Street Talk - The latest street talk and Baltimore Ravens related News from the Russell Street Report Team.
Lombardi’s Way - A column from the 24×7 founder that focuses on the Ravens, the NFL, Baltimore, the world of sports or life’s inspirations.
Word on The Street - In the spirit of the CBS Sports Minute with Boomer Esiason, RSR brings you Word on The Street, a 90 second (or less) podcast on topics exclusively relating to the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens Links - We’ll give you the best stories about the Ravens from around the web three times per week.
The Fanimal - If you are an animal about the Baltimore Ravens, then you are a Fanimal! Follow the Russell Street Report blog Fanimal Crackers!
The Edgar Awards - The Edgar Awards will range from the Maryland county that is home to the best Ravens fans to the best Ravens podcast; from the best collection of displaced fans to the best local craft brews that should be part of your next tailgating party.
The Road to RSR - Our writers explains their journeys as fans and how they came to write for our little corner of sports media.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In the aftermath of Jim Fasselâ€™s exit and Brian Billickâ€™s entrance as the Baltimore Ravensâ€™ offensive coordinator, an ineffectual offense is hoping that something will change about its points-starved status.
With the Ravens (4-2) ranked 28th in total offense, mired in a two-game losing streak and no longer alone atop the AFC North, the consensus in the locker room is that something dramatic had to happen.
â€œSomething was necessary,â€ said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden regarding an offense averaging 18.3 points per game. â€œWe were stagnant and couldnâ€™t get things going. It was a little drastic, I suppose, but something had to be done along those lines.â€
Structurally, the Ravens arenâ€™t being overhauled.
As Billick said last week prior to firing Fassel, a long-time friend who departs after a power struggle and allegations that he didnâ€™t work hard enough and was too consumed with his ambition to become a head coach again, itâ€™s not as if theyâ€™re going to install the wishbone.
A grim-faced Billick didnâ€™t offer anything specific Monday when asked what imprint heâ€™s hoping to make as a full-time play-caller for the first time since 1999. His terse reply: â€œMore production.â€
Itâ€™s clear, though, that tangible changes are afoot. At least in the sense that Billick had seen enough of an attack averaging 271.7 yards of total offense, a franchise-low average of 94.3 rushing yards and 177.3 passing yards per contest.
Billick has adopted a more hands-on approach heading into Sundayâ€™s game against the New Orleans Saints (5-1) at the Louisiana Superdome.
â€œHeâ€™s come in and established what he wants to do,â€ center Mike Flynn said. â€œHe was pretty assertive in the meeting with where heâ€™s coming from, what weâ€™re going to change, what weâ€™re going to put in and what weâ€™re going to take out.
â€œI think they studied the tape and know whatâ€™s not working. He’s watched this team from afar for a while, so we have a lot of confidence in what we can do out there.â€
Baltimore has only rushed for two touchdowns as featured back Jamal Lewis (352 yards) is averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, quarterback Steve McNair, who was limited in his first practice since sustaining a concussion, has performed even worse. He has thrown seven interceptions and five touchdowns for a 64.1 passer rating.
Wide receiver Derrick Mason, the offenseâ€™s most vociferous critic, didnâ€™t sound convinced that anything will be much different. When asked if Billickâ€™s imprint will result in a major turnaround, he replied: â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
When asked if Fassel needed to be fired, Mason said: â€œThatâ€™s something you need to ask coach Billick, coordinator Billick.â€
What Mason is certain of is that itâ€™s fairly irrelevant who calls the plays if the blocking, catching, running and throwing isnâ€™t upgraded.
â€œThey thought they needed to make a change, so they made it,â€ Mason said. â€œRegardless of whoâ€™s calling the plays, the players have to go out there and make it work. Obviously we’re not changing anything dramatically on offense, so what does that tell you?
â€œIt tells you the players have to execute and make the game plan work, somehow, some way. I’m hoping, and I have confidence that regardless of who’s calling the plays, with the week off we can come back and make this offense go."
When the team reassembled Sunday after the bye week, they received a detailed explanation from Billick in a meeting regarding Fasselâ€™s dismissal.
â€œHe explained what happened and why he did it,â€ Mason said. â€œWeâ€™re all grown men. We understand what the situation is and we understand why it happened and why it had to happen and now what we have to do is put it behind us.â€
Added Flynn: â€œIn general, I know Brian is a loyal guy and theyâ€™re friends. You donâ€™t see that too often in the NFL, an in-season change like that. But it was a situation where he felt it was the right thing to do.
â€œHe felt he we had enough talent on this team. He thought he could do a good job calling the plays and he wanted the responsibility. If you were going to make a move, that was the time to do it.â€
Billickâ€™s daily itinerary has undergone a groundswell change as the majority of his time is devoted now to overseeing the offense.
â€œIt changes my routine a little bit, but Iâ€™ve got good people around me to fill in the gaps when my focus has to go to one thing,â€ Billick said.
Billick spent the bye week reviewing what did and didnâ€™t work so far this season and implementing a game plan for the Saints.
â€œYou put yourself in that mindset and you play the game at least 100 times before you actually get to the game,â€ Billick said.
One immediate, unsubtle change was Billickâ€™s presence in the huddle whereas in the past he was more of a big-picture coach who made comments, but wasnâ€™t involved in every single facet of the operation.
â€œHeâ€™s more interactive with the offense, being in our huddle as opposed to being an observer,â€ Flynn said. â€œI just have confidence that heâ€™s going to put us in the right position to succeed.â€
Added Mason: â€œWe get to see coach Billick a lot more. Not only are we talking to our offensive coordinator, but weâ€™re talking to our head coach as well. Itâ€™s kind of weird.
â€œIâ€™ve always had a coordinator and Iâ€™ve always had a head coach be separate. Thatâ€™s not to say that we canâ€™t adapt and move forward.â€
With the Ravens ranked 26 in rushing and 25th in passing overall, Billick said heâ€™s open to suggestions from players.
â€œI always get input,â€ he said.
â€œIâ€™m sure he wants to know how we feel,â€ Ogden said.
Using Billickâ€™s adaptation of the West Coast offense, though, the Ravens have only ranked in the top half of the NFL in total offense once. They finished 14th overall in 2001.
Now, theyâ€™re hoping Billick’s direct involvement overseeing his system can make a difference.
â€œThe bottom line is, no matter whoâ€™ve you got calling plays, Bill Walsh, whoever, it doesnâ€™t really matter,â€ Ogden said. â€œIf you donâ€™t go out there and do it, then nothingâ€™s going to work. Hopefully, things will be a little more well-oiled.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.