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.