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Ravens to New England, Baltimore’s Negative?

Ravens coach John HarbaughYou would think that a second-year head coach making the playoffs a second-straight time with his second-year quarterback would be cause for celebration. You would think that this achievement might be seen for what it is: a difficult and significant accomplishment. You would think optimism could reign.

Maybe not.

In listening to some of the local sports talk offerings over the past few days I’ve noticed an emerging pattern. Rather than celebrating, a lot of folks seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Looking not at what has been done, but what hasn’t. And using that “analysis” — such as it is — as evidence of why the Ravens can’t win on Sunday. In a few cases I’ve heard, it’s even been used as evidence of why they shouldn’t actually be there at all.

My first reaction is that the people advancing this narrative are insane. The Ravens are far from a dominant team — they’re not in the same league, right now, as the Colts or the Saints, for example — but they are in the tournament for the second year in a row. Something that, by the way, last year’s four top seeds couldn’t manage to pull off.

My second reaction runs a little deeper. I wonder what it is about so many fans in the Baltimore area that pushes them to the cliff. I wonder what causes them to focus so relentlessly on on what might not happen as opposed to what has or what could.

There’s an obvious Orioles angle here, but I’m happy to admit that baseball’s a tougher sell right now. I can at least understand some of the negativity there even though I find it excruciatingly lazy and tiresome. But being negative about the Ravens? Right now, as they prepare for a playoff game? Can’t grasp it.

The team has holes, yes. Large ones. You could make a case for some dissatisfaction with the sophomore years of both Harbaugh and Flacco. You can complain about both the receivers and the secondary, and you can wonder why Terrell Suggs hasn’t quite been the player everyone figured he’d be. All are legitimate points.

But come on. Now is not the time for that. Now is a time for excitement that the Ravens are in the playoffs, facing a team they have a fair chance of beating.

I feel bad for any fan who can’t see it that way.

26 comments to Ravens to New England, Baltimore’s Negative?

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    read the following understanding that i laughed out loud at the notion of baltimore somehow being the only nfl city that’s irrational about football:

    anyway, it’s complicated.

    for ravens fans, and certainly for me, this was one of the the most frustrating seasons ever. no one can understand that but a ravens fan.

    i’ve heard it from steelers fans now. jets fans*, redskins fans. stop complaining you have it good. you should be happy. i say, stop telling us how we should feel.

    you don’t study every detail of this franchise like we do, and you don’t have the sense of history or perspective like you do for your own team.

    it’s also always relative that way.

    when the ravens were a bad team with a bad coach in 2007 we knew they were a bad team with a bad coach. in all the boller/blake/mitchell etc years we knew another championship defense was wasted. in 2006 we asked ourselves, how do the ravens and an injured mcnair beat the colts without their starting corners in the playoffs and finally cash in on their dominant defense and running game? they don’t.

    all the while the three teams that turn my stomach the most win six fucking trophies, many of which should have asterisks next to them.

    this means nothing to outsiders but ravens fans get a little fucking chippy at the thought of having ten years of ray lewis, ed reed, and all the other stars on defense bleed all over the field while some of the nfl’s worst offenses ever fumble away the teams chance at greatness. at the GREATNESS OTHER TEAMS HAVE ACHIEVED IN WAYS THAT PISS US THE HELL OFF.

    baltimore has a chip on its shoulder, always has. big fucking deal.

    am i happy the ravens made the playoffs? of course. could they shock the world and make a run in the playoffs? of course. but it’s beyond unlikely.

    in a year that could have instilled confidence going in, we’ve gotten question marks. in a season we needed breaks, we’ve gotten none. all in a year that could see ed reed retire and ray lewis start to significantly fade away.

    it’s not about baltimore not appreciating the playoff door that’s miraculously still open. it’s about a window for greatness that feels like it’s all but closed.

    *jets fans can bitch about ravens fans forever

  • Andrew

    I think we’re all thrilled that Baltimore made the playoffs, even if odds are they lose on Sunday. Who wouldn’t be happy to say they root for a playoff team?

    But I also think that the disappointment isn’t something you can just attribute to irrationality or negativism. Everyone around town thought this team was going to be a lot better than it is. A couple guys had down years, sure, but where I think it really hits the heart is this:

    In his two years on the job, John Harbaugh has been unable to make this a football team that doesn’t shoot itself in the foot with dumb penalties. And the Ravens have lost a lot of games because of that, and that lack of discipline (for lack of a better term) has soured the team…at least in my eyes. It’s sort of like we thought a new day had dawned, especially after last year’s thrilling run…and it just didn’t.

    And I don’t think that that’s being irrational or negative, but is frankly the overwhelming storyline of the year (at least for me).

  • dan the man

    Good piece and interesting comments.

