The Good, Bad & Ugly of the 2013 Season

NYE-2013

In many ways it feels as though the Ravens 2013 season hasn’t exited the starting gate. It’s as if the season has been stuck in mud, spinning out of control whenever they tried to accelerate.

The season, like the running game, just never gained any traction. And now they’ve run out of gas and it’s time to tow away a disappointing season as defending champions.

Not all is lost. There are lessons to be learned from the front office to the coaching staff and of course down to the players. It’s up to the team and it’s leaders to use the knowledge in a productive way.

Let’s take a look back…

 

THE GOOD

  • From the early days of training camp Marlon Brown was a pleasant surprise. He never seemed overwhelmed by the leap to the NFL and his adjustment was as smooth as could be expected from a UDFA (49 catches, 524 yards, 7 TD’s).
  • Torrey Smith improved and broke through the 1,000 yard receiving mark despite regular bracket coverage. He slumped later in the season but overall he’s shown improvement and given his high-end character and work ethic, continued improvement can be expected.
  • Daryl Smith showed quiet leadership, was an excellent pass defender and led the team with 123 tackles while chipping in with 5 sacks and 3 interceptions.
  • Another Smith, Jimmy, performed like the player the Ravens believed he would be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Ravens would be wise to lock up Smith before the 2014 season kicks off otherwise the price could climb out of the Ravens range and that could come back to haunt them.
  • Lardarius Webb bounced back from early season sluggishness, fought through the recovery from his torn ACL and finished strong in 2013. He is arguably the league’s finest tackler pound for pound.
  • James Ihedigbo provided leadership, was the team’s second leading tackler and was Dean Pees’ best Johnny-On-The-Spot with 3 INT’s, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
  • Arthur Jones probably played his way off the Ravens roster. He’ll be looking for a big payday and could get it. He had a very solid season but some team will overpay and disregard Jones’ good fortune playing beside Haloti Ngata.
  • Matt Elam was inconsistent at times but that could be the result of inexperience and playing out of position as the team’s centerfielder. When attacking the line of scrimmage he was very good.
  • Eugene Monroe was the only bright spot on the offensive line and that’s saying something given that he arrived in mid-season and was forced to play beside an out-of-position, under-sized left guard with whom he had little rapport.
  • The first half Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil
  • Special teams were very good down the stretch, flipping field position in the Ravens favor and at least giving the 29th ranked offense a chance to score 3 points.

 

THE BAD

  • Until the return of Dennis Pitta the Ravens had little production at tight end and that hurt Joe Flacco and the running game.
  • Joe Flacco had no running game and his offensive line was an absolute sieve but when you are paid to be elite, you need to rise above the wreckage and Flacco seldom did. Other quarterbacks with equivalent to less talent surrounding them outperformed Flacco’s 32nd ranked passer rating (73.1): Mike Glennon, Tampa (83.9); Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee (82.0); Ryan Tannehill, Miami (81.7).
  • Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce were ravaged often before even reaching the line of scrimmage but when opportunities presented themselves, neither delivered. Between them the once dynamic duo had 3 runs of 20+ yards.
  • Roster composition and management was very suspect. The Ravens couldn’t find a way to keep Anquan Boldin around and they opted to keep 5 safeties and 6 receivers instead of retaining Bobby Rainey. They made some questionable offseason acquisitions and overpaid for seldom used fullback Vonta Leach who had only 230 snaps all season and just 33 over the course of the final 5 games. Comparatively speaking in 2012 he had 579 snaps.
  • Jah Reid, 3rd round pick and can’t bump a 7th round, undersized AQ Shipley from the starting lineup? Enough said…
  • The defense lacked clutch play during key moments and it cost the team potential wins.
  • The Ravens coaching staff failed to get any rookie not named Matt Elam or Marlon Brown meaningful playing time. They’ll be needed in 2014 yet take the field as green, inexperienced rookies.
  • Play calling, in-game decisions, ability to adjust on the fly and clock management are all areas of weakness that you wouldn’t expect from the coaching staff of a championship team.

