There are romantics among you who believe that the Ravens are destined to win the next Super Bowl in Minnesota because it’s Super Bowl 52 – because the number belongs to Ray Lewis who is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer who coincidentally, will be inducted into the hallowed halls of Canton, OH just prior to the big game bearing his number.
This isn’t Disney World.
The Ravens are not going to win Super Bowl 52.
Accept that now and the 2017 season won’t disappoint you. Accept that now and 2017 can be a successful one. It’s all about tempering expectations.
You know you hear it said by players, coaches – pretty much anyone tied to the game of football, or really any game for that matter, that at the end of a season only one team goes home happy. Undoubtedly, every player of every team in every professional sport, at the start of every season must envision themselves as champions by the season’s end.
All energies, physical and mental, must be channeled towards the achievement of a goal. And for all athletes that goal must be a championship. Otherwise, why bother? Would you want a player on any team associated with you to wake up on a Wednesday in February and say, “As long as I do my best, I can sleep well at night”?
Hell, to the “no”!
But that doesn’t mean in the case of the Ravens 2017 season, that the guiding hand of the front office hasn’t already concluded that they have too many roster hurdles to overcome this season, in order to compete for the next Lombardi. Just take a look at the list of players the Ravens have under contract. It’s as if Tony Montana took “his little friend” to the roster. Go ahead, look.
Can you even name a single position where there isn’t a need?
Ideally, Ozzie Newsome uses free agency in a way that fills roster holes so that he doesn’t enter the next draft with obvious needs. The approach, he believes, helps the team to pick the highest rated player on their board with a clear conscience. Unfortunately, Ozzie won’t have that luxury in 2017. The needs are too multiple and they don’t have the cap space, particularly in this seller’s market, to spackle the roster sufficiently. ANY pick he makes will fill a need.
The Ravens even have a need at quarterback. Isn’t it time they start to groom the successor to Joe Flacco? Granted, Flacco is under contract and for all intents and purposes the team is stuck with him through the 2018 season. But if Flacco continues to fail to perform to the level of his contract, he then becomes vulnerable in 2019, provided of course that the Ravens have a Plan B ready by then.
And if you think for a second the Ravens brain trust doesn’t agree that Joe needs to play better, you weren’t paying attention during the State of the Ravens presser.
So, if the organization is realistic about their future, the best outlook for 2017 is to view it as a building block for a real Super Bowl push during the 2018 season. They need to take that next step, take the necessary measures to improve in 2017. And then rinse and repeat.
The team’s cap position will improve in 2018 and then Ozzie can go to work on that strategy to address need in free agency to be fully prepared for the 2018 NFL Draft. That’s the smart, prudent approach to achieve sustained success.
Of course, as we’ve seen before, anything can happen. No one expected the Ravens to win Super Bowl XXXV and by the end of the 2012 regular season, few expected them to have a chance to win Super Bowl 47. Crazier things can and do happen. We’ve experienced that twice.
But like in any business, an organization has short and long-term goals. The Ravens need to get better and utilize their limited resources and their draft picks to obtain the best value for their dollars. If they do, they could make the playoffs in 2017 and THAT would be a major achievement of a short-term goal.
Winning it all in 2017 – well that’s just flat out unrealistic.
It’s time to temper expectations.
Hopefully the Ravens front office agrees.