We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Billick Harbaugh

We’ve been down this road before. In 2005 the Ravens had a meltdown, a season during which Ray Lewis went AWOL with a mysterious hamstring injury that required surgery from a doctor in Florida. The Ravens finished (6-10).

In 2007 the Ravens got off to a (4-2) start and then went on a nine game losing streak, including a loss to the previously winless Cam Cameron-led Miami Dolphins before finishing (5-11).

The up and down nature of the Brian Billick era wore thin on owner Steve Bisciotti and he vowed that the team’s window of opportunity would not open and close year after year.

Billick was relieved of his duties despite signing a multi-year extension, ushering in the Harbaugh era in 2008.

Since then Bisciotti has realized his wish as the Ravens have been to the postseason dance five consecutive seasons including three trips to the AFC Championship Game and 1 Super Bowl victory.

An impressive streak for sure, one not matched by any other team in the NFL in quite some time. Unfortunately like the consecutive games won streak against the Browns and the consecutive wins streak following a bye, the five-year playoff run is about to come to a screeching halt.

There are so many questions with the Ravens but few answers. The coaching staff on nearly every level can’t seem to get this collection of talent together and highly paid players aren’t playing anywhere near the level of their contracts.

In 2014 four severely underachieving players will take up approximately 35% of the club’s salary cap (assuming a bump in team cap space to $125M in 2014). Haloti Ngata ($16M), Lardarius Webb ($10.5M), Ray Rice ($8.75M) and Marshal Yanda ($8.45M) are far from the players they once were if this season is any indication.

To be fair, Webb is still recovering from ACL surgery but his propensity for injury clearly calls into question the potential dividends from his contract. How many of you thought he blew his ACL again when Davone Bess left him holding his jock around the 10-yard line yesterday?

Ngata is a pretty good player but not $16M in cap space worth of good.

Ray Rice has lost his burst, perhaps his mojo too and falls down on contact. He has 279 yards rushing through 8 games. Let that sink in for a moment – this from one of the highest paid backs in the league.

Yanda is probably the most surprising drop off. He’s not as physical, hardly the technician he used to be and too often looks lost when opposing lines stunt and/or blitz the A gap.

When players fail to play to the level of their contracts, a team’s hopes will sink like the Titanic. Forget about Bisciotti’s windows of opportunity opening and closing – they will be under water.

Add in Joe Flacco’s 2014 cap number ($14.8M), Jameel McClain’s ($4.4M) and Chris Canty ($3.17M) and suddenly you have a team investing 53% of its cap in 7 players who aren’t doing very much.

Flacco gets a hall pass. He’s actually done amazingly well given such a wretched offensive line that is on pace to give up 50 sacks and anchors the league’s worst rushing “attack” which gains 2.8 ypc. But at the end of the day he’s not playing like a $120.6M QB.

The Ravens better see what their young players can do and soon because it’s pretty obvious that they’ll need some quality cheap labor since 46 players, the 8-man practice squad and the accumulated dead money will need to be supported by just 47% of the 2014 cap.

It’s an absolute mess!

And if this wasn’t scary enough the Ravens will enter the 2014 offseason without either of their starting offensive tackles, without a single tight end, without Daryl Smith (their best defender this season) and without Jacoby Jones.

Ozzie Newsome entered the 2013 season vowing not to make the same mistakes the club made following the Super Bowl XXXV championship. They refused to mortgage the future on high-priced veterans as part of an effort to repeat. They told us it was not a rebuilding year, just a bit of retooling while they sought out value.

The plan has failed and given the daunting tasks that lie ahead, unless capologist Pat Moriarty has bloodlines to Harry Houdini, 2014 could look a LOT like 2002 when the Ravens purged the roster, went with a youth movement, played hard and stayed in the playoff hunt until week 16.

At least we hope it will be that good.

The changes shouldn’t be reserved for just the roster. The coaching staff needs an overhaul as well.

Dean Pees needs to retire. His schemes are boring and ineffective.

