When John Harbaugh replaced Brian Billick in 2008, and the Ravens subsequently used the 18th overall pick on Joe Flacco, it laid the groundwork for what would be a consistent run of success. The team immediately felt the impact of the new coach and franchise quarterback and five straight years of playoff appearances culminated with the team’s second Lombardi trophy in 2012.
Since then, though, the Ravens have been the definition mediocrity, each year (with the exception of 2014) scratching and clawing their way to a record that’s usually around .500, give or take a game or two. Seasons feel like a grind with either injuries or a lack of playmakers serving as the excuse. A team that used to be feared for its stifling defense and a quarterback who was once labeled as one of the best deep ball throwers in the game now doesn’t come close to living up to either label.
The debate has gone from “is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback” to “would the Ravens be better off with Tyrod Taylor?”
Despite the Ravens’ struggles in recent years, both Harbaugh and Flacco have been given a ridiculously long leash. Harbaugh’s is based off the team’s success in his first five years as coach and Flacco’s exists because, frankly, they have no choice. They are handcuffed to Joe through at least next season based on the way his contract is structured.
And while we all enjoyed the consistent success that came from 2008-2012, it’s cost the Ravens dearly both literally and figuratively. The Ravens were forced to pay Flacco and you can’t fault them for that, but that early success has also fogged their judgement when it comes to their coaching staff and maybe the owner’s vision when it comes to Ozzie Newsome too.
Until Steve Bisciotti realizes changes need to be made, we should all expect the same frustrations we’ve grown accustomed to over the last three seasons (and four of the last five).
The departure of veterans like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Matt Birk has exposed Harbaugh in recent seasons. They’ve become a team who lacks a clear leader, can’t properly hire coordinators and one that allows their quarterback to quickly glance at an iPad between drives before staring into space prior to the next offensive series.
Flacco’s demeanor has irked some fans throughout his career. Does that nonchalant attitude serve him well in high pressure situations? Maybe. But it’s infuriating to watch when the team seems to be on the verge of another lost season. Neither Harbaugh or any other current coach on the Ravens staff can get the most from Flacco. It seems as if he knows the Ravens are stuck with him for better or worse and the level of his disinterest seems as if it grows with each passing week.
The Chronicles of Dean & Marty
Harbaugh backing himself into a corner with his coordinators this season is just another example of his recent incompetence. Everyone thought the Ravens would bring in a new coordinator – if not two, but at least on offense – but instead Harbaugh brought back Marty Mornhinweg and Dean Pees. Now the offense once again looks lost, scares no one and lacks absolutely any semblance of creativity. For those fans who think Mornhinweg should be fired, you’re right, but he never should have been brought back to begin with. If Harbaugh fires him now he essentially admits fault and only adds to the case that he, himself, should be dismissed following this season.
As for Pees, fans are all too familiar with his shortcomings. The front office invested heavily to build a defense that could carry the team, and while they’ve been good at times, the comparisons to the 2000 defense we heard during the preseason are now laughable. Not only does the current iteration not sniff previous great Ravens defenses like 2000, 2006, 2008, or even 2011, but they again routinely fold when they most desperately need a stop. Look no further than last weekend in Tennessee for an example, but then remember the Chicago Bears emerging from the shadow of their own end zone in overtime to steal a win at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this season.
And the disappointment on defense comes despite the majority of that unit having a surprisingly healthy season so far. Dean doesn’t get to use the injury excuse this time around.
The Ravens are an absolute mess, but that’s not the worst part. The scariest thing is, it’s as if no one in The Castle realizes it. There’s constant false optimism based on things that happened five years ago that the Ravens can turn it around. The Mile High miracle, Jacoby Jones returning kickoffs and Anquan Boldin catching touchdowns in Foxborough are all distant memories now. Those memories, though, have clouded the judgment of seemingly every major decision maker in the organization.
What used to be consistent results has turned into constant excuses. We get press conferences where coaches and players say the right things, take responsibility and preach accountability, but nothing ever actually changes.
The Ravens continue to live in the past and some of their key contributors continue to survive based off those accomplishments.
How long can that continue to go on?
The longer it does, the longer this run of consistent mediocrity will continue.