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Prior to the Ravens @ Steelers, I had a little sit down with a couple of familiar sports personalities on the scene here in Baltimore who know a little bit about our favorite team. Instead of asking questions about the Ravens, they were answering them. I think you will find this little pow-wow with WMAR’s Scott Garceau and WBAL’s Steve Davis to be quite candid and interesting.
TL: Scott, Steve, thanks for joining 24×7’s Chat Sessions. The Ravens are enjoying a fine season and to a man their attitude is Super Bowl or bust. The Ravens have been a pleasant surprise and they’ve exceeded most expectations. In your opinion what is the primary reason or reasons for the dramatic turnaround?

Davis: The credit can certainly be shared by a multitude of sources. On the field, the number one difference has been McNair. To me, it’s that simple. He has changed this team more than any one player. We see now what good QB play can do. That said, virtually all the off-season additions have been significant, and for that you have to give Ozzie credit. Free agency: McNair, Pryce, Ivy, Stills, Bannan have played important roles. Only Mike Anderson hasn’t done much, and that’s because he hasn’t been asked. The rookies have been huge. Ngata has played well, Landry was a tremendous find, and how about what Prude and Williams have done. And Billick deserves a ton of credit for getting more involved with the players, having the guts to fire Fassel, and then stepping in and doing a better job than Fassel.
TL: Scott, in your opinion why the 7 game swing from 6 to 13 wins?
Garceau: Tony, THREE BIG REASONS…..

1. Turnover ratio of all the stats in the computer age its the most important and the Ravens have taken good care of the ball; Jamal has reduced fumbles; McNair went 6 of 7 games without a pick that combo spells W-I-N-S.

2. Health, the defense the best in the NFL has been nearly injury free. Like 2000 if you have the best talent and they stay standing you win.

3. Improved QB play: Steve McNair makes enough plays and limits turnovers plus his leadership and calm demeanor are nice additions. There are better quarterbacks in the NFL but he was the right guy at the right time for this team.

TL: Brian Billick in so many words was told to change or be changed. Rate his performance in ’06.

Garceau: Billick gets high grades and should be considered with guys like Peyton and Mangini for coach of the year. I thinks it’s just a coincidence that the less he talked the more the Ravens won.
TL: Funny how those wins help his poise along the sidelines also….Steve.

Davis: Billick has done a great job. He took what Bisciotti asked to heart and became a better coach. He gets an ‘A’.

TL: What in your opinion whether it’s on or off the field is the biggest threat to the Ravens advancing in the playoffs?

Davis: Scott just hit on it…Injuries. This team is great on defense and balanced on offense. The Ravens can play with anyone, but injuries will derail any team.
Garceau: They don’t have any major shortcomings, the running game has been inconsistent [and] I think that’s an area that often makes a difference in the second season….quarterbacks like Peyton Manning would also challenge the secondary IF given time to throw.

TL: Each year the NFL head coaching carousel begins in late December. What coaches in your opinion are in danger and will Rex Ryan assume one of those vacated positions in ’07? If he goes is someone currently on the defensive staff ready to step up as a coordinator?

Davis: I’m not really worried about losing Rex Ryan. There was a lot of turnover last year and won’t be this year. I think Rex is another year away from being a hot candidate.
Garceau: Dennis Green appears gone and Jim Mora Jr is in trouble, Mike Holmgren might retire and Romeo Crennel’s seat is at least getting warm. As for Rex it depends how far the Ravens advance. If they make it to the SB and the defense gets all that national attention I would think he’d get interviews. Not sure if the Ravens have his successor in house.

TL: Compare Ravens fans to those in other NFL cities…

Davis: I think Ravens fans are great fans. But it’s hard to measure them against cities that have had the NFL uninterrupted for decades. TV ratings tell a lot, and in places like Green Bay, KC and Denver, for instance, the ratings are unbelievable. Half the population is glued to the TV. I’m not sure we’re there yet. Fans in Baltimore got used to Sundays without football and it takes a while to get it back like it was with the Colts.