Jim Caldwell is either about as creative as Cam Cameron or he has handcuffs on that limit what he can say or do, particularly as it relates to a miscast offensive line coach (Juan Castillo).

Special teams are hardly that. Jerry Rosburg’s capabilities have been questioned on these pages ever since he didn’t have his field goal unit ready to take the field against the Patriots in the 2011 AFC Championship Game.

But don’t count on John Harbaugh to make those changes. His loyalties are deep and we’ve seen the collateral damage of such loyalties before. Maybe he just doesn’t want a young and up-and-coming coordinator on any level who could some day threaten his security.

My, oh my how the mighty have fallen.

Eight months removed from championship confetti tumbling from the sky, the Ravens now are running for cover from a falling sky.

What I’d give to be a fly on the wall at One Winning Drive when Steve Bisciotti visits today or makes that call from his home in Florida.

It’s time for accountability and uncovering the weak links instead of masking them.

Otherwise say goodbye to those open windows of opportunity for a couple of seasons.

And we know how the boss man feels about that.

57 Raves on “We’ve Seen This Movie Before

    • Ellicottraven (@ellicottraven) on said:

      This article is about as succinct as it is truthful. As sad as it is to admit, this team is in a decline (almost a free fall) which may be very hard to arrest.

      As the author alludes to, the problem rests with Harbaugh, who is understandably reluctant to hire young and bright talent or perhaps is too smitten by old school football thinking (thanks to his dad). He does that perhaps to camouflage his schematic illiteracy or inadequacy, but either way, he needs to get rid of all 3 coordinators and start afresh with new schemes and fresh thinking.

      I personally believe the roster is hogtied by bad schemes, but the roster needs some infusion of new blood as well. Unless, there is dramatic change at the helm, this team will go from bad to worse. I think if Harbaugh cannot get it done this year, there is no shame in getting rid of him like we did Billick. The Ravens franchise has to find a way to evolve and win period.

  1. skaughtz on said:

    Castillo clearly needs to go, and I hope that Bisciotti forces Harbaugh’s hand like he did with Cam. The entire offense should be turned over to Caldwell like it was last year. Our swiss cheese offense line needs a major kick in the ass or nothing is going to improve.

    • John P on said:

      How many more times must Bisciotti force Harbaugh’s hand?

      Let’s face it – Harbaugh wasn’t the master-mind behind the SuperBowl run (not the way Billick was, for sure). Bisciotti forced Harbaugh to fire Cameron. Then they “forced” Ray into retirement (look, we all know he’s no longer right player, right price), and the team responded. Finally, Bisciotti let Flacco play out a contract year. All brilliant moves, mind you. But all Bisciotti – NOT Harbaugh.

      All Harbaugh accomplished was surviving a mutiny!

      • James on said:

        Look Biscotti is a brilliant business man, but has admitted that he isn’t an expert in football, so he leaves things to Harbs and Ozzie.

        Forced Ray to retire? I think that’s a little offensive to Ray. He knew it was his time and he wants to spend time with his family.

        Look Raven fans will always love Billick but the defense is what won the Super Bowl. So guys like Marvin Lewis, Mike Smith, Jack del Rio and Rex Ryan really deserve the credit.

        Did Biscotti force Harbs to fire Cameron ? Maybe, but I think it’s close minded to think he didn’t see these issues and want to make changes to fix them.

  2. JerryB on said:

    Rice suffered a “hip flexor” and missed several games earlier in the season, so in addition to running behind a line that cannot run block, he’s obviously not 100% and deserves a “pass”, in my opinion! I’m also of the opinion that Bisciotti may regret giving Harbaugh a premature contract extension just as he did Billick! Despite his record, Harbaugh arrived with Flacco and inherited a veteran team replete with some pretty savvy on the field “coaches” who are now gone. So, it remains to be seen how this team does going forward, particularly with the new “Run Game Coordinator”, who has single-handedly managed to ruin a once proud, consistent running game! I know it’s always controversial to blame coaching, but from where I sit, the problems have less to do with talent and more to do with…..coaching!

