THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens Organization Coddles Veterans

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens Organization Coddles Veterans

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Think back to high school for a moment and remember your senior year.  You probably had some cupcake electives to choose from to set up your course curriculum for your high school swan song.  You wanted to cruise through that year.  After all you were one of the top dogs in school and you had waited three years for the opportunity to lollygag.
Sound familiar?
Well the NFL’s version of that cupcake course curriculum is the Baltimore Ravens.  Veterans love to play for Brian Billick.  They love the facilities and they love the way that Billick and the organization coddles them.  It’s like a convalescent home that helps extend careers.
Trevor Pryce knows it.  By his own admission he has said that the Ravens way will help prolong his career enabling him to make millions and millions more.  Had he stayed in Denver, he’s said that he might be retired by now.
Yet it makes you wonder about the mindset of the team.  Do the Ravens foster fat-cat thinking?  Does it help explain why Brian Billick led teams are so up and down?
At halftime during the Ravens v. Bengals game, the featured entertainment was the high school quarterback challenge.  Does anyone here think that Steve McNair could actually win that challenge if he competed?
Despite the woefulness of the Ravens offense, Willis McGahee has been a glimmer of hope and clearly the silver lining in Baltimore’s points challenged offense.  It’s no small coincidence that when McGahee carries the ball more than 20 times the Ravens are undefeated.  They’ve lost each time he fails to hit the 20 carry mark.  I get that they want to preserve him and not beat him into the ground like they did with Jamal Lewis, but could someone please explain why McGahee comes out on third down?  He’s their best offensive player right?  Why take him off the field? 
Hey Brian, if you want to preserve him, take him out every now and then on first down and let Musa Smith or Mike Anderson carry the rock.  Taking McGahee out on third down is like the Red Sox pinch hitting for Big Pappy when a runner is in scoring position.
A lot of folks have clamored for the Ravens to turn over play calling duties to offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel.  Isn’t it time that Brian Billick hands over that play chart that he totes around like a pizza box?  Maybe Billick can deliver that delectable prize to the Pizza John’s fan of the game this Sunday.  Really though, could it get any worse than 7 points against the Bengals?  Try something!  Anything!  You need to figure out a way to score points no matter how unconventional it may be.
That said, one has to wonder how much confidence Billick has in Neuheisel. 
"If the first inkling that I get that there’s a better way to go about [play calling], I’ll make that change in a New York second. I’m going to put this team in the very best position I can as the head coach each and every Sunday as we go forward."
So, if the Ravens have only scored 28 points in total over the past three games and a Neuheisel guided offense can’t do better than that, why is he an offensive coordinator?
Perhaps the Ravens offensive ineptitude is really all on the play of the quarterback.  Dating back to the regular season finale against the Bills in ’06 (8 games), Steve McNair’s average quarterback rating is 69.3 including 7 interceptions and only 2 touchdown passes.  His eight lost fumbles in those eight games don’t even factor into the horrific QB rating.  Not exactly a great return on an $11 million signing bonus. 
The guess here is that the Ravens will cut ties with McNair after this season and spread his cap hit over the succeeding two seasons.  The Ravens offense led by Anthony Wright in 2003 was more productive than the offense with McNair under center and that offense include “juggernauts” like Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson and Frank Sanders.
McNair certainly looks beaten physically and mentally.  He flat out looks old although there’s no truth to the rumor that he will be the 2008 spokesperson for AARP.  More disturbing perhaps than McNair’s molasses like movements is the fact that he’s mentally down-trodden. 
“I don’t know what the coaches are going to decide [about his playing status]. If they decide to go with Kyle, fine. I’ll probably agree with them."
Not exactly the mojo you want your franchise QB to be sporting now is it?
Clearly McNair gift wrapped an excuse for the Ravens to bench him with that statement.  So why the suspicious shoulder subluxation injury?  Although I must admit that a subluxation sounds kind of serious.  Sort of like Michael J. Fox losing that flux capacitor for his DeLorean. 
With each week that goes by, Terrell Suggs is one step closer to becoming a free agent.  Yet this season hasn’t been a ringing endorsement for Suggs’ potential at the negotiating table.  The Ravens were wise to not rush to Suggs’ agent and serve up Dwight Freeney money to the 25 year-old two-time Pro Bowler.  As of now Suggs ranks 51st in sacks in the NFL and while he is certainly a vital cog in the Ravens’ defense, clearly a Freeney type deal that includes $30 million in guarantees could hardly be described as fiscally responsible if you are the Ravens.
It is often pointed out that Trevor Pryce’s absence has hurt Suggs and that is a notion that is barely debatable.  Pryce clearly helps Suggs’ productivity.  But do the Ravens want to pay a player as the best at his craft when that player requires a strong wingman to be at his best?  The bet here is that the Ravens pull out the dreaded franchise tag on Suggs in ’08.
Derek Anderson heads back into town with the Cleveland Browns riding a wave of confidence.  And why not?  Anderson has adapted well to the Rob Chudzinski offense (by way of San Diego and Cam Cameron) in Cleveland and his performance has helped the Browns to bring Brady Quinn along slowly.  Anderson is a restricted free agent after the ’07 campaign and more than likely the Browns will tender him no less than the mid tender offer assuring the Browns of a No. 1 pick as compensation if the Browns choose not to match another team’s offer for Anderson.
All eyes will be on the former Oregon State teammate of Dwan Edwards this week at M&T and with each of his accomplishments, Ravens fans will undoubtedly fret even more over the potential QB of the future who got away.  Yet one has to wonder if Anderson would have progressed in Baltimore the way he has in Cleveland.  There’s little evidence to believe that he would have and it calls into question the Ravens’ ability to develop quarterbacks.  Do they have the coaching staff – have they ever had the coaching staff to help quarterbacks improve?
The answer is a resounding “no” and that has to concern Eric DeCosta as he and his staff of scouts pour over hours of film studying quarterbacks in the draft.  Their reputations are on the line and one has to wonder that if this current coaching staff remains in tact will DeCosta & Co. be willing to risk a first round pick on a quarterback who might morph into Kyle Boller, The Sequel.

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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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