 

THE UGLY

  • Yielding the second most sacks (48) and producing just 3.1 ypc (32nd ranked) is a horrific performance by an offensive line. They are by far the single biggest reason why the Ravens are at home in January. And this isn’t all on Juan Castillo.
  • The Ravens ranked 31st in red zone offensive efficiency, ahead of only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • The acquisition of Michael Huff may be the worst free agent signing in Ravens history.

 

MVP

It’s not an indicator of a good season when a team’s kicker is its MVP but in the case of the Ravens, there’s no denying that their best player was Justin Tucker. The sophomore placekicker had a phenomenal season connecting on 38 of 41 FGA’s (92.7%), 6 of 7 from 50+ including the 61-yard game winner in Detroit. Tucker’s 38 FG’s and 140 points are both team records.

 

FINAL WORD

Despite it being a very trying 2013 season, the year on whole has been a glorious one filled with riveting games, memories that will last a lifetime and of course another World Championship.

Every year should be so good!

Happy 2014!

25 Raves on “The Good, Bad & Ugly of the 2013 Season

  1. JerryB on said:

    You and I will forever agree to disagree about Flacco, whose performance in his first 5 years, culminating with his stellar performance in the postseason last year, EARNED him the big bucks! Forget statistics other than winning, which he has done more of since his arrival here than the other QBs you mention! Plus the fact that he was sacked more than any of the other QBs you cite behind the WORST OL in the league! All the other assessments are “spot on”! First priority in the offseason HAS to be the OL AND a new OC & DC! Waiting on the Bisciotti “presser”. Happy, Healthy New Year!

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Jerry, Tannehill was sacked more (58 times).

      And for me crediting a QB with wins is like patting a pitcher on the back who has 18 wins but a 4.50 ERA.

      Joe is a system quarterback but was paid like one of the elite…and he isn’t.

      • Jim Bro on said:

        Tony,

        I agree with your assessments and writing, good stuff! I also agree with your assessment of Flacco, he is an average quarterback with above average numbers. Money aside, he hasn’t progressed like he should have over the past 6 years. The reason at this point is inconsequential, Flacco’s been in this league long enough and now has his habits set; he won’t be changing anytime soon (e.g., why doesn’t he EVER throw the ball away?) Saying the line is the issue or he didn’t have any real receivers this year is simply a red herring. The Bronco’s and Patriots receiving cores are average by NFL standards and they yet they continue to excel under Brady and Manning. I won’t bring up the Packers or Miami which also boast average recieving cores… Winning does not solely rest of the shoulders of the QB but when Cincy gives up 4 turnovers in a game, there is no reason we aren’t converting at least 25%-50% for 6.

        The other point I’d like to make is about our defense. Our defense is sound and while the new guys are getting used to Pees schemes, they will perform much better in the coming years. The reason they gave up points in clutch spots, IMO, is they were left on the field too long. I’m not sure why Ravens fans don’t get this because its been this way for years. The previous arguments were that our offense needed to stay on the field because our defense was aging with Lewis, Reed, and Kruger and they couldn’t play 4 straight quarters without help from the offense. The only difference this year was instead of being too old, our younger players were simply too inexperienced for the marathon play we expect of our D because our offense is unable to stay on the field for any real length of time (largely due to a pitiful running game).

        Finally, off topic but I was impressed with Stokes running in the first quarter against Cincy (not sure why they decided not go back to Rice in the 2nd half) and think he would be a fine replacement for Rice (which would also free cap space) who has also regressed since the 2013 post-season. Quite frankly, if we’re going to have a sub par running game, there is no need to pay someone like Rice who’s time has come and gone the money we do. His removal frees up roughly 3million much needed space against the cap and would be better served funding Monroe or Oher’s replacement long term. Nostalgia doesn’t count for championships (unless you’re in Pittsburgh, of course ;) ).

        • Mark on said:

          Jim Bro, if you think that the receiving corps for the Broncos or Packers is average, then you clearly don’t understand football. And please also completely ignore what the Broncos, Packers and Patriots all had this year: Top 15 rushing offenses. The Broncos were the lowest ranked at 15 but still averaged more than 117 yards per game. The Ravens? 83 ypg. Pathetic. And when you combine (1) a one dimensional offense, (2) a horrific offensive line, (3) a non-existent red zone offense because the running backs can’t even get 1 yard, (4) a truly average receiving corps and (5) horrendous and predictable play calling, no QB in the NFL would have been successful if they were on the Ravens this year.

