LETTERS 2 TL: TIP TOE THROUGH THE PLAYOFFS?

Lombardi's Way LETTERS 2 TL: TIP TOE THROUGH THE PLAYOFFS?

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WE CAN BUILD IT BETTER
 
TL,
 
Several months ago, Mike Preston stated, and I agreed strongly, that the Ravens lack of running game could very well be their undoing. Instead of saying "Let’s build on this season", the Ravens should re-build starting now. It is difficult for a fan to give personnel recommendations since contracts and salary cap are big factors, but I will state the following:
 
The offensive line has been dragging this team down for years. It is time to say "Thank you" and "Bye-Bye" to Flynn, Mulitalo, Vincent, and possibly Pashos. The line must get younger and more athletic. It is also time to cut Jamal Lewis, and to look for a more elusive type of back to complement Mike Anderson. The Ravens also need a QB of the future who can learn for a year under McNair. The team must also find eventual replacements for Ray Lewis, Trevor Price, (most likely) AD, and the CB’s. This is a long list, and it is time to start re-building now, and not make the mistake of thinking that the Ravens can be better next year. This season will be, unfortunately, the high-water mark for the Ravens for several seasons, IMHO.
 
Thank you for running such a great site.

 

Bob Martinaitis
 
Bob,
 
Before the Ravens acquired Steve McNair I championed the rebuilding cause as well. But when he came along he not only provided competency at the quarterback position, he also gave the team hope and that hope galvanized the roster and helped to change the atmosphere in the Ravens locker room.
 
I think the Ravens will tweak their roster somewhat, but not significantly. The cap won’t allow it. But Eric DeCosta and Ozzie have proven that they can find rookies who can contribute in a meaningful way. Keep in mind that the Ravens were tied for third in the league with the most rookies on their roster and a few (Ngata, Chester, Williams, Landry and Koch) were very productive.
 
As for the players you mentioned, Ray will be back as will Pryce, AD may be franchised and a couple of the linemen will be asked to take pay cuts in reduced roles. At least that’s how I see it. When talking to DeCosta, he said the Ravens will prioritize offensive linemen and inside linebackers. Eric will join me on GAMETIME in the near future in studio and we’ll really roll up our sleeves and get into that more.
 
And thank you for visiting our site. That’s why we’re here and we appreciate your kind words.
 
Rave on,
 
TL
 
RAVENS DRAFT POSITION
 
Tony,
 
Does our loss to Indy have any affect on our draft position in April, with teams still playing drafting behind us, or is our draft position determined before the playoffs begin? Our loss Saturday sucked all the energy and excitement right out of the whole town. It will take a long time for us all to recover emotionally.
 
Steve From Lutherville
 
Steve,

Great question…

Here’s what I found:

• The team with the lowest winning percentage at the end of the previous season drafts first in the NFL Draft.
• The rest of the teams are placed in order from lowest winning percentage to the highest.
• The Super Bowl winner drafts last, even if they do not have the highest winning percentage.
• The Super Bowl loser drafts next to last.
• Strength of schedule for the previous season is the first tie-breaker for teams with the same winning percentage.
• Divisional and conference records are the next step in the tie-breaking procedure.
• As a last resort, a coin toss is used to determine the order of selection for teams with the same winning percentage.
• If a playoff and non-playoff team end the season with the same winning percentage, the non-playoff team selects before the playoff team regardless of strength of schedule.

So, it would benefit the Ravens for a team with a worse regular season record to go to the Super Bowl. That will happen this year. If I’m interpreting these rules correctly Indy or the Patriots will draft before us since both had 12-4 regular season records.

Last year even though New England beat Jacksonville in the playoffs, NE drafted before Jax because their regular season record was 10-6 v. Jax’ 12-4.

