Ravens in Decline?

Street Talk Ravens in Decline?

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Recently we received this email from a disgruntled Ravens fan. We thought we’d share it to see whether Dan’s rant is felt by many Ravens fans or if his position is an exception to the norm.

I am a huge Ravens fan, and huge fan of the Russell Street Report. I read your articles every day, and have done so for years. I can honestly say I have agreed with every one of Tony Lombardi’s articles, with 1 exception (Jernigan Trade…would rather we trade Williams for a 1st/2nd pick outright). And I would like to see Tony do an opinion piece to the draft article in the subject title.

I fully believe the Ravens are in decline, and it starts with Biscotti’s and Harbaugh’s influence over Ozzie and DeCosta. In recent years, we seem to make bone head decisions more so than in the early 2000’s. It starts with the staff, and hiring retread coaches who play it safe and keep things vanilla. Time and time again we get out-coached. Belichick is the gold standard with inventing new ways to win, and we seem to realize this but are unable to mimic it.  How on earth Pees is allowed to stay on this team still baffles me. I fully believe he and Harbaugh are blind when it comes to seeing talent, and even worse at developing/harnessing talent but that is another story. Joe Flacco is the highest paid mess in the league. I wouldn’t hate him so much if we paid him like the 19th best QB that he is. But that is another problem, we constantly overpay for our players like the typical American blows their budget.

Long story short(er), we don’t draft well anymore. And Brian Bower unearthed the single biggest change and the single biggest problem with our draft process, which also leads to player personnel philosophy with the following quote:

“I think that’s one major change, probably over the last 10 years, is because of the internet and because of social media and because of all of these different things. We have spent more time looking at the player’s personality, getting a feel for who he is,” DeCosta noted. “We challenge our scouts to go into schools and talk to at least four different people to generate a profile on who the player is off the field.”

Scouts should not be playing the role of psychologist with 18-22 year olds…a time where we all were young and dumb. They need to focus on the performance on the field! Many Hall of Famers were people of poor character, some still are. Would we have drafted Ray Lewis with this new process now? I highly doubt it. But he helped put this team on the map. This goes back to Biscotti and Harbaugh’s bad character crusade, and it is killing us. Whatever happened to helping grow and mentor our players…taking a chance. You may even be able to grow loyalty from that. Remember the days when players would actually take a Hometown Discount, and not just shuffle dead money into the future? Now they just follow Joe’s lead in screwing our cap numbers, which is his only true example of leadership BTW. Here’s to hoping more players like Jefferson follow our one true team leader’s (Weddle) example.

Respectfully, 

David Howerton

David,

Thanks for the email. Your passion comes through loud and clear. And we really appreciate your support.

To your points…

I’m a little hesitant to say that the Ravens are in decline but trends are pointing that way. 2017 will be a big year for them on many levels. Organizationally, I believe the Ravens are very sound and I think the continuity from the front office to the coaching staff yields both measurable and intangible benefits.

The recent slide has to do with a few things:

1. Inability to draft playmakers
2. Some poor drafts that have led to unnecessary spending
3. Joe Flacco not playing to the level of his contract

Let’s address each…

For years, the Ravens drafted guys who came up with big plays at crucial moments. Off the top of my head guys named Lewis, Reed, McAlister, Suggs, Jamal, Thomas, Heap and Rice come to mind. In recent years, they’ve drafted some solid players but few difference makers.

Missing in too many drafts has forced them into free agency. Because a first-round safety like Matt Elam is a bust and a third-round safety like Terrence Brooks never quite made the cut, the team has had to invest in players like Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson – even move an undersized corner with a big contract who’s lost a step to safety in the form of Lardarius Webb. Those investments have in part prevented the Ravens from retaining players like Kelechi Osemele or seeking free agents who could make a difference because they’ve been cap-strapped.

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 1.00.55 PM

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

And then there’s Joe Flacco. He hasn’t progressed like the Ravens hoped. If anything, he’s regressed and while he needs to accept some of the blame for not performing to the level of his league-high cap figure in 2017, the lack of playmakers, the lack of continuity in personnel as well as the revolving door at offensive coordinator, have all fueled the decline in Flacco’s play.

The problems are pretty glaring. The challenges are steep. And I do think the Ravens will find solutions. I just don’t know if they’ll find them fast enough to save the current coaching staff. We’ll find out soon enough.

As for the question of character and its importance on draft day, I support your way of thinking – that a solid locker room with good leadership can embrace a player with character flaws and nurture him to the point where he too can be a man of good character. Tyrann Mathieu with the Cardinals comes to mind.

Of course, there are exceptions and some bad guys will remain bad guys. Sometimes it’s true that a leopard can’t change its spots. But I have to think that the Ravens over-emphasis on character relative to talent, is a bit dangerous and it has probably already cost the team on draft day.

Hopefully 2017 will get the Ravens back on track. So far, I think they’ve done a nice job this offseason save the overspending on Brandon Williams. They’ve done a lot with limited cap space.

But there’s a lot more to do.

I’ll judge the offseason just before opening day of the regular season.

Do you think that organizationally the Ravens are in decline?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

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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