          • Reading Comments on said:

            He said the Broncos and Patriots, and you are right. The Comment that their receivers are average is dumb, and shows how clueless Jim Bro is.
            A name like that would make you think he is clueless.
            But at the same time Flacco did really frustrate me. He had moments where he could have made a play and was completely inaccurate. If the receiver is running you have to lead the receiver. Unless it’s a spot throw. And you have to look at the field.
            Missing Pitta and that 4th and short had me ready to choke him.
            He is far from terrible, and it would be difficult to replace him, but he has to get his head out of you know where at times, which he never will.
            He is our guy, and I support him, but it is what it is.

      • JerryB on said:

        I wonder if your opinion would have been different if “stone hands” Lee Evans had held onto the winning TD pass that would have sent us to the Super Bowl in 2011? Or, is it just that you expect more from a guy relegated to playing on a really subpar team, in a terrible offense with really bad….coaches? Again, how many games would they have won the past 6 years without him? If you really want great statistics, Dan Marino had great statistics! How many Super Bowls did he win??????

          • JerryB on said:

            The reality is that he doesn’t have to be! He wins BIG GAMES and has done it time and….again! If statistics won championships, P. Manning would have a ton of them by now! But, he has exactly as many as Flacco, who has been in the league only 1/3 of the time that Manning has! How’s that for statistic! LOL!

          • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

            So Flacco is as good as Peyton based on number of championships? I’m sure Peyton would have had a couple more with the Ravens defense.

            Would you take Eli over Flacco? I wouldn’t but he’s won more championships so does that make him better?

            To Nancy’s question, I was fine with Flacco as our QB before the big contract. Now he has to prove he’s worthy of it. One championship doesn’t make him worthy. He’s paid as an elite quarterback and those qb’s IMO are: Peyton, Brady, Brees & Rodgers. He’s not there. Roethlisberger is a bit better than Flacco but not elite. He’s more comparable productivity wise to Luck, Wilson, and Kaepernick but those guys offer greater value because they are under rookie deals. Ryan is in the same boat as Flacco…not elite but paid that way.

            He has to step up but if I had a choice of the QB’s out there with upside and longevity and I could swap for Flacco today, my guy would be Andrew Luck.

          • Reading Comments on said:

            Roethlisberger is a much better QB than Flacco. And I hate to say that, but he is.

        • ravcolt on said:

          Jerry, IMO Evans caught the ball and it was knocked out of his hands by an excellent defensive play. In the earlier days of football (read SB XII) it would have been ruled at TD. Evans gets way too much blame.

      • catgirl54 on said:

        You’re a good writer, Tony, and I enjoy your columns very much. I agree with practically everything you said except the part about Joe Flacco. With the exception of Tom Brady, he is the winningest QB in the league, with five straight postseason runs and a Superbowl since 2008. I think people don’t like him because his style isn’t as elegant as Brady or Brees. But before this season, when the team was gutted and he lost his two most reliable receivers and his running back was a non-factor, he got the job done. And it was obvious to me that after he got hurt, the entire team fell apart.

    • Daytona Ken on said:

      A tad off subject, but a subject that really annoyed me. The season began on the road in Denver and ended on the road in Cincinnati, as Super Bowl champs. This NEVER would have happened to Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft! Bisciotti help set this seasons tone.

  2. RJ on said:

    While I completely agree with the entire list, I feel like there should be a mention of Harbaugh and his horrific “coaching” nearly everytime he had to make an “executive” decision on a play, like when to go for it on fourth down, when to go for 3 instead of 6, and the pathetic clock management in almost every close game. Harb’s is the ultimate “play it safe” HC, and his lack of gambles when gambling was needed never paid off save for the one time he trusted his kicker to make a 61-yard FG (though it’snot like he had any other options).