  3. Matt on said:

    Tony, thank you for perfectly capturing how I feel about this season and our outlook for next season. Heads need to roll soon, both on the coaching and playing side.

  4. Anonymous on said:

    So what’s the plan? Release Ngata? Trade Rice? We seem stuck with these guys. And because of Harbaugh’s loyalty we are probably stuck with these schemes.

    But the disturbing part is that this team is clearly talented, more talented than several teams they’ve lost to, and yet they still lost. For some reason, unlike last year when Harbaugh took a less talented team all the way, players seem to not be playing to their talent level.

  5. purpleneons on said:

    Tony, are the Ravens on the hook for Ngata’s 14M next year? I’ve read that even if the Ravens cut Ngata they still will have to pay his salary.

    This offseason should be really full of drama…….FOJ “s (Friends of John) include Pees, Castillo and Rosburg and as we have seen, Coach Hariblle always chooses his personal friendships over team.

    Excellent article……

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      If the Ravens release Ngata they could save $1M of his $16M cap number in 2014. But then they’d need to replace him and there goes the savings. They could push some of the cap expense into 2015 but there’s danger in accumulating too much dead money. It’s just a bad situation and typical of players who don’t perform to the level of their contracts.

      • purpleneons on said:

        thanks……Ngata is definitely a guy who has, IMHO never played up to the level of his contract and it appears Ravens are stuck with him for another year. He’s not awful, but no where near the level that Suggs performs at. That dude has earned his money. Ngata has been overpaid by about 40% based on his performance over the last couple of years. He totally disappears during large segments of the season and whether its injuries or motivation, his results are not in line with the money he earns.

  6. Teri on said:

    Well said and I quoted some it on my fb wall! Harbaugh’s inability (or unwillingness, for reason’s TL mentions!) to clear out the poor performers on his coaching staff – without prodding from Mr. Bisciotti – is very concerning. Loyalty is fine – but don’t let misplaced loyalty be your own undoing, Coach Harbaugh!

  7. Dan on said:

    Am I the only one smelling Eagles Bird Crap. Why are we keeping someone who’s blocking scheme from the Eagles, which didn’t work? Now trying the same BS with the Ravens. This man needs to go and if John wants him to stay then let him go too. I’m tired of seeing the same old crap week after week in which John says things are going to change, but we continue to play the same. If this is what we have to look forward to the rest of this year and next, I might as well get rid of my PSLs. I can stay at home and not spend any money on a Team that looks like this week after week.

    • dave on said:

      “… week after week in which John says things are going to change…” Because that what Harbs does … he says “things”

  8. Chris on said:

    Just wore myself out giving this article a 5 minute standing ovation, any chance of printing it out and nailing it to the front door @ “the castle”??

    • Dan on said:

      Lets put it at the stadium, so that everyone who attends can decide wether they will keep putting up with all these lies. Lies that they can’t put their mouth where their money is. That because the money is already in their back pocket and it hard to pull their heads out of their butts

  9. theodore powell on said:

    the ravens problem competition at the qb position and not being creative in developing a type of offensive for your type of players.The offense is made from the type of players you have…. and tyrod can run the read option and the idea that everyone should make contribution to the team winning.and because Sucgo is making all the money… sit his ass down and put a new look in tyrod is getting paid too.That free safety is too small there is a young safety Davon Simmons from Old Dominon U. who is 6-4 225 and runs 4.4 would nice piece since mike huff is gone.

  10. Dave on said:

    I remember when you ripped Harbs for not hiring a guy with prior head coaching experience, because in your mind he would be threatened. Then, he hired Spags. Now you’re ripping him for POTENTIALLY not hiring a young, up-and-coming coach for fear of threat to his job security. Smh. His “loyalties” that you dismiss have kept us competitive since he arrived. Are we having an off year? Yes. But most good teams go through this every once in a while, except in your world. Again…you have been trying to run Harbaugh out of town since he got here. It would be nice if you expressed these feelings to Bisciotti in your annual sit-down with him in Ocean City. Perhaps you don’t because YOU’RE threatened that he might laugh in your face?

