The “Hot Takes” across Ravens Twittersphere are a barometer of just how much Kool-Aid we have drunk, both individually and collectively. You may now consider my grey beard to be stained purple, only a few months into the Eric DeCosta era. So, here’s my hot take:
EDC will bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore within 2-3 years and keep the Ravens going deep into the playoffs for years to come.
We’ve all heard the NFL is a “copycat league.” Admit it: the first words spoken by newborn babies of current NFL Network analysts’ will either be “The next Sean McVay,” or, “Andy Reid Coaching Tree.” But EDC is working on something so simple, yet so big, that it’s hiding in plain sight: The New England Patriots’ Dynasty.
Stay with me on this.
I hate the Patriots, but not quite as much as I respect them. Even without the scandals, the Pats’ body of work is singular for NFL teams, especially in the Free Agency era. Belichick is as unique as is his system for finding complementary talent in players, coaches, and NFL officiating crews. Tom Brady is unique in his preparation and command of the offense, and Owner Robert Kraft completes the picture of support beyond expectations, bylaws, and various Florida statutes (allegedly).
Eric DeCosta’s plan is like the New England model, without digital surveillance or under-inflated balls. Just like a great psychological thriller, we get to see small pieces of the plot until the final scene resolves everything. The Kobayashi Porcelain mug falls to the floor as “Keyser Söze” loses the limp along with Customs Agent Dave Kujan. Consider this your denouement. Here are the “dots” I see:
- John Harbaugh’s contract extension January 19, 2019
John Harbaugh’s contract extension was the news, but not for reasons anyone could guess (yet). The misdirection was hidden in plain sight. Harbs’ job had been presumably saved by making the playoffs. With Lamar now the starting QB, the Ravens needed stability. The talking heads made these points for themselves, but no one thought much would change.
- Eric DeCosta’s introductory Press Conference
EDC described his vision for the Ravens in the future: physicality, fiscal responsibility, great people supported by cutting edge analytics. It was boringly similar to every one of these speeches you’ve ever heard, but don’t sleep on the clues.
- Free Agency
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, according to Mike Tyson. EDC didn’t blink, flinch, or overpay to keep Za’Darius Smith or CJ Mosely. Then Suggs and Weddle got FA offers that surprised us. And though we signed serious playmakers in Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, we didn’t fill all the holes. Still, missing out on Houston and McCoy caused zero panic.
- The Draft
EDC made some moves, grew the picks, and took HIS guys. Looking back at the draft, the first 5 picks will be competing for meaningful roles; some for starting jobs. It’s easy to see this draft being foundational to the Ravens’ future.
• Don’t take the best 53, take the RIGHT 53
Many had assumed Alex Lewis and Jermaine “Aluminum” Eluemenor would not only make the final 53-man roster but would also continue to get starts and snaps by default. Then Eluemenor showed up out of shape, and Lewis decided to do his own thing and rehabbed his injury away from the team. Neither impressed during preseason. EDC traded them for tth and 4th round picks respectively. More hints came near cut down day. Willie Henry figured to have a big year, and there was a fair amount of surprise when he too, was gone. Even more so when the Ravens released Canady, Seiler, and Willis- three players who had underperformed, but figured into default supporting roles.
Need more proof that EDC is playing with house money? Ask the Vikings why their 2020 RD5 was just claimed off waivers by the Jets. And though Kaare was a Jet before DeCosta could complete the perfect circle, I will forever refer to this series of events as: “Vedviktory.”
We are nowhere near the end; not even the end of the beginning. But enough has happened to piece together what really set this juggernaut in motion. Data synthesis (aka wild-assed guessing) brings the larger plan into view. It happened at the annual meetings in Jupiter Beach this January. DeCosta, with the advice and consent of Steve Biscotti and Ozzie Newsome, came to an understanding with Harbaugh, saying in effect: “Plan the work and WORK THE PLAN.”
Since Ozzie retired, his protégé has done him proud. But each data point shows us more than just the apprentice becoming the master. The other massive ingredient here is John Harbaugh, and the trust Steve, Ozzie, and Eric placed in him when they hammered out the extension.
“Work the plan” means Harbaugh doesn’t just play the vets. It means we don’t reach for fading vets barely more effective than current players on rookie deals. Working the plan means we will lose games, but we will forge a brutally successful team that is truly great.
Am I close?
Before you answer, look at the players (and the assumed replacements) just traded, released, or relegated to the Practice Squad. Look at the players the Ravens use weeks 1 and 2 in “thin” areas: Slot Corner, Edge, and above all, Left Guard. Hurst is not even listed on the LG depth chart, where more than a few pundits had him penciled in, again by default. Look at the number of Special Teams players on the roster in Harbs’ sweet spot-Special Teams. Coach Harbaugh doesn’t do any of the above without the rock-solid faith of the entire front office leadership. But with that faith and support, the Ravens can shed the mediocrity of the last few years and instill a culture of accountability.
Also-Lamar is going to absolutely kill it this season, but one hot take at a time.
Either way, the Flock is in for a hell of a ride this year.