  3. MikeT on said:

    Tony, I agree with everything you have stated here with the exception of one thing……..your Flacco assessment. Joe may not be “Elite” but he is Above Average and has certainly stood up to the challenge more times than not when facing his so-called “Elite” adversary QB’s when it matters. Your comparison of Joe’s winning record to that of a baseball pitcher is somewhat on point but NFL football is a much different animal than the MLB and their 162 game seasons. QB’s have 16 chances in a season to make their teams better and the proof is in the pudding in Joe’s opportunities based on his High Winning Percentage. Correct his stats aren’t consistent throughout the season, but he’s a proven winner that shows up EVERY game and will give his all each game and has won the BIG GAMES. ANY TEAM in the NFL that doesn’t already have their own “Elite” or Flacco-type franchise QB, would have, and WOULD NOW, happily stand in line and give him the contract he received for his services. His contract was the “GOING RATE” for a Franchise QB and would be the market value to any other team in the league. Joe gambled on his self 2 seasons ago by not signing an extension before the SB win, and he won…..Plain and Simple! Nobody is worth the kind of money he is being paid…. in the real world. But he is not playing in “OUR” world. He is a professional athlete and an entertainer, and thats just the way it is. If we all worked as hard as these guys or had their talent, than we too could earn their living, but we didn’t and we don’t. We all wish we could work less and earn more, or be a “SYSTEM” employee and be paid like a “BOSS”…… but that only works out in their world. That is the reality!

    All of the candor and constant criticism by writers, bloggers and fans alike is all a big waste of time and breath. The man got his money…..let’s move on to the real problems like a terrible O-Line that doesn’t allow any of our “Talent” to do what they do best. How about our vanilla Offense gameplans? Or what about our Front offices decisions last off-season, most importantly, their decision to trade Joe’s #1 safety-valve WR over a $2M gap in their preceived value, and to give $3M to Vontae Leach only to use him 3-4 plays a game? Folks,, I think we have bigger fish to fry here rather than beating up Joe more than he’s obviously already been this dreadful season. We were set-up to fail from the beginning.

    Ozzie……..let’s clean this mess up and right the ship……PLEASE!

  4. Crawford on said:

    Fantasy for thought. What if we could hire old players like ray Lewis for DC an Ed reed for backs coach. That would give us a sho’nuf top five D huh’

  5. RichieG on said:

    Hey TL,
    Do you think if Flacco went to NO and played for SeanPeyton, a la DrewB, that he’d be elite?!? I do. I agree with JerryB that Flacco has had less to work with (including coaching) than any elite, or almost elite, QB, except Brady this year…Brady’s stats are way down and he has led NE to the playoffs with a great scheme and a very talented OC.
    I also think the personnel dept is either in a slump and needs to step it up OR the HC is delinquent in ignoring the future all-pros from recent drafts, ie: the haaavaad guy; MattFurstenburg; JReid; the #2 Brown; JSimon; yadda/yadda/yadda…with the success of MBrown and JTucker, maybe they should just wait and sign moreUDFAs?!? The one guy they play, GinoG, would be a healthy scratch on probably every other team.
    Cheers,
    RichieG in Dallas

    • JerryB on said:

      Good post, RichieG! Hard to quantify comparisons at QB, but it’s also hard to argue that Flacco has not had the luxury the “elite” QBs in the league have had either in personnel, coaching or the inept system in which he has played for 6 years! All of which supports my contention that he has accomplished more with less than ANY of his contemporaries! Despite the liabilities he’s had to deal with, he’s won more regular season/postseason games than any other QB in the first 6 years of their careers! And, let’s not forget that as a rookie, starting from game one, he took his team to within one game of the Super Bowl, which is ALSO unprecedented in the annals of pro football! So, it bears repeating that when it comes to WINNING, NOBODY has done it better in that time frame! I rest my case…….

  6. Voice of Reason on said:

    I think Flacco would be a more consistent QB if he weren’t stuck in this stupid offensive philosophy of the Ravens. If he were on a team like Kansas City, he would flourish. He would flourish in Cincinnati. The Ravens have never had a great O line even when J.O was here. Our money was always invested in the defense. We will never really know or see his potential as long as we lack in the o line, running game and fail to draft receivers that can catch the ball consistently. Do you think Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would put up with an organization that had them on the ground 50 times a year?

  7. ravcolt on said:

    Flacco is what he is. Not sure what moniker fits or who really cares? He is good enough to win a SB when he has the right supporting cast, and poor enough to be a putz when he doesn’t. Give him some help and lets get back to work.