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      We bring up in our annual sit-downs the things we think aren’t working, sometimes coaching decisions. He addresses them candidly, at least I think so. You should come down one year. As for running Harbs out of town, those are your words, not mine. But thanks for thinking that I actually have that kind of influence. That’s pretty flattering. ;-)

      • Dave on said:

        Ha! Believe me, I know first-hand that you have zero influence. And I had a feeling that wouldn’t be able to intelligently respond to my comments.

        • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

          I have a feeling that an intelligent response to you means agreeing with you. And sorry I don’t. It isn’t personal Josh.

  11. John T on said:

    Success in the NFL starts and ends with the offensive line. Our offensive line has not been performing. They can’t run block. They can’t pass protect. And when you can’t do those things, your Time of Possession becomes horrible, and your defense suffers.

    Possibly the biggest problem with guys like Yanda or Oher is desire. O-line is exposed when the players play lazy. McKinnie was a bad influence when it came to playing lazy, and it looks like his legacy and a Super Bowl hangover are taking their toll.

  12. Voice of Reason on said:

    I am not surprised that this day has come. We almost had this last year, except Ray Lewis’s motivation inspired the team for “One Last Ride.” We basically are in the same boat as the Pittsburgh Steelers, except their boat is really sinking fast because of all of the “restructured contracts.” The Ravens still have a tiny bit of salary cap space, whereas Pittsburgh has little or no space.

    Drafting at the bottom of each round for the last 5 years, along with many mediocre draft picks have finally caught up with us. Players who were once great are now older and need replacement. Other players, have not lived up to their original expectations–Michael Oher, Ed Dickson, Sergio Kindle, Jimmy Smith etc., etc. Joe Flacco is a good QB, but he cannot carry a team on his back. He is not Manning, Brady, Brees or Rodgers. He needs a better supporting cast. What is really shocking is the drop off in production of Ray Rice. I am afraid his better days are behind him and the Ravens need a new running back. But as Tony has stated, we are saddled with humongous contracts and signing bonuses that won’t go away in the next year or two. The Ravens have tried to avoid the word “rebuilding” and have substituted the word “reloading” instead. It is all nonsense. The bottom line is the Ravens are going to have to purge players and coaches and rebuild from the bottom up. Frankly the best thing that could happen to the team is to lose all of its games. There is no real reason to try, because we are all but eliminated from the playoffs. That sounds horrible and its painful to watch, but that is exactly what needs to happen. In the meantime, the teams who have been drafting at the top of the draft board the past 5 -10 years and have done it successfully will be the new breed of team going to the playoffs. It is called parity and that is what the NFL wants. It is done nicely through the draft and use of the salary cap. We will be successful again one day. But it won’t be soon.

  13. EB21012 on said:

    This year was coming regardless of what happened last year, so it’s a damn good thing we won the Super Bowl when we did. The Ray Rice contract made sense at the time, I mean how many games was he our only option on offense. Without him, I’m not sure if we make the playoffs one out of those 5 seasons…think about it. However, you look at it now and everybody knows that no players in the NFL decline as rapidly and sometimes unexpectedly as Running Backs. I blame the O-Line for much of our problems, moreover our new “Run Game Coordinator” and his zone blocking schemes, but clearly Ray Rice is not the same player as the last 3 years. He’s not making people miss and he’s not breaking tackles. I saw Ngata at the Annapolis practice up close and thought to myself, this is “in shape”? He was obese and had trouble just walking, the game has taken a toll on the big man and I don’t think he’ll ever be the same again. I will say this, I have been VERY impressed with our young Wide Receiver group. I think they would have been such a bright spot this season if we had a legitimate tight end to go across the middle and we hadn’t changed our O Line blocking scheme. Even Tandon Doss despite his fumble yesterday has played very well. I think that is the one young group I really feel good about moving forward, but we’ll need to address the running game and O line for them to have any real success moving forward.

