Despite the promise of just a few weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens’ 2013 season came to a final, miserable end with their excruciating loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that ended up meaning very little to the Bengals, but everything to the Ravens.
The loss ended a five-year run of making the playoffs under John Harbaugh, including three AFC Championship Game appearances and last season’s Super Bowl win.
But this year it just wasn’t meant to be.
The collapse began far earlier in the season when Baltimore took the ends of games off against teams like the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and the entire game off against the Buffalo Bills, all for losses in games that could have been wins. Had the Ravens found ways to win even three of those games, the loss to the Bengals Sunday wouldn’t have mattered.
The Ravens still would have made the playoffs, perhaps not with a great seed, but they’d be in the dance. They should have made it in this season and could have with just a win. Sunday’s loss hurt especially in knowing that with just a win against the Bengals, the Ravens would have made it in with the Jets’ win over the Dolphins.
This year’s Baltimore Ravens are very deeply flawed with the league’s worst offensive line, worst running game, badly struggling quarterback, and a largely non-existent pass rush despite, on paper, some of the best performers in the league in that regard in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. But those two were largely invisible in any game that mattered this season, especially against the Patriots and Bengals.
The offseason will be long and miserable for this team as it gets ready to say goodbye to much of the remainder of its Super Bowl team that now seems just a distant memory away from the disappointment of this season.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell should probably be the first person let go by head coach John Harbaugh. Caldwell, who had been so successful as quarterbacks coach of the Indianapolis Colts, helped Baltimore win a Super Bowl after a late-season change from Cam Cameron in 2012. But Caldwell had never been an offensive coordinator before, though he had been a head coach. It showed this year.
Caldwell’s offensive play-calling has been vanilla and predictable, game-after-game. The utter lack of imagination in the Ravens offense was best illustrated in the 41-7 humiliation at home at the hands of the New England Patriots.
The Patriots guessed right, as Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston pointed out, on nearly every offensive play call. They knew what was coming before it happened. Unlike the 2000 Ravens’ divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans (who actually possessed the Ravens playbook) the Patriots could just the see plays coming. It was that bad. Caldwell should be fired, along with “run game coordinator” Juan Castillo, the leader of an offensive line scheme change/experiment that failed horribly.
In Caldwell’s defense, quarterback Joe Flacco has had no running game to work with and no time to throw. The league-worst offensive line has helped Flacco lead the league in quarterback sacks and hurries. With no time to throw there isn’t much room for creativity in scheme. But Caldwell failed to adjust his scheme seemingly at all. He didn’t spread the field and run a West Coast offense with a poor line, which is one way he could have avoided the pass rush. Caldwell and Flacco ran the same tired plays and got the same, pitiful results.