Hope this helps…

TL

 
MORE DRAFT, NOT DRAUGHT
 
Tony,
 
We all know this team lives by the draft. I know the talent pool this season in college isn’t that great. With this more than likely being Jamal’s last game here, do we lean towards a younger cheaper running back in the draft? I may have a few in mind, but one no one is talking about is Michael Bush from Louisville. He has that Jamal power and build. He would be a great fit. Another thing is, I have a gut feeling about AD being a 49er. Do we draft a linebacker? One good fit that might be there at our spot is Lamar Woodley from Michigan. He would start right away. It don’t matter who they draft, they always choose wisely, except for a few. One other thing is, this city has nothing to be ashamed of. We had one heck of a year.
 
Thanks,
 
 
Endzone Eddie
 
EE,
 
I think the Ravens will definitely stick to their best player available mantra, particularly sitting down there at the bottom of the rounds. Bush is an intriguing player and would fit the Ravens style. However, I’m not so sure that the style will stick. I think you will see the Ravens lean more towards a more versatile back than Jamal. The Patriots were fortunate to pick up Lawrence Maroney last year in the first round with the 21st pick. They coupled him with veteran Corey Dillon and it seemed to work out fine. Perhaps they can borrow the formula next year with a rookie and Mike Anderson.
 
As for AD, I didn’t think they would but there are rumblings in Owings Mills that the Ravens will use the franchise tag on AD. If not, San Francisco would be a good fit, re-uniting AD with Mike Nolan. The Niners have a ton of cap space available to them as well heading into the offseason.
 
Ramble on,
 
TL
 
NO MORE SCREAMING LIKE A BANSHEE?
 
Tony,
 
Your response to the game was right on point [Lombardi‘s Way: Billick Tippy Toes into Offseason]. All players make mistakes, but they shouldn’t get sabotaged by such an absurd "game plan." Billick played like a coward. HIS play-calling was the biggest obstacle we faced last weekend. And that ridiculous "explanation" for the end of the first half was ludicrous. You’re the LOSING team, you’re not up by 20! We could take it that a step further—why not walk off at the end of the 1st Quarter? Why even play the 2nd Quarter—their field goal kicker was having a good day, right? Let’s leave. No sense in trusting your offense to move up and down the field.
 
His explanation expressed how scared he was of the Colts field goal kicker. Oh my. Why even suit up for the 2nd half?!?! Enough has been said about the idiotic 2-3 yd. passes, but what you’re really telling your offense, and the other team is more than "we’re gonna take what you give us," what you’re saying is we’re sooooo scared and cautious! Oh and by the way, we’re a power running team as long as we don’t fall behind, or get near the goal line.
 
Brian Billick’s worse attribute is his lack of rhythm. He doesn’t know what’s working, how much to use it, when to use it, or how to stay with it. For him to shut down Jamal while also shutting down the passing game was a marvel to behold. You’re dinking and dunking AT HOME, in a playoff game. And what does it get you? He doesn’t need another minute before halftime. He doesn’t need to use timeouts. He’s got that quick strike offense that will easily overcome such "overrated" aspects of game management. It was sad.
 
A gorgeous 13-4 season, with an ending that makes it look like we were a candy-ass team. Two weeks to prepare for the Indy Hall of Fame defensive backfield, and this is what we got, 2 field goals. I’m afraid it won’t matter who we bring in, who we replace, the same sorry game MO will probably bring the same results. Only Billick’s true character could make the Indy Colts look like defensive world-beaters.
 
There’s a reason they call it "offense," you have to move the football. Not worry about the dreaded cover-2, like it was invented yesterday and nobody’s ever seen it. So what if Indy was in the Cover-2, CHALLENGE IT! Did you not KNOW they would be in a Cover-2? I know this was a long rant, but we should have beaten that team. And you were right—3 TE set, oh yeah we’re a smash mouth team, alright. No deception, misdirection, counters, draws—we run the ball straight and hope for the best. We have such great, great players. But a coach afraid to play the game.
 
