Whenever results don’t match up with or exceed expectations, there’s bound to be disappointment followed closely by the blame game. If achievement falls short of the mark, it’s only natural to want to know why and correct the flaws.
Clearly the Ravens have fallen short of expectations and there’s little that we’ve seen from them in recent weeks to believe that the decline will end any time in the foreseeable future.
The first attempt towards reversing the slide was made by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti when he called for the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Time will tell if that was the right move.
But the moves aren’t likely to stop there. Every player, every coach, every scout, every member of the front office will be evaluated. And really the only one completely safe is Bisciotti.
During evaluations particularly when drilling down on what went wrong, each member of the organization will go into their own little version of a prevent defense. In other words, they will be in full CYA mode and when that happens the problems grow exponentially and the decay of the organizational bond – the “Play Like a Raven” mantra, begins to unfold.
Of course it is possible to head such an ugly development off at the pass but that will take extremely strong leadership. And when you think that next season, the team’s quintessential leader in more ways than just on the field, might not be around it makes the burgeoning situation even more daunting.
Ray Lewis, will be a 38-year-old middle linebacker in the passing era with declining mobility, earning $5.4 million being asked to cover tight ends and running backs measurably faster than he is.
More than likely it will be time to say goodbye to a player, leader and inspirational force, the likes of which the Ravens will never experience again.
So once again the next man up credo applies only this time with a new slant – next leader up!
Who is it going to be?
On the field, maybe the torch is passed on to Terrell Suggs. But his playfulness and reputation as a locker room clown, both good things, may make it tricky for him to fill the massive shoes of No. 52.
Joe Flacco? Let’s not go there.
Suffice it to say, this transition won’t be seamless.
On the sidelines, without Ray and given the power move made by Steve Bisciotti when firing Cam Cameron, might there be a chink in John Harbaugh’s leadership armor? Might his 53 Mighty Men theme be ridiculed a bit?
Bisciotti is obviously a great leader and if you doubt that for a second repeat after me: “Steve Bisciotti is a self-made billionaire.”
But the leadership of a football team needs to come from someone other than the owner and in this case, given the drop in Harbaugh’s “Q” rating, the man that really needs to step up his game right now is Ozzie Newsome.
Why during this tumultuous time in the Ravens season hasn’t Ozzie been more vocal; shown more leadership; stepped out of the darkness and away from the sidelines? Why did the owner have to do what his head coach chose not to do – fire Cameron? Shouldn’t Newsome have intervened?
And let’s not forget that this hasn’t been a stellar season for Ozzie as a personnel exec. Players like Bobbie Williams and Bryant McKinnie have been absolute zeros and drags on the team’s cap. And then there’s the biggest elephant in the front office suites – the Joe Flacco contract, or lack thereof.
How the Ravens have painted themselves in the corner with the Flacco talks having little negotiating leverage makes them look like rookie poker players and the blame has to fall at Ozzie’s feet.
Now some within the castle will take solace in the fact that the team is making its fifth consecutive appearance to the postseason dance. They will point to the fact that they have young offensive linemen that could never really get it together dating back to training camp due to injuries, holdouts and other drama outside of their control.
They will also tell you that injuries have crushed them.
And then there’s the Cam Cameron fiasco which went on entirely too long due to Harbaugh’s misguided loyalties.
Maybe that is the true story and maybe those dangerous expectations kept us as fans heading down a path that had no happy ending. And just maybe being where the Ravens are, right here and right now is the best that we could have hoped given the circumstances.
But back to Ozzie…
Now is the time for him to take the lead because his wounded head coach might not have the mojo to get it done right now. He needs to get the coaches and scouts and personnel people all on the same page. Egos need to be checked at the door.
Otherwise when the heat is on and the potential threat of lost jobs is introduced to the drama, coaches will point fingers at the personnel people and the scouts will say that the talent is there, the coaches just have to do their jobs better.
That sort of tension can usher in the aforementioned decay.
It’s up to Ozzie to get this back on track even if visions of sugarplums and New Orleans are no longer dancing in their heads.
It’s time for Ozzie to step into the light and on to “the field.”
After all people must first buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.