The jury is out on Joe Flacco. John Harbaugh is officially on the hot seat. Can the Ravens string a few victories together to exit their mediocrity phase? After attending the Ravens-Panthers game in Charlotte and watching plenty of Ravens football this season, I have serious concerns about the Ravens’ future going forward.
After going undefeated (5-0) in the preseason, the Ravens were generally perceived by experts to be a team flying under the radar. The Ravens set out to prove that they were no joke when they opened their season at home against the Buffalo Bills.
A wild card team just a year ago, the Bills looked utterly incompetent on the football field. Joe Flacco carved up the Bills defense for 236 yards and three scores. Flacco’s performance was exceptional not only for his stats but for throwing a touchdown to each receiver the Ravens signed over the offseason.
When I first made my plans to travel to a Ravens game this season, I chose to visit Charlotte as it was close and convenient. I went to the game with my friend who had never been to an NFL game in his life. As a Panthers fan, he was able to get the full experience of seeing his team flourish on Sunday. I, however, watched my team flounder under the pressure.
Ron Rivera crafted the perfect gameplan against Baltimore as he was able to run a multitude of option plays while also effectively exploiting their weakness covering the outside run. The team completely fell apart and the feeling that they cared was absent.
The scenery is always a factor, in any sport. Last season, the Ravens lost a crucial 39-38 nailbiter in Pittsburgh, a game that eventually cost them a spot in the playoffs. Speed up to Week Four of 2018 and the Ravens are in the same boat, playing in Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football. John Brown successfully introduced himself to the Ravens-Steelers rivalry that night when he caught a 33-yard score on the first drive of the same.
The Ravens contained Big Ben and co. to just 284 yards of total offense while putting up 451 yards themselves. Four games through the season sitting at 3-1 with a road win against Pittsburgh under their belt, Baltimore was starting to look like a serious contender in the AFC. During his post-game interview, Eric Weddle danced and exclaimed: “These ain’t the same old Ravens.”
Fast forward to the present and it is clear that these are in fact those same old ravens. After starting with a strong 3-1 record, the Ravens have dropped four out of their last five and are falling apart. After their Sunday showing against Pittsburgh, I officially quit on the Ravens and any playoff hopes that I might have had prior. The defense couldn’t find a way to get off the field and the offense had no consistency whatsoever.
Over the past three games, the Ravens defense has allowed a putrid 83 points to their opponents. Granted, their last three contests were all against contending teams (New Orleans, Carolina, and Pittsburgh), but the defense never showed up. Justin Tucker missing the game-tying PAT against New Orleans was a season-changing moment for Baltimore; a true symbol of how the past five seasons have gone for the flock.
For one of the first times in his career, John Harbaugh seemed to be on the hot seat. After failing to make the playoffs since 2014, Harbaugh’s clock in Baltimore started ticking years ago as he has overstayed his welcome.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
For the rest of the season, start Robert Griffin III. He showed flashes of his former self during the preseason, exhibiting some of his athleticism that some thought he has lost. Let this be known: Joe Flacco is a better quarterback than Robert Griffin III.
However, it is in Baltimore’s best interest this season to hand over the keys to a different breed. With Flacco on his way out, the rest of the Ravens offense will eventually be forced to acclimate to a new offensive system. For that new system to bear results, it is best to start the youth movement ASAP.
With Ozzie Newsome stepping down as General Manager at the end of this season, it is the perfect opportunity to start fresh. To do that, the Ravens must find a way to cut ties with front office mistakes, such as the criminally paid Joe Flacco and the underwhelming Safety tandem that is Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson.
APRIL IS IMPORTANT
Baltimore has picked in the top 10 of the NFL Draft only twice since 2000, and the two selections did not disappoint. In 2003, the Ravens drafted Terrell Suggs with the 10th pick and Ronnie Stanley with the 6th overall pick in 2016. Over this past offseason, the Ravens front office was extremely arrogant when they refused to draft the best player available from their original position (16) *cough Derwin James* and instead trade back for a very risky Hayden Hurst. Tony Jefferson can play, that doesn’t mean the Ravens suddenly need another Tight End.
If Baltimore wants to return to it’s winning ways, it will have to endure a few dark years until they can return to marquee Ravens football. If that means cutting ties with strongholds John Harbaugh and/or C.J. Mosley this offseason, so be it.