TL: Great point Steve….Scott?
Garceau: I think [Ravens fans] compare very favorably. But I’d have to agree with Steve, with a 12 year gap we don’t have the tradition or national base of teams like the Bears, Cowboys, Packers and Steelers, but on game day Raven fans can hold their own with anybody. The teams have been competitive the true test will come if the Ravens have a 4-6 year down cycle. The idiots who cheer when a home team player gets hurt don’t get high grades.
TL: I’ll second that emotion and as for the Ravens fans holding their own, a 41-14 home record, tied for the league’s best mark since 2000, proves that Baltimore fans can cook up a hostile environment for the bad guys…
One of the good guys, Kyle Boller, has been a prominent figure on the Ravens landscape for the past 3 years yet he has been anything but prominent this year. Predict his future in Baltimore and also in the NFL…

Davis: He certainly performed pretty well vs. Cleveland. He’s got another year on his contract, so he’ll be here next year. After that, I’m not so certain. It might be hard to start here, because fans won’t give him a fair shake. They’ll always be waiting for him to trip or fumble. He might need a fresh start.

Garceau: Not sure about his future here, it may be best for him if he gets a fresh start. With the shortage of QB’S in the league he will get an opportunity. I hope he cashes in.
TL: And let’s hope he doesn’t trip along the way…

A Raven that has already cashed in is Ray Lewis. In your opinion will Ray be a Raven in ’07 considering his $9.3+ million cap figure?
Garceau: I expect him to be back, he’s not the dominator but he still has a couple of quality years left.

Davis: This team has shown it should be kept together next year. He’ll be here. He continues to play at a high level, and is the leader of this team.
TL: The Ravens might bump up against the cap next season and they’ll have a very expensive re-signing in AD should they choose to go that route. Steve, will AD be a Raven in ’07 and beyond?

Davis: AD is a dicey situation. The Ravens historically have signed their great players at least a year before they get to free agency. That didn’t happen here. I’m certain they want to keep him, but if there’s a team that blows the bank to get him, I don’t think the Ravens will do that. They’re cap situation as you indicated is getting tenuous. They’ll have to make some cap casualty decisions soon. I’m not certain they’re willing to give a crazy bonus to another player entering his 30’s. They did it with McNair and Pryce already.
Garceau: I hope [he stays], but there’s a good chance he gets mega millions from a team with mucho cap room. I don’t think Raven fans will blame him for cashing in. Teams like the 49ers may exceed Ozzie’s "right number" on the NFL’s most versatile player.
TL: It sure wouldn’t be too difficult to envision an AD/Mike Nolan reunion. Should the Ravens lose AD, that will be another hole they’ll try to fill in the offseason. What other weaknesses do you expect the Ravens to address between March and July?
Garceau: I think for every action there’s a reaction. I don’t see any glaring holes at the moment. If they lose AD or others in free agency they’ll react. I’m sure they also have to decide if Boller is the QB of the future and more pressing who’s the RB of the present. If they conclude that Samari Rolle is slipping the cornerback and nickel back positions could be improved.
Davis: I agree, cornerback is a position I would imagine they’ll address. They need to get younger, and Rolle has not had a great season. I also agree that running back will have to be dealt with too, whether it’s free agency or the draft. They need some depth at linebacker as well. That’s not a young linebacking group.
TL: Last and probably the most important question guys…Do the Ravens make it to Miami in February as a Super Bowl XLI participant and if not why? If so do they win and if not, why not?

Davis: I’m not certain you can predict that. I think they have as good a chance as anyone. They’re one of the 2 best teams in the AFC. You can make a case that San Diego is better, but the Ravens did beat them, and match up well. Whoever comes out of the AFC is much better than whoever goes from the NFC, so the AFC team, quite possibly the Ravens, will be Super Bowl champ.
Garceau: The balance of power is in the AFC. The Chargers look like the best balanced team in the league with the Ravens and Bears a notch below. The Patriots have the experience the Colts don’t appear to have enough defense. I think the winner of the Ravens-Chargers game is the Super Bowl favorite. It looks like there’s about 6 good teams no great ones. The Chargers biggest question will be advancing with a 1st year starter at quarterback.
TL: Ok, I’ll go out on a limb and sound like the purple KoolAid guzzling homer. You are used to sitting next to someone like that Scott…Personally, I don’t think the Ravens have played their best game yet. Every time they’ve faced a pivotal contest this season, they’ve responded very favorably. Brian Billick winning it all after being on the brink of dismissal and Steve McNair winning it all after being locked out of Baptist Park by the Titans are the kind of things fairy tales are made of. And when both are clutching that Lombardi Trophy at the 50 yard line in Miami, we’ll have witnessed a fairy tale come true.
Thanks guys…it’s been fun.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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