  14. dave on said:

    Tony, it’s interesting how most of those players declined not too long after their pricey extensions. One of the great things about the NFL as opposed to the NBA use to be lack of guaranteed long-term contracts. But agents circumvented that a bit by demanding large signing bonuses.

    • dave on said:

      There needs to be some statistical understanding by front offices about the length of effectiveness by position before handing out these long-term contract extensions and the accompanying bonuses. Baseball is just beginning to get a sense of that from the Pujols & ARod mistakes.

  15. R.E.G on said:

    Every single last one of you are NUTS!!!

    That being said if you watch the game tape the problem begins and ends with the Zone Blocking scheme that good ol’ Juan has been trying to force feed our offensive line. In order to pull this off you need to have ATHLETIC linemen…. our guys have proven for years that they are bruisers, they muscle people. And, the zone blocking scheme takes away from that completely. And, since the run game suffers teams can sit back on the pass. Hence causing us to have a very short Time of Possession. and wearing out our stout defense so that by the end of the game where we are still competitive the D can’t hold the other team cause they are completely worn out.

    I believe Canty and the entire Defense is playing very well (especially since they are on the field more than any other unit Offense or Defense in the entire league) and Dean Pees is doing a good job. It begins and ends on the Offensive Line, Oher is not very good and plays very lazy which makes Yanda look bad cause there is so much slack to pick up. Shipley is to early to tell but he and Monroe looked half decent yesterday.

    And as for future cap issues I’m standing by the old moniker “In Ozzie We Trust”

    • Dan on said:

      I did say earlier that Juan needs to go that why I said why are we smelling like Eagles Bird Crap. As for the defense they are playing good, but when you have an Offense who cannot move the ball the defense will get worn out being on the field all day long. Isn’t funny how Harbs said last night the defense has to get off the field. If our offense can move the ball more than three downs in a possesion, maybe the defense would be fresh enough to stop the other team.

  16. dave on said:

    “My, oh my how the mighty have fallen.” A friend of mine once said of his own situation, “Pride goeth after the fall.”

    With most sports fans, denial follows the losses.

  17. purpleneons on said:


    one more question if I may…….Any chance the Ravens go after one of the QB’s coming out of college this year given Flacco’s cap number the next couple of years? Lets say Ravens end up with 16th pick in the draft, do you see them possible trading up and going after one of the top QB’s coming out in the next draft as a way to lower the cap number on the QB position on this team?

    Has Flacco gotten all his guaranteed money or is his cap situation the same as Ngata’s, where Ravens won’t save a dime releasing him?

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      There is no cap benefit in releasing Flacco. If anything it would be a cap disaster. The deal is written in such a way that after the 2015 season they will renegotiate the deal. Flacco’s cap number in 2016 as currently structured is $28.55M. No way that remains the same. Releasing him in 2016 under the current terms would save the team $2.7M in cap space.

      They will probably draft a QB no later than 2015 in order to give them a little leverage in that renegotiation process. Plus Tyrod Taylor is a restricted free agent after the 2014 season.

  18. RaveninWoodlawn on said:

    Wow…reality hit Tony hard ; )

    No offense to Tony and a lot of other fans, but this past game seems to have finally taken all of the tough and brovado (we’ll be ok) talk that we fans have been doing for the last couple weeks. Very different tone in this article compared to ones just from last week.

    The warning signs have been glaring since preseason…nothing has gotten better or showed any signs of getting better.

    We’ll be ok next year. I think Yanda and KO will be much better after they get another offseason of rest. I think Wagner can be a solid RT if you give him an entire offseason of work at RT as opposed to being a rookie swing tackle. It’s just imperative that the team find space to re-sign Monroe and find a competent center….he doesn’t have to be all pro or anything, but just competent play there would make this line so much better.

    Pitta’s injury and age likely should make his deal somewhat acceptable for us.

    And if nothing else, we are on track for a top 15 draft pick, and Ozzie usually absolutely nails those picks. Load up on weapons on offense…TE, another explosive WR, and/or OT and definitely a C at some point and we’ll be ok.