    I can see exactly where BBM is coming from, and I do agree with Andrew regarding the penalties. However, I’m not sure that I’m putting it on the coach as much as he suggested. It’s strikingly similar to DT and the baserunning blunders. In both cases, you have guys who are billed as “fundamentals”-type coaches, and ironically their teams have failed at fundamental aspects of the game. How much can you really put on the coach when he can’t be out there to grab Frank Walkers giant doofus hands from grabbing the receiver? Just like DT can’t be out there to stop Mora from doing something dumb on the bases.

    Also, where have the majority of the worst penalties come from? The corners, our biggest weakness. So I’d be willing to give Harbaugh a break until we have some more talented guys at that position.

    Anyway, it does seem like there is a needless amount of negativity going into the postseason, but I’m not sure if it’s legitimate, downright negativity as it is Baltimoreans being neurotic and worried about their team and, in the end, really really wanting them to kick ass in the playoffs, but being frustrated at what has been a frustrating team to watch.

    Where I draw the line is criticizing the performance of Joe Flacco. That’s just plain stupid. For a second year guy, when his best receiver is a running back, while being injured? Come on. I heard Drew criticize him the other day for not having “that fire”. Last time I checked, the best thing we’ve learned about Joe Flacco the past two years has been his cool demeanor under pressure. Suddenly, he struggles a little bit and that cool demeanor turns into “deer in the headlights” and “regression”, and I don’t fucking buy that for a second. Look at his numbers. The guy has ONLY EVER been in the playoffs in his NFL career. But he’s not a clone of Ben so Baltimore isn’t happy. That’s definitely where I call bullshit on some Ravens fans.

    Other than that, I think Baltimore is a blue-collar realist town that is hard on it’s football team, but 100% behind it in the end. Can’t say that for the Orioles, unfortunately, and that’s where some fans start to get that delusion that the team owes them something. Be a fan or don’t follow the team, but don’t be a vocal ex-fan. That’s just dumb.

  • Andrew

    @dan the man – on Flacco:

    His stats look pretty darn great (88.9 passer rating, 21 TD, 12 INT, 3600+ yards, 63.1% completions – all improvements over last season), but if I’ve learned anything from sabermetricans (safermetricans?), it’s that the question is “what are we not seeing with those numbers?”

    Well, Joe has 36 sacks – 4 more than last year’s total. I’m not sure how much of that is on him and how much is on the defensive line, but among playoff teams only Aaron Rodgers has taken more sacks. I’m a little out of my league, and maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree – but my mom and uncles certainly spent a lot of the holidays complaining that Joe “needs to know when to get rid of the ball” (and also that he needs to stop calling timeout in the third quarter because he doesn’t know what to do at the line).

    There’s also the fact that against playoff teams, Flacco’s passer rating only broke 80 twice: the Minnesota and San Diego games. If we remove the Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit games, Joe’s rating falls to 80.92, which sort of indicates a lack of progression from his rookie year.

    So I can see how people would be a little disappointed that Flacco didn’t take a huge step forward to put himself into elite territory, but…look, we can talk about his receiving corps or how he hasn’t shown the courage (or whatever) to lead a last minute game-winning drive, but I’m not sure that the bulk of the season’s storyline involves Joe Flacco at all.

    I think instead the story has been the secondary (and the defense in general), the penalties, and the kicker. If those three areas were normalized, the Ravens would have at least three extra wins right now and be a favorite to get to the Super Bowl.

  • dan the man

    @Andrew – Yup, hard to argue with any of that.

    You could say a few of those dropped passes have hurt him, too. Flacco pretty much led a fourth quarter drive for the win until Clayton dropped that one. Bottom line, it’s year 2 and he didn’t turn into Kyle Boller. He’s not giving the football away too much or making a ton of poor decisions. The sacks bother me, too, but damnit if there just isn’t anybody open sometimes.

  • Always Bet On Relish

    “Now is a time for excitement that the Ravens are in the playoffs, facing a team they have a fair chance of beating.”

    What Ravens fan isn’t going to be excited Sunday?

    What exactly are you asking from Ravens fans?

    This is a defense whose decade-long run as a dominant force in the league is unofficially over. The team is in the playoffs and that’s great and fans will still watch with passion and excitement. But for a team that had ten years of one of the most stifling defenses in NFL history with only one SB to show for it, I can’t really disagree with their fans’ frustration…wild card or not.

  • Andrew

    Sorry, I’m a complete dummy. I meant offensive line.

    And, I want to add that I’m more excited for Sunday’s game than any previous game ever. As time goes by, I get more and more invested in the Ravens. Any overarching disappointment is completely secondary to the excitement watching a Baltimore playoff game. That we are the underdog is fun, too. I’m anticipating a strong football game, and of course anything can happen*.

    *Except the Jets repeating that score against Cinti.

  • Andrew

    Predictions!

    New England over Baltimore
    Cinti over New York
    Indy over New England
    San Diego over Cinti
    San Diego over Indy

    Green Bay over Arizona
    Dallas over Philly
    New Orleans over Green Bay
    Dallas over Minnesota
    New Orleans over Dallas

    New Orleans over San Diego

  • neal s

    Good points, all.

