majority of the cards but at least the Ravens will have a better argument to get the former Blue Hen’s camp to quiet down their demands.
In doing so this would allow the Ravens to upgrade in other areas of need – and there are plenty.
The Philadelphia Eagles
Perhaps the fruit doesn’t fall far from the Andy Reid tree. Reid, undoubtedly a successful coach who has never won the big one, has been a regular participant in the playoffs. Has Harbaugh embraced that style so much that the Ravens, while always relevant, may never have enough to get over the hump and hoist the Lombardi under Harbaugh?
It could be a managerial style that while successful isn’t that of a champion.
But perhaps more importantly the 2012 Ravens, like the Eagles for so many years under Andy Reid, don’t really have an identity. They had one when they were a defensive juggernaut but that was yesterday. Today they generally struggle to put away teams and too often they are a Jekyll and Hyde club, much like those led by Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick.
A playoff berth this season could simply usher in more of the same in the future and I suppose that’s not so bad if you like being a bridesmaid instead of a bride.