In the final days of the Ravens’ 2011 season, it was difficult to say which was more exhausting: the vocal minority of fans bashing quarterback Joe Flacco or the increased amount of complaining about those select few.
(And to be clear, this commentary doesn’t mean Flacco is infallible and exempt from criticism, either. We’re talking about those who have made irrational suggestions such as benching the Baltimore starter and inserting the rookie Tyrod Taylor.)
But it’s certainly come into perspective this week if you’ve paid any attention to the New England area and the fallout of the Patriots’ 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
It started with this scathing piece from Boston Globe writer Eric Wilbur in which all-world quarterback Tom Brady was labeled an “embarrassment” after the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years. And the vocal simpletons (see the comments section) have followed suit, declaring Brady as washed up and even going as far as suggesting the Patriots trade him for whatever value they can get and begin the next era of New England football.
Yes, a small portion of New England fans are suggesting they run one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history out of town. The same man who led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles in four years and threw for 39 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards this season on his way to leading the Patriots to a 14-4 record and an AFC championship despite a woeful defense.
It certainly puts the extreme Flacco criticism into context, doesn’t it?
More than anything, the venomous thoughts toward a future Hall of Fame quarterback only prove this type of vocal minority of extreme detractors exist in every sports city in America. A certain segment of fans will never be satisfied no matter how successful their teams might be, as is evident in Boston where seven championships from the four major sports have been won over the last 11 years.
We all know someone (multiple people?) who refuses to be happy with his or her life no matter how many blessings they might have when they stop to think.
Why would the population of sports fans be any different?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to place my order for a Ryan Mallett Patriots jersey.
Retire, Ricky, retire
Though running back Ricky Williams’ retirement announcement was mildly surprising after proclaiming his enthusiasm for the 2012 season in the days following the AFC championship game, the Ravens shouldn’t — and won’t — be worked up by the veteran backup’s departure.
There are always at least five or six running backs of Williams’ ability at this stage of his career available in the free-agent market. Williams will be 35 years old by the start of the 2012 season, and there’s no guarantee he would have been able to duplicate his steady average of 4.1 yards per carry that he owned this past season. Anthony Allen will likely see an increased role, or at least an increased opportunity, to earn that role in training camp.
Whether it’s signing a veteran in the open market or looking to April’s draft, the Ravens will improve their depth at the running back position behind Ray Rice. Owner Steve Bisciotti has already said Rice will not be going anywhere despite the Pro Bowl back being set to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
It’s hard to imagine Williams’ retirement having any impact whatsoever on contract negotiations with Rice’s representation, and the Ravens will simply use the franchise tag on their feature back should they be unable to reach a long-term agreement by March 5.
However, Williams calling it a career does open the door for a farfetched but intriguing scenario to potentially play out with Rice. Let’s assume the two sides are unable to reach a long-term deal, Rice plays with the franchise tag in 2012, and the Ravens look to bolster their depth at running back in the middle rounds of the draft.
What would the Ravens do if they found a diamond in the rough with that draft pick, much in the same way they saw such potential in Rice after selecting him in the second round of the 2008 draft? Knowing the limited shelf life for running backs in the NFL, would they consider allowing Rice to walk the following season if this unnamed running back appeared capable of handling the starting job?
Again, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening, but Williams’ decision to walk away from the game forces the Ravens to explore other options at the position, and you never know what they might discover in the process.