Escalation of Commitment is a business term used to describe a tendency to invest additional resources in an apparently losing proposition, influenced by effort, money, and time already invested.
The term also has applicability to sports, specifically football and it occurs when coaches justify an increased investment of time and effort in a decision despite new evidence that suggests that remaining committed outweighs the desired benefits.
Brian Billick was guilty of this with his commitments to Elvis Grbac and Kyle Boller.
John Harbaugh was guilty of it with his loyalty and commitment to former offensive coordinator and long-time family friend Cam Cameron.
And now Harbs could be at it again with Offensive Line Coach (call him Running Game Coordinator until you heart is content) Juan Castillo.
Castillo arrived in Baltimore with a healthy resume. He was a long-time offensive assistant in Philadelphia that began during the Ray Rhodes era and continued through most of the Andy Reid era. Castillo and Harbaugh were on the same staff in Philly for 10 seasons and now they are side-by-side in Baltimore.
Harbaugh opted to park his old friend on the Ravens staff late in January, 2013 where he ended up earning a ring. When the new season began, Castillo couldn’t wait to put his stamp on the Ravens offense vis-à-vis a zone blocking scheme in the running game.
It’s still early but the results have been very poor so far in 2013. The Ravens rank 25th in yards per game (77.3) and 31st in yards per carry (2.6). And when you have Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Vonta Leach in your backfield and an offensive line that averaged 3.9 ypc and 134.8 ypg in the postseason under Jim Caldwell and Andy Moeller’s guidance (against playoff competition no less), the near 43% drop off in productivity is alarming.
Maybe Castillo is doing what Cameron did – fitting personnel into his system instead of developing a system to make the most of the skill sets of the offensive linemen.
Zone blocking requires a coordinated effort. It requires movement in unison from players who are technicians. This often helps with smaller offensive linemen who possess excellent footwork.
The Ravens don’t really have linemen built that way. They are more equipped for mauling, man blocking and the results so far suggest they are more comfortable with the mano-a-mano approach.
And their running backs may be better suited for that style as well. Ray Rice seems to lack the patience and first step explosiveness to exploit zone schemes. Bernard Pierce is a read and one-step cut runner. Both are excellent backs and they have the intelligence to adapt.
But why make them adapt at all? Why “fix” what wasn’t broken?
The Ravens are (2-1) and they will make their way to Buffalo this week to take on the league’s 30th ranked rushing defense which yields 155.0 ypg. If the Ravens fail on the ground this Sunday is that sufficient evidence that Castillo’s plan isn’t working?
Or will John Harbaugh escalate his commitment like he did with Cameron?