Every bit of it…
Consistency is good.
Some of you don’t want to hear that, and I get it. Heck, Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the greatest American minds in history in my opinion, and he notably said, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
But I’m not talking about foolish consistency here. Also, I’m a little unclear as to the nature of hobgoblins and why they thirst so badly for little minds, but that’s for another day. What I’m talking about is consistency. Consistent performance that creates a certain expectation of top-flight repetition — like a Denny’s breakfast at 2:15 a.m., or the Baltimore Ravens competing for playoff spots every year that injuries don’t run through the locker room like a hobgoblin on a weekend furlough.
There’s been a ton of debate lately on social media regarding the Ravens approach, as directed by team owner Steve Bisciotti, who recently told Marlon Humphrey on his podcast, “You don’t have to be great. You have to be consistent. Consistency is great.”
Bisciotti said he advised John Harbaugh of that mantra when he hired him, and the organization has certainly acted in that spirit — being reluctant to put themselves in too much peril down the road for a hope of immediate gratification today. It, in fact, flies in the face of the Los Angeles Rams, the reigning Super Bowl champion and current Flavor of the Month as far as team-building goes amongst much of football fandom.
The Rams have notably shipped off premium draft picks for proven players, stacking the ultimate top-heavy roster, and being steady competitors since Sean McVay took over five years ago. General Manager Les Snead has basked in the glory surrounding this approach, and he memorably sported a T-shirt decrying draft picks at the Rams Super Bowl parade.
But, here’s the thing: Snead has been with the Rams since 2012. They were an absolute tire fire before McVay came on board. It’s more than just swinging for the fences with established veterans.
It’s about getting the right veterans. Building a scheme that allows them to shine. Finding a quarterback who can put everything into action. Getting some serious breaks during the playoff run. And having a horseshoe up your posterior when it comes to catastrophic injuries to those six or seven blue-ribbon stars. It’s a system that has worked well for the Rams since McVay has come on board, and they look primed to contend again this season.
There is an expiration date on this strategy, and the bills will eventually come due.
Winning is hard
Going all-in is no guarantee. Just look at this current offseason. The Bills added Von Miller. The Broncos changed coaches and traded for Russell Wilson. The Bengals bought a new offensive line. The Colts obtained the ghost of Matt Ryan. The Raiders added Davante Adams and Chandler Jones. The Chargers brought in Khalil Mack. The Dolphins added Tyreek Hill.
That’s only in the AFC… and only one team will win the Super Bowl this season. And there is absolutely zero guarantee it will be any of those squads.
Since 1992, the Green Bay Packers have opened the season with Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback. That’s 30 years of premium quarterback talent in a quarterback-driven league. They’ve also fielded some memorable receivers, backs, linemen and defenders over those years.
Two rings. One for Favre. One for Rodgers.
Patrick Mahomes has had one of, if not THE greatest runs to start a career as any quarterback in history. One ring. And that was with Tyreek Hill and Jason Kelce and Andy Reid and a plethora of stars around him.
This is not to discredit Favre or Rodgers or Mahomes or the great Dan Marino or anybody who has played before or will play again. It’s to say that winning a championship is extremely difficult. Tom Brady has won seven freakin’ Super Bowls in his career. He’s failed to do so 15 other times in his career.
Can’t make sales if you don’t make calls
There are a ton of different ways to win in this league, and we’ve seen many of them: stifling defense, high-flying offense, clinical execution, splash plays… you name it, we’ve seen teams ride it to victory. And then we’ve seen teams trying to duplicate that model. There’s no real way to determine what’s right and what’s wrong, because we’ve actually seen different ways win with our own eyes.
But there’s one thing that I do feel comfortable stating emphatically: You simply can not win a Super Bowl if you are not in the playoffs.
The Ravens have consistently been a high-floor team that replenishes its talent base by collecting extra picks through trade or via compensatory methods, playing a physical brand of football that steals a few wins a year simply by “wanting it” more than their opponents, and placing an emphasis on special teams. They typically practice great discipline as far as not stepping away from that comfort zone, and there’s an increasingly-loud sentimentality amongst many fans that this approach has gone stale — particularly in an era when so many teams are willing to throw caution to the wind in an attempt to win it all.
And I get it. I do. I wanted Davante Adams. I wanted Khalil Mack. I wanted Chandler Jones. You see those needle-moving guys who play positions that can make your team better, and how can you not possibly want to just throw caution to the wind and dive in? Worry about tomorrow when it gets here, right?
But the Ravens have a system, and that system gets them in the playoffs more than most teams. I like going into this season thinking the Ravens have a shot. And I believe I’ll like that same feeling in three years. And in seven years. And 12 years.
As a fan, football is more interesting when I believe my team has a shot at glory. And if the Ravens can consistently get into the playoffs, and get more bites at the proverbial apple, then you have to think their chances of hosting another Lombardi Trophy stay alive.
I’ll take a consistent winner.
Every day of the week.