If Matt Birk Supports Gino, Maybe We Should Listen

Ravens-football-Gino-Gradkowski

With free agency less than a week away, the Ravens brass, fans and media alike are all assessing the team’s biggest needs.

One position group where all three factions likely agree that there is plenty of need is offensive line. With Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe set to hit the market, and Joe Flacco being sacked 48 times last year, it’s at the top of the list.

Among fans and media, there is an overwhelming consensus the Ravens need to upgrade at center. Gino Gradkowski, by most accounts, struggled in his first year taking over for veteran Matt Birk. He was pushed around by stronger defensive linemen, struggled reading defenses and complex blitzes, and may have even cost the Ravens a game in Chicago with a poor snap late in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t pretty.

So what’s the plan for 2014? It seems as if it’s a foregone conclusion that the Ravens need to go another direction.  That, whether it’s Alex Mack, Brian Dietrich-Smith or Brian De La Puente, the Ravens need to bring in someone else.  That they need a quality center with starting experience because Gradkowski isn’t the answer.

Are these fair assumptions?

Gradkowski has one year of starting experience at arguably one of the most challenging positions from a physical and mental standpoint in the NFL. Is it fair to write him off already? Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here?  After all, he was a fourth-round pick less than two years ago.

As a matter of fact, it seems there is only one man in Gradkowski’s corner: former mentor and former Ravens center Matt Birk. Outside of the Ravens front office, shouldn’t his opinion carry the most weight considering the fact that they sat in meetings and worked side by side for a full season?

When you talk to Birk, he doesn’t just seem confident, he seems convinced.

“He is the guy, no question,” said Birk recently.

“It’s a process. It’s a journey. I think the best thing going for Gino is his attitude and his character. That comes through when you’re playing football. As a Ravens fan myself, I don’t worry about Gino.”

Those are strong words from possibly one of the most intelligent players in Ravens history, former NFL man of the year and current appeals officer for the NFL. The Ravens – and their fans – should listen.

If there is anyone who understands Gino’s struggles and the challenges of being a successful starting center, its Birk. It took him three years to become a starter in the NFL. Even at that point he credited his success to the quality of the players and consistency around him.

Looking at the revolving door that was the Ravens offensive line last year, Gino never had the luxury of quality talent consistently surrounding him.  The offensive line, maybe more so then any other position, is about building cohesiveness and chemistry with the guy next to you.

Do the Ravens need to bring in competition for Gradkwoski? No doubt about it. Do they need to go sign Alex Mack for top dollar?Absolutely not.

For a team with a long list of needs, giving Gradkowski some time to progress would be in the Ravens best interest. If the Ravens provide some consistency around him, his play should greatly improve in 2014. If anything the least the Ravens can do is give him a chance to prove them wrong.

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About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones
Ryan Jones is a native of Belair, MD and has been an avid Ravens fan since they came to Baltimore in 1996. He lived in Federal Hill, MD before moving to Boston in 2006. He is the cofounder of Ravens Nation North, a contingent of Ravens fans living in Boston...more

7 Raves on “If Matt Birk Supports Gino, Maybe We Should Listen

  1. Boldin Raver on said:

    Fair points. It’s just frustrating that just about when Gino gets it all figured out, he’ll be a free agent. Same deal with CBs. Fans suffer as they go through their growing pains, then they become awesome for a year and leave town with wads of cash.

  2. jamaltimore on said:

    And his name is Gino. KO is the guy who changes thing if he comes back healthy however back surgeries are NEVER good. Go Ravens

  3. Grey on said:

    While I certainly respect Matt Birk’s intelligence and his opinion I have to believe my eyes on this one. If one is to believe the supposed developmental trajectory inherent in the position then Gino should be sitting the bench behind a competent professional for three years for everyone’s safety. So, either way we need a center who is at least average for a couple of years if they really believe Gradkowski can eventually do the job. My eyes tell me Gino is just not able to play at the professional level.

  4. jws on said:

    Has Birk ever seen him play? Does he look at film study like many of us webwriters do? Matt hurts any creditable he has with statements like you contribute to him. He’s too small, has no good NFL stength,Yanda taps when to center the ball and he has not blocked too many defensive players yet. HE is not the answer at center get a veteran free agent!

  5. bob on said:

    I recall Gino playing really well in Cincy in the last game before the SB run. He maintained very well against Geno Atkins and everyone was excited. Insert a recovering Yanda, Hurt KO, than Shipley and McKinnie to start the year and we got exactly what the line was. Seem to be some lackluster coaching and a bad idea in scheme change to go with it. He needs competion, but I wont write him off yet.

  6. Drunk Richard on said:

    Well what do you expect Birk to say? He wouldn’t throw the guy under the bus no matter how bad he was.
    The only positive is that if Gino is our C next year he will have to get better as couldn’t possibly get any worse.

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