If you are an honest and objective Ravens fan you have seen this slide coming well before it began. Iíve been posting on Facebook for weeks that this team had been winning with smoke and mirrors. Now we are in the midst of a three game losing streak and if it wasnít for Ray Riceís 4th and 29 miracle it would be four in a row. So here is where we are at from my perspective.
ON OFFENSE: The Ravens offense in reality has been in disarray for many years. Can any Ravens fan say they have been thrilled with our offense since Billick and Cavanugh were here and Iím going back to the Super Bowl season of 2000. The Ravens organization has trotted out the same tired vanilla playbook for over a decade now. The lack of creativity has always been at issue which is why the Ravens offense has ranked anywhere from 15th to 25th during that time. Cavanaugh, Billick, Cameron and Caldwell has it really mattered? All of those that thought that firing Cam Cameron and placing Caldwell as offensive coordinator was going to matter are just kidding themselves.
The reality as far as Cam Cameron goes is that he should have been fired last season. Firing him with three games left is a move to deflect attention from the real issues and provides a convenient scapegoat but little in the way of answers and solutions. The playbook is what it is and Caldwell certainly wasnít going to change it overnight. Additionally, Caldwell has never been an offensive coordinator so his qualification for the position is in question in my opinion.
But letís dig deeper. Joe Flacco is an average QB. Some are average steady. Others are up and down. When those ups happen pundits think that perhaps an average QB is taking the next step to becoming a very good or even elite QB. Then the downs come and itís like uh-oh I guess not. As Ravens fans I think we can agree that Flacco is an average QB of the up and down variety. He can go from brilliant to brutal from one quarter to the next. The Ravens cannot afford to franchise him. The estimate on that franchise tag is close to $20 million and would cripple the Ravens in 2013. Signing him to the estimated $100 million he wanted in the offseason also canít be done. To me Flacco is a younger version of Ryan Fitzpatrick who signed for 7 years at $62.2 million. Iíd put Flacco at about $80 million over the same term.
All the blame certainly isnít on Flacco. The Ravens as an organization have said during the State of the Ravens pressers that improving the offensive line was a priority. The offensive line is a disaster. Additionally, the Ravens insist on playing several players out of position and/or not starting the best five linemen. The reality is that Oher should be at RT not at LT, Osemele should be at LG and McKinnie should be starting at LT. Improving this unit has to be a top priority in the offseason and it starts with moving Oher to RT permanently and moving Osemele to LG permanently.
But the real answer is the Ravens must bring in new ideas and concepts and scrap the current playbook and create a brand new offensive system. There are going to be two very good offensive coordinators available this offseason. Ken Wisenhunt and Norv Turner are regarded as two of the best offensive minds in the NFL. The Ravens should pursue and hire one of them to rework the entire offense.
ON DEFENSE: Analyzing the defense is a tougher task. Iím hearing a lot of folks blaming injuries for the defensive performance this season and there is certainly some truth to that. But the reality is this defense stunk at the start of the season with only Suggs injured. Since then there have been injuries to Webb, McPhee, Ngata, Smith, Lewis, Ellerbee, Mclain and Pollard. Dean Pees has to shoulder a lot of blame here.
He runs a defense based on a philosophy I can't stand which is bend don't break or better known as full game prevent. The logic seems sound in that you really don't care how many yards you give up as long as you don't give up the points. Seems reasonable but there are many flaws. First, seeing chucks of yards being given up by the defense not only demoralizes the defense but also the offense. It also can negate a great home field advantage which is something we have. Second, as a season wears on and the yards pile up the defense gets fatigued. Tired players lead to poor execution and injury. Third, in losing the time of possession battle you end up keeping YOUR offense off the field.
My hope is that after the season even if the Ravens do make the playoffs they fire Dean Pees, say goodbye to Caldwell and bring in new coordinators on both side of the ball. I like John Harbaugh but I think it is time for a shot to be fired across his bow. The Ravens can right this ship and be successful next season. But if they delay as they have done in the past the Ravens could be in trouble for the foreseeable future. It is time for action not indecision. Itís time for new thinking not business as usual.
Itís time for the Ravens to make changes.