Following another disappointing finish last season, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti half-jokingly said “the pitchforks are out” among fans clamoring for change.
Well, Steve, the natives are gnashing their teeth once again.
A disappointing 23-16 loss to Pittsburgh dropped the Ravens to 4-5 and put a damper on their postseason hopes.
The Ravens are just 45-46 since capturing the Super Bowl in 2012 and have missed the playoffs in four of the past five years.
Prior to the game against the Steelers, a report by Ian Rapoport, of NFL.com, said the franchise was considering sweeping changes over the bye week, including the dismissal of coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh had not seen the report and was not concerned about job security.
“I’ve never been somebody that ever worried about keeping a job,” he said. “It’s always been, for me, dealing with a job. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years. No regrets.”
There is little chance Bisciotti will dismiss Harbaugh over the next week.
The owner is simply not that impulsive.
Furthermore, the Ravens still have some glimmer of hope to turn the season around when they retake the field Nov. 18 against the Bengals.
While Baltimore does face an uphill battle to make the playoffs, the first-place Steelers (5-2-1) also have a tough remaining schedule with games against the Panthers, Chargers, Patriots, Bengals and Saints.
Second-place Cincinnati (5-3) also has challenging matchups against the Saints, Chargers and Steelers. However, the Bengals have a bigger margin for error than Baltimore.
It’s especially troubling the Ravens no longer control their destiny for the postseason and need the teams in front of them to falter.
While Harbaugh appears safe in the immediate future, the long-term outlook is much murkier.
Will Bisciotti retain him in 2019 after missing the playoffs four consecutive years?
The Ravens could also create significant cap room by cutting or trading other veterans, such as Jimmy Smith ($9.5 million), Tony Jefferson ($4 million), Marshal Yanda ($7 million), Michael Crabtree ($5.3 million) and Eric Weddle ($6.5 million).
This means Eric DeCosta will have some tough decisions to make in his first year as the full-time general manager. For now, don’t expect major changes before the end of the season.
Harbaugh has been at the helm for 11 years and led the team to a Super Bowl victory. He deserves the opportunity to get the team back on track.
The players appear to be supporting him and the rest of the coaches.
“I know this team, this coaching staff, we’re going to continue to work and strive to win games,” safety Eric Weddle. “That’s why we’re here, that’s why we play is for a chance at the playoffs, and we’re not eliminated yet. We’re in a hole, but we’ve got to dig ourselves out, and over the past few years we do play great in November and December. So, we’ve just got to heal up. Heal up and have a great off-week. Get our minds refreshed and refocused. Come back and get after it.”
After a strong start to the season, many of the struggles that plagued the offense over the recent playoff drought have resurfaced. Flacco was missing both starting offensive tackles — Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back) — against Pittsburgh and was under pressure most of the game.
The Ravens managed just 265 total yards and were 1/4 in the red zone. That is not going to be good enough to beat the upper echelon teams.
“It’s frustrating because in these types of games, you don’t get that many plays and that many opportunities, and obviously scoring touchdowns is the name of the game,” Flacco said. “That’s how you have to win games in this league, but there are plenty of other things that we can look at that we didn’t get done today, and that’s what we’ll do.”
Time, however, is not on the Ravens’ side.