Alonso Lamont, Baltimore
 
TL,
 
I read your column about BB this morning and have a couple thoughts. I too was upset with the decision to not try and score prior to halftime. I thought it sends the wrong message to your team and found it hard to believe considering the caliber of the offense the Ravens were playing. They needed points.
 
I also was disappointed they did not try to establish Jamal more as the game went on. I would have liked to see them open the running game by throwing the ball early like they did against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Then come back to the running game. Instead, they came out trying to establish the run on 1st and 2nd downs and then throwing on 3rd. Then, after they did get the running game cranked up a little, they went away from it.
 
After Reed’s second interception when the Ravens started the drive at the 39 (which by the way was a bad call by the ref as Reed did not go out before the lateral), the Ravens had 12 minutes on the clock. Rather than mix up the run and pass, they came out and went pass, pass and had 3rd and long. McNair then made one his finer plays of the day on the next play to convert. Then they run for 1 yard and pass, pass, the 2nd of which was intercepted and the game was pretty much done at that point. All you hear about is how the Ravens would wear down the Colts with their physical style, yet in the 4th quarter down less than a TD, they ran 12 plays and only ran the ball twice. Both runs were on 1st downs!
 
With all of that said, I do not think you can lay the blame for this game solely on BB. Had McNair not thrown the interception on the goal line, the game is entirely different (there again however I would have liked to see play action on 2nd down at the 1). And on the deep ball to Clayton the ball was under thrown which allowed the safety to get over the tackle Clayton. I love McNair and would never throw him under the bus, but were it not for a couple throws he made and failed to make, no one would be questioning Billick.
 
Regardless of what happened Saturday (which to me was the toughest loss I have suffered as a Ravens fan because it was in our house), it was a hell of a year and this team went farther than I expected at the start of the season. The defense outplayed Manning but the offense just failed to deliver. I think with the resigning of AD, the drafting of a stud RB to replace (or perhaps for the right price play alongside) Jamal and perhaps a few tweaks to the o-line and secondary, this team will be back next year and possibly even better (think of Ngata, Williams, Clayton, Landry and others with another year under their belt). The problem is that to win it all, you need the breaks and you need to stay healthy. For the most part the Ravens did that (with the exception of Sams). Can they do it two years in a row? I guess we’ll see. Thanks for all you do covering the Ravens.
 
Jeremy Frey
 
TL,
 
I don’t know how long it took you to write that column, but it was perfect. It says it all. You had a column or two earlier this year about the possibility of pre-emptively giving BB a contract extension. As I recall, you counseled caution. You were right then, for all the reasons you point out now.
 
I didn’t hear what McAlister had to say about being embarrassed, but I suspect Billick lost a lot of credibility with players, coaches and Bisciotti as a result of this game. Think about it. The defense turns in an A++ performance at home in the playoffs. You have two weeks to prepare. What’s the outcome? You get totally out-coached. Even worse, in the process you show a lack of confidence in your guys. You melt when the heat’s on, testicles shrink to the size of bread crumbs. He can adopt his pissy little defensive attitude like he used to do all the time and got slapped down for, but you know that all the football people behind the curtain realize that the coaching match-up on Saturday was the equivalent of Ali in his prime vs. Butterbean after he’s drank a case or two. I suspect that the fact that he got pissy indicates that even HE realizes that this game was a defining moment for him and his career, and that he blew it.
 
Billick’s not going to be fired. The offense turned around after he took over, and they won 13 games. But with respect to Billick, nobody’s going to remember any of that now. All they’ll remember is that he choked in a playoff game in Baltimore against Peyton Manning and the Colts.
 
Please tell me you are going to talk about this on your show on Friday.
 
Bill in Northeast
 
Hey Tony,
 
You hit it dead on! It’s true Billick doesn’t execute the plays but he [must be held accountable]. This offense is still an embarrassment. How many Raven games have been on prime time or national TV where we see offensive ineptitude? Something is wrong here! McNair sucked on Saturday. The pass to Heap was a rookie mistake. I felt Jamal should have run more and Mike Anderson would have been an even better option. Well 13&3 was a positive but this team should be hosting the AFC championship. One more thing, if D. Mason wanted to be more appreciated why wasn’t he returning punts or kickoffs like he use to do. The big ball baby was damn good at it.
 
