For most teams, winning the Super Bowl (or whatever championship in the respective sport) should give a front office and head coach a few years of leeway from feeling ridiculous heat from the fan base.
Even in today’s “give me what I want and give it to me now” society, teams that win it all can sit back and take a breath, at least for a little while. However, with the 24-hour news cycle and constant social media interaction, praise and scrutiny (and more scrutiny) are pretty much constant.
Personally, I take the view that the Ravens have rewarded my fandom more than I could ever realistically ask for, with two Super Bowl championships in 13 years. We’re incredibly spoiled as Baltimore fans. I’ll do my best to remember this next fall – I’ll celebrate wins over the likes of the Browns and Bills, and if the Ravens struggle to their first non-playoff season since 2007, I’ll console myself on Sunday nights by watching my Super Bowl XLVII DVDs.
But despite being spoiled, some Ravens fans will demand nothing but the best, and will consider anything short of a championship repeat a failure. Those fans would have liked to see the team go all in and bring as many players from the 2012 roster back in 2013 as possible, for the best chance to repeat.
Basically, what the Ravens did in 2001 – a mistake that the front office admits they have learned from and vowed not to duplicate.
Now that it’s clear that the 2013 version of the Ravens will look vastly different from the 2012 version, many in Ravens Nation find themselves – once again – looking for the nearest bridge.
There have been plenty of pieces written on this site trying to talk those fans back from the ledge; I’ll save the perspective for those blogs.
This one is directed at the way the team is currently being dismantled, as opposed to the mere fact that the dismantling is occurring.
The departures of Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, and Dannell Ellerbe all made sense – to varying degrees – for the team from a financial standpoint.
However, the release of safety Bernard Pollard on Wednesday made no such financial sense (saving the team only $1M in cap space for 2013), especially given Pollard’s relatively young age. Even fans who had made peace with the roster turnover were left scratching their heads.
Local conspiracy theorists and sports talkers alike began to connect a few dots and some came to the conclusion that something entirely different was happening – the old guard of the Ravens was being completely ushered out the door. Specifically, those veterans with whom head coach John Harbaugh had “clashed” in the past – Pollard, remember, was said to be at the forefront of the “mutiny” that took place within the team following the loss to Houston in Week 7.
Also in that group?
Ed Reed, who is scheduled to start making his free agent visits on Thursday.
Then there are the players who have, at various times, been said to be in Harbaugh’s “dog house.”
Dannell Ellerbe. Gone.
Bryant McKinnie. We’ve heard nothing about McKinnie being close to re-signing with the team.
And so, if you buy in to the line of thinking that Harbaugh is using this opportunity to rid the locker room of players who he doesn’t deem “his guys,” you can start to see the logic.
It makes sense.
Despite spending five years as the head coach, Harbaugh knew that many still considered the Ravens “Ray Lewis’s team.” Well, Ray retired. So why not seize the opportunity to make it “John Harbaugh’s team?”
If this is indeed what is happening at 1 Winning Drive, it’s way too early to deem it a “good” or a “bad” thing.
What is clear though, is that Harbaugh will not win any goodwill with the fan base by jettisoning popular players to bring in new ones he approves of…unless he keeps winning, and very soon.
I’m a John Harbaugh guy. I think he deserves plenty of credit for taking his team to the playoffs every year, winning a playoff game every year, and for ultimately winning a Super Bowl.
That said, he isn’t above reproach.
His “dog house” probably cost the team a win or two along the way.
His clock management has been perplexing at times.
And his stubbornness in not firing friend Cam Cameron sooner…well, we won’t go there. All’s well that ends well, right?
A particularly concerning point for me, though, is this – I heard through the grapevine that Harbs was none too happy with Ray Lewis for announcing his retirement publicly at the practice facility back in January.
You know, that announcement that every Ravens fan will remember for the rest of our lives, the words that still send chills down our spine (“today…I told my team…”), the words that start countless Ravens playoff highlight videos on YouTube, the words that – at least to some degree – sparked a 10-6 team that nobody gave a chance to an improbable Super Bowl victory…those words. John Harbaugh wasn’t happy about those words.
Something about causing a distraction.
That makes me worry that Harbaugh has trouble gauging the pulse of his team.
What will he do without a strong locker room leader like Lewis? Or Boldin, or Reed, for that matter?
Can John become “the man” that every player in the locker room looks up to and respects?
Or will he need another like Terrell Suggs or Ray Rice or Joe Flacco to emerge as a buffer between players and head coach?
John Harbaugh seems to be betting that he can, in fact, become the new “Godfather” of the Ravens. In enabling the roster turnover that we are seeing (again, IF you buy into the “conspiracy theory”), the front office – owner Steve Bisciotti, GM Ozzie Newsome, Assistant GM Eric DeCosta – must obviously agree.
And why not? As we all know by now, Harbaugh has been around coaches and football players his whole life. He’s been a very successful NFL head coach for five years now. There’s no reason he can’t continue his success with a locker room full of “approved” personalities.
But if he doesn’t…hoo boy. The reaction from the fans in Baltimore will be swift and unforgiving.
As a fan myself, I’m eager to see how it all plays out, but I’m going to continue to enjoy the ride.
Now, excuse me while I go stock up on tissues in preparation for the departure of my favorite player of all-time, Ed Reed.