  19. joe d on said:

    What role does Ozzie play in all of this. After all he is the one drafting these guys and he is the one handing out big contracts to Ngata, Rice, Webb and so on. Tony, does Harbaugh have any say in personnel decisions or is it all on Ozzie?

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Since Harbaugh has come on board the coaches and scouts work together to find players that meet the team’s needs. Ozzie has the final say. Bisciotti has been involved as well as a facilitator of productive debate and encouraging war room participants to expand their thought processes.

  20. Middle River Terp on said:

    Well written Tony. I love the Ravens and think John Harbaugh was the right hire, but his loyalty can be frustrating. This is the perfect storm of team meltdowns with many high priced players all playing below their contracted value at the same time. Hopefully Ozzie Newsome and Pat Moriarity have several rabbits in their hats this off season.

  21. Raveon on said:

    I agree with everything in the article other than the comments regarding flacco. I thought we would see a better joe this year but thats not the case. A very good or even good qb would have won the game for the ravens. Joe was horrible in the first half and made bad decisions presnap. Joe should be ranked behind qbs like Ben,Eli, romo,rivers,smith, luck, Ryan and the obvious guys. And I would not have said this before the start of the season. I know he doesnt have much support this year but i truly expected him to be better. He is slightly above average. The next few years are going to be really tough because we are paying top 3 qb money for a top 15 qb and the huge commitments to the others as mentioned in the article. Never thought I would ever think come on Os in November.

  22. mizzle twotimes on said:

    yall dont BLEED DAT PURPLE !!!any given sunday can be given or taken they have the manpower they just young 2014 ours i BELIEVE i BLEED PURPLE LOL

  23. Elizabeth Guthrie on said:

    Wow, tough words. Bottom line, as a fan, support your team, love our Ravens….hope for the best. Savor last year’s memories, as well!

  24. Rich on said:

    You can not win every year. 5 years is a great run. Though it looks bad now you have to have faith, you never had a problem when they were winning. A true fan sticks with their team thru thick and thin and soon as the thin is here everyone is panicing. Yes we will be getting rid of some high salaries next year and we will have younger players. you can’t tell what will happen year to year! That’s why you play the game on the field ,not on paper.

  25. spy on said:

    Well people , I’m going to piss many of you off , but here goes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,there are tow main problems as everyone has pointed out Harbaugh is one of them , the other is Ozzie,,,,,,,,,,,,,,there I have said it,,,,,,,,,if you take a hard look at the drafting over the past six or seven years it has been atrocious,,,,,,,,,,,,,,these players become the backbone of your franchise and they have not produced very well at all . Ozzie has missed the boat more often than not and it shows in the talent level on the field , he has tried to cover his poor drafting by bringing in over the hill , mostly cheap , free agents and most have failed,,,,,,,Ozzie has lost it and until we all admit it things are not going to change much,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,this team needs a new GM before it needs a new head coach , sometimes the truth hurts people but this has been more truth from the spy,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,…………….

    • dave on said:


      I will support you. I have always believed that the Ravens long-term success was more due to having one of the greatest football players of all-time Ray Lewis not “Trust in Oz”. For many yrs, we wasted one of the greatest defenses of all-time by not having an average QB, not being able to draft WR’s. Harbs with his glad-handing ways is one of the worst HC to oversee a rebuild.

  26. Ravcolt on said:

    Actually, what the Ravens did in 2001 was correct. Play for one more year and clean house the next. (In 2001, if they had played Cunningham at QB they may have made the SB). The NFL cap forces teams to purge their rosters every so often. This year and next they need to clean house and eat the cap numbers. Keep Flacco because you have no choice (however each year they should draft a QB to ferment). Go with youth and acquire draft picks and undrafted free agents- a Raven specialty. The rental of Monroe is now proving short-sighted. The key to a team competing each year is to build from both O and D lines out first, and the skill positions second. O line takes top priority to at least give us a chance with Joe. Bye bye Suggs, Ngata, Webb, Yanda and Canty.

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