A Commitment to
Excellence Continuity – For Now
When John Harbaugh held his end-of-season presser last month the main takeaways for many fans were: Pees is leaving (Yes!), Mornhinweg is staying (No!), we have great players and staff (Huh?), we need more playmakers (yawn) and…nothing much else is going to change.
Was this the 2017 State of the Ravens press conference? Really?
Those fans who weren’t already disconnected from the NFL and the Ravens because of the London anthem protests, inconsistent officiating, incoherent rules (just what is a completed pass by the way?) the lackluster play, the lack of playmakers, higher ticket prices, and insane concession pricing threw up their hands in exasperation saying they were done with the NFL in general and this team in particular.
It’s hard to argue with them.
But I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth. And on Friday we did.
Steve Bisciotti spoke for 40 minutes on a wide range of topics. Here are my thoughts on what he said.
– The news that Ozzie Newsome was retiring as GM after the 2018 was initially a shocker. Some fans are no doubt happy, but Ozzie is merely completing the final year of his 5-year contract and, per agreement, is stepping down in favor of Eric DeCosta. Still, it’s time for a change.
– The statement that we need to beef up our scouting department is an overdue acknowledgment that the Ravens have let a ton of experienced talent evaluators walk out the door in the past six years and promoting from within simply has not worked. So, to add to an already full personnel management plate of drafting, signing free agents and extending contracts, they must lure seasoned talent evaluators away from other successful teams
– The Ravens will not raise tickets prices in the off season. They won’t lower them, either. OK, OK this seems to be a no-brainer, but there were whispers that they were going to do exactly that. After all, the Titans have already announced a ticket price increase for the second year in a row, so nothing was a given.
– Steve appears to be open to lowering concession prices. He said the revenue stream is not a make-or-break issue. I hope so. He has to throw a few bones to the fans, and this would be the perfect start. New escalators and elevators won’t do it.
– Bisciotti said he gave some thought to firing John Harbaugh but ultimately decided otherwise. I know this has the Harbs haters frothing at the mouth. But his comments are a not-so-thinly veiled shot across the bow at John. If the Ravens have a bad 2018 season, a not unlikely outcome given their schedule which features 8 games against teams that made the playoffs this year, what better way to clean house than to have your new GM bring in a new coaching staff?
– Joe Flacco still has a shelf life. He still relatively young (32 going on 33) by current starting QB standards and Bisciotti seems willing to give him a hall pass based on Joe’s absence from all of training camp and lack of play makers. But what can the Ravens realistically do with a $24 million-dollar cap noose around their neck? We are at least two years away from seeing another quarterback under center. That said, I look for the Ravens to look hard at quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft.
– Bisciotti had a bite to some of his comments. He practically sneered at Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Preston when Steve talked of the improved offense in the second half of the season and Preston said the improvement came against poor teams. A comment about the team being at a “crossroads” brought another sharp rejoinder from Bisciotti. Testy, testy.
– Bisciotti, like most NFL owners, was blindsided by the London anthem protests and, his comments of support for the players aside, he could not have been happy with what happened. A well-meaning, but poorly communicated kneel-down by the team at the next home game completely backfired and turned off even more fans. He must hope the tempest dies down. I say fat chance.
I watched the entire presser and, overall, it felt like drinking a lukewarm cup of coffee. Not completely satisfying. The tone was continuity over change, which leaves a bland taste in the mouth.
Bisciotti has to be concerned over the number of empty seats at M&T but, listening to the press conference for a second time, I’m not sure that he fully understands the tenor and discontent of the fans. They are pissed and discontented. I’ve had season tickets since 1996 and I’ve never, ever seen the number of empty seats that I did for the Colts and Bengals game. Just a few years ago the stadium would have been packed, New Year’s Eve or not, 4PM start or not, for a game with a playoff spot guaranteed with a win.
In another month or so, PSL owners like myself will be pinged by letter and email by Baker Koppelman asking for deposits on tickets for the 2018 season. It will be interesting to see how many season tickets are renewed and how many empty seats we’ll see at the first home game in September. Given the loss in value of my PSLs, I can hardly afford to walk away from them and I refuse to sell them for a bargain basement price. I have to hang on.
And hang I will.
I’m hard core.
I’ve heard all the arguments for watching the game at home or in a sports bar with family and friends, the money that can be saved in food, drink, parking, and general aggravation. I get all that. But for me nothing beats the stadium experience, the tailgating, the comradery, the hand-slapping, the roar of thousands of fans screaming at the same time. I’ll be there.
At the same time, I wonder how it will all turn out.