There’s a scene in the movie Training Day where Denzel tells his trainee (played by Ethan Hawke) to “man-up” as he tries to teach him the way of the streets and the gangs in L.A.
It’s early in the ’07 season, but the Ravens might need to throw out a similar call to their fan base — except, in this case, it’s time for the fans to “smart-up” a little bit.
Now, I’m gauging most of this blog on what I heard from callers this morning during my show – a little from what I heard on Bob’s show – and a handful of callers on the various post-game shows after yesterday’s win over the Jets. I continue to be amazed at what people take from a game — a game that the Ravens won on Sunday, 20-13.
“Billick still can’t call plays.” – Really? He seemed to do a decent enough job in the first half when the team scored 17 points. Or was that Boller’s doing? Why is it that anytime the players perform well, they get the credit — and when they don’t, it’s play calling or schemes that get brought out as the issues? Look, I’m as puzzled as anyone at why the team threw the ball in the final 3 minutes or so when running it would have chewed up a little more clock and, at the same time, forced the Jets to take some time outs. I don’t quite understand that line of thinking either, like most of you. But, and here comes that word again, if Boller would have “executed” one of those pass plays, and the Ravens would have secured a first down (or two), there’d be no “Billick can’t call plays” talk. And, by the way, don’t mistake that last sentence as a swipe at Boller – it wasn’t intended to be one. I was merely pointing out that the players ultimately control what the fans think about the coaches. When the players do their job, everyone is a genius, including, I guess, Brian Billick.
“We could have easily lost that game.” – Well, that’s true. If Justin “McCaroms” catches one of those two passes near the end zone, the Ravens might have found themselves in overtime. But that certainly doesn’t mean the Ravens would have lost, anymore than somehow getting that game to overtime last Monday in Cincy would have guaranteed a win. The Ravens could, by all rights, be 2-0, 0-2 or 1-1 right now. They’re 1-1. And, in all fairness, that’s probably what they deserve to be. Teams that turn over the ball six times shouldn’t win games and teams that have 20-3 leads in the 4th quarter shouldn’t lose. In the Ravens case, they didn’t – and they didn’t. 1-1 is where they belong. So, sure, they could have easily lost on Sunday. But I just checked the standings again and NFL.com has the Ravens at 1-1. They didn’t lose. They won.
“Boller didn’t play well, he just managed the game.” – I have to laugh everytime Kyle Boller does something well, because I know the Boller Bashers will figure out a way to twist it around and create an air of uncertainty about it. I’m the first guy to admit that I would prefer McNair be the QB of record over the next 14 weeks. Anyone that has listened to my show knows my philosophy on Boller. As a back-up – and a guy who occasionally gets pressed into emergency duty – I believe he’s more than serviceable. But I would not want to see him be the #1 QB over a 6-8 week period if McNair suffered some kind of serious injury that moved Boller behind center “full-time”. But, yesterday, against the Jets, Kyle Boller looked like an NFL quarterback. And a pretty good one, at that. Was he outstanding? Player of the week material? Of course not. But he didn’t need to be and wasn’t really asked to be. Think of it as a horse race. Rounding the far turn, the jockey looks over his right shoulder and sees he has a 6-length lead. Does he go to the whip at that point? Of course not. He continues pressing his horse, sure, but he doesn’t “ask his horse for more”. In the stretch, the jockey again takes a look back and sees his lead is now 8-lengths. No need for the whip. Just keep the horse standing up over the next 250 yards and you’re a winner. That’s what the Ravens did with Boller yesterday. They merely handed him the game plan and said, “Kyle, don’t try to do things you can’t. Get the ball to McGahee, don’t fumble it, don’t throw any dumb picks and, when Heap or Mason are open, hit those guys.” The Ravens didn’t need to hit Boller with the whip yesterday and he got them a “w”.
“We won’t go to the Super Bowl playing like that.” – Are you sure about that? The Ravens have given up exactly three offensive TD’s in two games. They held that Bengals offense that rang up 45 on the Browns yesterday to a pair of TD passes in the first game and the Jets managed just one TD on Sunday. If the Ravens give up 24 offensive touchdowns this year (1.5 per-game), I’d say they’re going places in the post-season, wouldn’t you? Now, I will be the first to admit that scoring three (as the Ravens have) offensive TD’s in two games isn’t a recipe for a trip to Arizona next February, so clearly the Ravens have to improve their output in that area…but don’t be so quick to dismiss the season after two games. After all, the best the Ravens could be right now is 2-0. They’re only one game off that mark. Speaking of NOT going to the Super Bowl, here’s a stat for all of you to chew on today. Since the “Super Bowl era” began, and that means 41 games and 82 teams participating, only ONE team in the history of the Super Bowl has played in the game after giving up more than 50 points in a regular season game. Back in 1970, the Cowboys surrendered 54 points to the Vikings, yet came back from that debacle to play in the big game. Pretty interesting stat, huh? Give up 50 points in a game, chances are really good (about 98.7 percent) that you AREN’T going to the Super Bowl. That’s what history says, anyway. Now, would you rather be in CINCINNATI today – 2 games into a 1-1 season – or BALTIMORE? Checkmate.
Time to “smart-up” gang. It’s a long, long season. As we’ve already seen with the injuries to Ogden and Pryce, this train could derail (and so could any other team in the league) if we lose a key starter every week. That’s the one thing NO ONE can control, of course. Injuries are, obviously, part of the game. But they also determine who goes where and how far.
Let’s not plan that Ravens eulogy just yet, huh?
For one week, at least, let Boller enjoy his win. Let Billick enjoy a game that saw his team go “turn-over-less”. And let’s let Rex Ryan figure out how not to let one of those late-game surges scare us again.
The smart money goes on the Ravens next week when Arizona comes to town.
But unless they win 31-0 next Sunday, they’ll always be unhappy campers in Baltimore.
The smart fans get it, though. Wins are all that matter. The coaches don’t care how…they just care how many.