In a tailspin, trying not to crash, burn
The Ravens have lost their way; time to find out why and how After fourth straight loss, team confronts a host of problems
The Ravens are at that point of the season where everyone has to be accountable. If they can turn it around, then current personnel should remain where they are. If not, changes have to be made. If Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti wasn’t embarrassed when the New York Giants ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Ravens on Oct. 16, then he had to be Sunday after the Ravens lost to the New York Jets.
The Jets ended a four-game losing streak while the Ravens are now on one. Against the Jets, the Ravens had only 12 rushing rushing and never had the ball inside New York’s 20-yard line.
If that game was the barometer of things to come, the second half of the season will be worse because the The Ravens’ four-game losing streak is their first during the tenure of coach John Harbaugh.
The Ravens players gathered Monday in the auditorium at the Under Armour Performance Center. There was no opponent to prepare for this weekend. However, there was a game to review, and the players and coaches had plenty to go over from Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the New York Jets.
Such film “correction” sessions typically take place Tuesday, but the schedule changes during the bye week. So for two hours and 20 minutes, they pored over every detail and every mistake — and there were plenty of them — from their fourth straight loss. Coach John Harbaugh led the meeting, but players spoke as well.
“Just an opportunity to be very honest with one another, Nov. 6, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
schedule is tougher. And if it unfolds that way and the Ravens have another losing season, it will be the third time in four years they have failed to reach the postseason.
Tough decisions will have to be made. Bisciotti will need to start asking questions. He should ask general manager Ozzie Newsome why this team has drafted only two Pro Bowl players since 2009.
He needs to point out that the freeagent acquisitions of safety Eric Weddle, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil appear to be masking some of the recent shortcomings in the draft.
Where are the alpha males that this team once signed? Is this the result of poor scouting and bad judgment, or of coach John Harbaugh not wanting to deal with players who have outgoing and sometimes outrageous personalities?
Harbaugh will have his own problems to address, such as how much influence he has in the draft. Here’s another one: It’s understandable that he wants to hire his buddies as assistant coaches, but the production needs to be stronger. Whenever Juan Castillo has had major influence coaching the offensive line during his four years with the Ravens, the group has struggled.
It’s only been two weeks, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, another longtime coaching associate of Harbaugh’s, hasn’t been impressive, either. Harbaugh has had five offensive coordinators in as many years, so he is accountable next.
That’s the way it usually works in the NFL. First the assistants go, then the coordinators, the head coach and the general manager.
But it’s more complex than that. Regardless of a final record, the Ravens have to take a hard look at quarterback Joe Flacco. He is mechanically flawed this season, and maybe that’s because of his relationships with Mornhinweg and former offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
Flacco performed better for coordinators and assistants such as Gary Kubiak and Jim Zorn because they played in the NFL. He respected them instantly, especially Zorn, who could still give personal demonstrations. Flacco liked Jim Caldwell because he had spent years working with one of the all-time great quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, with the Indianapolis Colts.
Cam Cameron and Trestman never got that type of respect from Flacco. The relationship with Mornhinweg, at least on the coordinator level, is still a work in progress.
Flacco has always struggled with technique throughout his nine-year career, but it’s worse this season because of the beatings he has taken in the pocket. He has become gun-shy and nervous.
His shoulders are often up while throwing, which causes his passes to sail. He is throwing a lot without planting his back foot because he doesn’t believe he has time to reset while facing pressure.
Forget about going through progressions. Flacco locks on to receivers because he only trusts two, Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta. Mike Wallace has become a target in Smith’s absence.
Because of an injury to his throwing shoulder, Flacco practiced only once last week, and there had to be enormous pressure on Harbaugh to start him Sunday. Despite being banged up, Flacco threw 44 passes. Unbelievable.
Credit has to be given to Jets coach Todd Bowles, because his team took away the short passes in the second half and forced Flacco to throw downfield more.
The Ravens have a bye this weekend, but it will be interesting to see how this season plays out. Flacco has been tough throughout his career, but his body is starting to break down.
Is it time for the Ravens to start grooming his replacement for next season?
The past nine games could be a turning point in franchise history. The Ravens should get some injured players back, including Smith, linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley, and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley.
If those players had been healthy, the Ravens could have beaten both New York teams. But the NFL isn’t about “what-ifs.” It’s about wins and losses.
Even with those players back in the lineup, it’s still hard to see the Ravens getting that much better. The Ravens are devoid of tough players who have a dominant leadership presence in the locker room.
Ray Lewis was a great player and would deliver his famous speeches every few weeks at a team dinner the night before a game. Ed Reed was more vocal and talked all the time, which often irritated Harbaugh.
The Ravens have only one player in that mold, and that’s Smith, but he can only do so much while he is injured. Suggs is a fun-loving guy, but he doesn’t carry that clout, either.
When you look at these Ravens, there is no player on the roster that teams fear anymore. There was a time when the Ravens, even on the road, would create fear in opponents. Win or lose, the Ravens were going to leave bruises. Not anymore. Bisciotti has to find out what went wrong.
Despite an injury to his throwing shoulder that kept him out of all but one practice last week, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw 44 passes against the Jets.