  8. Nick B on said:

    I agree Flacco is not in that top 4, but everybody has their gauge wrong. You can’t look at old contracts. Rodgers set the new “elite / top 4″ mark at 22mil APY this year, up from Drew’s 20mil APY. Rodgers had 49.1% gauranteed to Joe’s 24% (42% if both options are paid).

    At most, Flacco was overpaid by 1-2mil/year, so we all need to get over it. Romo got a deal for 2.1mil less/year than Flacco and Stafford was about .5mil behind that, Matt Ryan got slightly more and Rodgers got 2mil more APY, which is all about right. Sure, getting Flacco for Romo’s price would have been nice, but you can’t do that when he just earned SB MVP, the cheaper guys haven’t won a playoff game, and other teams would have gladly taken him away and paid the 20.1 APY. Arguing they’re all overpaid other than Rodgers is understandable, but that’s the market you’re forced to comply with.

    I also agree Joe is a system QB, if what you mean is he needs good pieces around him to succeed. Problem is, this was one of the worst offensive systems in the NFL. I believe you like PFF, and using your comparison of the talent around Joe versus Glennon (Bucs), Tannehill (Dolphins) and Fitzpatrick (Titans), literally every single starting unit (o-line, WR, TE, RB) is graded better than the Ravens with the exception of the Ravens top 3 WR at 1.5 combined and the Bucs at -1.5.

    PFF
    Ravens – WR 1.9, TE -21.3, RB -25, 25th o-line
    Dolphins – WR 18.4, TE -11.8, RB 4.6, 14th o-line
    Titans – WR 25.7, TE 6.2, RB 6.6, 16th o-line
    Bucs – WR -1.5, TE -15.1, RB -4.4, 19th o-line

  9. Anonymous on said:

    Hey NickB,
    I believe Flacco’s production would be similar to that of the “elites” if he had the supporting talent that the “elites” have – curious, what’s the PFF for them?
    Thx,
    RichieG

    • Nick B on said:

      Flacco ended the year with a -13.2, heavily affected by a -8.3 in that final game. Peyton was 43.3, Brees 26.5, Rodgers 16.6, and Brady at 16.3.

      A good comparison is Brady. In his first 8 weeks without Gronk and with the young receivers getting acclimated, he scored a cumulative -4.8, about the same score Joe had before the last Bengal game. Brady dealt with similar issues with a poor receiving group and leaky o-line, but his o-line was still better than the Ravens’ and the Pats run game was light years better.

      Joe isn’t in their class and never will be, but to give him some of the worst units in the NFL as a supporting cast in my mind makes his evaluation almost meaningless.

  10. purpleneonexpress on said:

    Raven management shot themselves in the foot twice before the season even started…….The decision to mess with the offensive line, was, in retrospect, a disaster of epic proportions that handicapped the offense for the entire season, but especially the first six games or so…….two of the early losses during that time could have been reversed with any kind of competent play from the OL. I put this totally on John Harbaugh and his decision, with much fanfare and beating of chest, to bring in Castillo. Flat out bad move that really hurt the offense and the team. He can stand up there and smile and claim that there were multiple problems, but the #1 problem was Juan Castillo and his way. The players flat out rejected Castillo and his way. The resulting clusterbuck cost the Ravens a play off spot this year. Also…….who in the world thought Gino Gradkowski could play center in the NFL? Dude on the team for two years I believe and management fails to recognize that the guy is just a stiff with no size, no power, no strength and barely acceptable technique who was pushed around all season like a rudderless dinghy in a north Atlantic squall. He cannot be the center on any respectable offensive line.

    Second self inflicted wound was the utterly clueless trading of Boldin over two million in salary if you believe the story that the Ravens tell (I don’t). The offense BADLY missed him this year and his absence was made worse by the addition of Leach on the roster who was paid that 2 million that the Ravens claim that didn’t have for Boldin. Leach barely played and was easily the most overpaid player on the team. Harbaugh claiming again that the Boldin move was about cap space at his season ending presser. I don’t buy it and somewhere if you looked hard enough you might find Harbaughs fingerprints.

    Two decision made by management before a game was played doomed this team from the start. Praise Ozzie for the good he does, but he and his head coach getting failing grades for this past off season.

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