Like I said you have great insight.
 
Later,
 
Jim, Baltimore
 
Tony,
 
Great article regarding Billick …I agree 100% …. Billick did not play to win …. and he let down every Raven Fan within the community down ….a community that has rallied around this team the entire year ,,,, a community that Rallied for this team for the last 2 weeks with signs and purple lights shinning on their homes and businesses …. It’s a shame that Billick did not have that same enthusiasm.
 
Emery, Perry Hall
 
TL,
 
This article sums up how I felt after the game better than anything I’ve dared to look at. Believe me when I tell you that I was so hurt after the game that I did not watch one down of football on TV from any other playoff game this weekend. I heard [Monday] morning that the Chargers lost, and I just got that painful hurt all over my body. Again!
 
If there ever was a time to stuff Jamal into the line and continue with the swing passes to him outside the tackle box, this was it. But I’ll tell you something Tony. As much as I admire and appreciate the great job Brian Billick does, this is a pattern that has not changed. I’m beginning to think that it never will.
 
Go back to 1998 when he was the offensive coordinator with Minnesota and the NFC Championship game versus the Atlanta Falcons. Playing with the lead late in the game, the Vikings offense suddenly became timid and played not to lose. What happened? They lost.
 
In his very first game as Head Coach of the Ravens in 1999, we go into St. Louis and lose a close contest to the Rams who went on to win the Super Bowl that year. How many times did we run the ball in the second half of that game? Once. One time in an entire half of football. You don’t believe me, go back and look at the game film.
 
What’s so funny about this is that if we make any big play of the many that were presented to us throughout the game; just one against the Colts; we probably win and all of this is forgotten.
 
Eric, Owings Mills
 
Hi Tony,

I’d say you are right on, on this one. After the Ravens first offensive series, I turned to my son and said I do not like the way this is looking to go down. To me, if there was ever game to throw on first or second down it was this one. I said to my son after the second series, I think the coach will call a very conservative game plan. WOW, an understatement, you think?

Pound for pound, strength for strength, toughness for toughness, how could we not be the better team. I think because you are correct, even though the coach did not throw an interception on the one, and another int, and fumble coach Billick played it safe and not to lose. With the bye, we should have been fresh and motivated enough for our offense to charge up to the line, look the Colts in the eye and say try to stop us. Instead the only look we had was one of a deer in the headlights.

The last 50 or so seconds in the first half was inexcusable not to try something. Could not we have even tried to launch a deep ball then? Maybe get a reception or an interference call? At worst a long interception is sometimes as good as a deep punt.

Oh well, that’s it for this year, however this will live with me and I’m sure with many other in my 50+ age group as the second most devastating loss in Baltimore football history. The first being the Colts-Jets in ’69 with this coming in a close second. Victory should have been within our grasp~ we elected not to go for it.

Take care, until next year…
Barry, Baltimore
 
To All,
 
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I greatly admire your passion. Brian Billick had a bad game. He even admitted, "It will be many a night before I’m not waking up at 2 and 3 in the morning, seeing plays in my head, second-guessing calls. That’s just the nature of it.”
 
And that’s about as close as you will get to hearing Billick admit that he called a bad game. But it was just one game. Unfortunately for him and for us, it is the one that we’ll remember most. Bill in Northeast hit the nail on the head with that one.
 
Overall, Billick had a great season. Not a good one, a great one. But all of that hard work and that building momentum led to a crescendo that ended up a dud. And like he alluded, Billick will have to live with that the entire offseason. Let’s hope he learned a lesson. It sure was an expensive one for all of us.
 
Here’s to the return of the banshee,
 
TL

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Tony Lombardi

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Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) 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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