Yesterday’s heartbreaking loss was an absolute gut punch for both the Ravens and their fans. After a two-year absence from January football, they were literally one play away from returning to the playoffs and all they had to do was stop one of the worst offenses in football. It’s devastating and just like last year it will make the playoffs an unenjoyable experience for those who follow the team as closely as the readers of RSR do.
But let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. Should any of us really be surprised such a critical game ended the way that it did?
Was it a complete shock to see the offense come out looking ill prepared in the first half, or that they were unable to sustain a drive that would have iced the game? Who wasn’t filled with total dread when the Ravens punted the ball to the Bengals with just under three minutes to play?
Frankly, this team got exactly what it deserved in the end and despite how heartbreaking it was it ended in an almost a comically predictable fashion.
Marty Mornhinweg’s play calling and game planning resembles something that would offend a respectable high school coach. Yes the Ravens didn’t do themselves any favors with all of the dropped passes and poor execution but the game plan was a total dumpster fire.
Under-utilizing the tight ends, predictable down and distance play calling and just an overall lack of creativity resulted in one first down in the first half. Let that sink in for a minute. The biggest game of the year that would have resulted in the Ravens getting to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and Mornhinweg’s unit generated one first down.
Harbaugh will likely make the case that the Ravens need continuity and the offense greatly improved down the stretch. While there is some truth to that, it’s irrelevant. Marty never should have been brought back to begin with but yesterday’s performance alone gave the Ravens all they needed to part ways.
With Dean Pees retiring the Ravens won’t be forced to make a decision on his future. However, as with Mornhinweg, Pees should have not been brought back in 2017 either. Epic late game meltdowns have become his calling card and the last few years they have frequently came in the biggest moments with the most on the line. The Ravens invested the bulk of their resources this past offseason on defense, adding players like Tony Jefferson and Marlon Humphrey and retaining Brandon Williams. They have Pro Bowl caliber players like Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley and one of the best veteran leaders in football in Eric Weddle who is still playing at a Pro Bowl level. The Ravens shortcomings on defense didn’t come down to a lack of talent but instead poor game plans, schemes and communication.
Thnn there is John Harbaugh. Those who still defend him will point to his overall resume and the fact that he took the Ravens to the playoffs in his first five seasons. They’ll say he did an admirable job considering the amount of injuries that the Ravens faced before the season even started. But those five consecutive playoff appearances were a long time ago and the Ravens have so many injuries every preseason it’s fair to wonder if there’s more to it than bad luck.
Aside from all of that, though, the Ravens missed the playoffs this year despite facing two rookie quarterbacks and six backup quarterbacks. They ultimately lost yesterday’s game because of the men they had calling the plays. It was Harbaugh who made the decision to bring Mornhinweg and Pees back for another season, so yesterday’s epic loss ultimately falls on his shoulders.
When is the last time a head coach missed the playoffs three straight seasons and still kept his job? Harbaugh has done a lot of good in his tenure with the Ravens, but this team needs a change. That’s not a knee-jerk reaction to yesterday’s loss, it’s based off three straight seasons of underwhelming results.
As upsetting as those results have been, especially yesterday, they should come as a surprise to no one.