    The only thing I think I can add, beyond what I said in the main post, is that everyone should remember how close the teams in the NFL are in terms of talent. There isn’t a huge gap between the Colts and the Lions, despite what their records suggest. And yet, you are your record. That’s it. You aren’t the close games you didn’t win, the calls that didn’t go your way, the “what ifs” about injuries, or any of the other stuff that — while interesting — does not alter the final evaluation.

    That makes the Ravens one of the 12 best teams in the NFL for two years running. I guess fans can feel however they want about that, but they can’t dispute it.

  • sci

    In other news, Arenas suspended indefinitely without pay. What an idiot. The Wiz are truly cursed…

  • Kevin

    56% of Tom Brady’s passes have been to Welker (123) and Moss (83) respectively. The next closest are Julian Edelman and Kevin Faulk at 37 each. Honestly, I like our chances a lot better than anybody else cares to admit. Granted we don’t have Washington or Webb, but they don’t have Welker either. We’ll see how much Randy “wants” to play, and how much the refs are protecting Lady Brady. Hopefully we realize that these are the playoffs and just one loss sends you home, and the Ravens will play with discipline.

  • dan the man

    @sci – Agreed, but did you see Stern’s quote? He’s basically saying he’s suspending him not because of the action but because of his conduct after the fact. That’s some bullshit, Stern’s an idiot. I mean he was going to get suspended anyway which I agree with, but at least say it was because of the guns not because you’re thin skinned and feel showed up. Jesus…

  • dan the man

    Also, it’s so clear that this entire team needs to be blown up. If this is what gets it started, then so be it. Get a real point guard, get some defensive players who know how to move a basketball, and get all these bad contracts off the books somehow.

  • dan the man

    While we’re speaking of negativity, here’s something legitimately negative regarding the Orioles:

    http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog…ngure_jorge_jr

    I don’t have insider, but apparently this article specifically mentions that Orioles as not being in regular attendance of these Dominican showcases. It’s one thing I am going to hold against MacPhail/Stockstill until there’s some kind of explanation. Inexcusable.

  • Andrew

    @dan the man – I’ve wanted to kinda not talk baseball during the football playoffs, but I’ll real quick say that that is egregious. You can’t have your big policy be a focus on international free agents and the farm system and then half-ass it. This is the one place where the smaller-market teams have at least a level playing field, the Orioles need to take advantage of it. Failure to do so will just continue to doom the franchise.

  • dan the man

    Extremely disappointing.

    For what it’s worth, Tony from the Hangout says that MacPhail’s hands are kind of tied with respects to the Dominican Republic due to some “favorite sons” (non-biological)of Angelos working in this area. Whether or not you believe that Tony has legit sources or not, it certainly would make sense. He goes on to say until this area of operations is cleaned out, we’re never going to be where we want to be internationally. Sounds like Angelos is still handcuffing this team in some ways, which is the most disappointing thing of all.

  • neal s

    @dan the man – What details do we really know on that? I don’t have Insider, either.

    I’ll say that if the O’s are, indeed, half-assing their Dominican scouting efforts then that’s a problem. I don’t know that I’d call it a huge problem, especially without knowing more details, but it’s disappointing either way.

  • Andrew

    There was also an article either on MASN or at the Sun where International Czar John Stockstill literally said he prefers quantity over quality…which, you know.

  • dan the man

    @neal s – We have 0 details, so we should take it with a grain of salt. I did some prodding on Roch’s blog and he got frustrated that people were freaking out over a blurb without knowing the facts, which I understand. Eventually though, he said he would check on it. He’s a prickly dude if you don’t approach him the right way in the comments, I’ve noticed. Haha.

    Anyway, I’m gonna step back from the cliff I was on earlier tonight and see what else we find out, if anything. I’m willing to say that these things (international scouting, etc.) take time to build and that it’s clearly a focus MacPhail has. At this point, there’s more to suggest that it is a focus than that there isn’t (a blurb on ESPN). So.

    Moving on.

    FOOTBALL

  • neal s

    @dan the man – It seems like something that isn’t cause for much alarm, but we don’t really know. I’ll hold off on either being highly disappointed or brushing it off until more info becomes available. Results are what will matter most. Is one specific element of the Dominican strategy a huge worry in that department? Could be, but we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Andrew

    @neal s – Heh, we could just wait for an international draft, which would kill all of this debate pretty much for good (and also the talent level of major league Dominicans).

    Anyway, of course it is best to not be rash, and I guess I agree that an efficient international scouting department takes a good long time, and a lot of foresight to be implemented…but I don’t know anything about anything. Unfortunately, it will take at least another year or two to determine what the fruits of the current labor are for the farm system, so we can’t exactly criticize Stockstill or MacPhail (or praise them) just yet, regardless of the operating procedures they use.

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  • neal s

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