It’s pretty funny how it all works in the NFL.
Here in Baltimore, we’ve just had the season-from-hell, complete with 11 losses in 16 games…two humiliating national TV defeats…a final minute meltdown by veteran players that required diapers and a pacifier (on national TV as well)…a loss to a team that was 0-13 at the time…and a panic-move by the team’s Owner who s**t-canned the entire coaching staff in a bizarre New Year’s Eve announcement.
And, guess what?
When it all shook out, Dallas and Indianapolis both went 13-3 and wound up playing exactly ONE more game than the Ravens in the 2007 season.
All that hard work, all those great wins, all that great quarterback play and all that hope. Woooooossssshhhhhhhh…down the drain.
As bad as our season was, and it was bad, no doubt, the Cowboys and Colts will look back on this campaign with the same kind of sad reflection as the Ravens.
In the NFL, you have to get to the Super Bowl to consider it a great season.
Oddly enough, since the Ravens went to the big game in 2000, a lot of teams HAVEN’T made it that far. Established NFL franchises – Super Bowl winners, in fact - like San Francisco, Denver, Green Bay, Dallas and Washington haven’t been to the Super Bowl in this decade. Neither has Minnesota, the New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins or the Kansas City Chiefs.
Because New England goes to the Super Bowl about as often as we all take trips to Ocean City, it probably seems like the Ravens are falling behind EVERYONE in the league. Not really. There’s New England – they’re in their own league (as they will no doubt prove twice more this season en-route to 19-0) – and then everyone else has the NFL to play in and enjoy.
As good as the Colts have been over the last five years (they’ve won at least 12 regular season games in each campaign), they’ve only been to ONE Super Bowl in the Peyton Manning era and have now “gagged it” twice in the last three years in the first round of the post-season at home.
As Cleveland and Tampa Bay proved this season, you can be 4-12 one year (’06) and be a playoff team the next. Cleveland, in fact, won 10 games and could have displaced Pittsburgh in the AFC North if not for a bad loss to the Bengals in week #15 and the Bucs won the NFC South before bowing to the Giants last weekend in Tampa Bay.
This year’s garbage is next year’s treasure.
I’m not saying it’s going to be the Ravens in ’08. Hell, it’s mid-January and they don’t even have a coach yet, how can any of us start to lay the ground work for the ’08 season? I can’t. However, it’s safe to say the team probably can’t be much worse than the 5-11 half-effort the players put in this past-season, right? If they hire Marty Schottenheimer, we’d have to be fairly confident of at least an 8-win season since “Marty-Ball” has only had two losing seasons in his 21 years of coaching.
By the way, sidenote here: I’m still thinking the Ravens are going to take a look at Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during their Head Coach search. Just a hunch…
Anyway, hire the right coach, get good QB play from SOMEONE, sign a couple of veterans to shore up the defensive pass rush and secondary and draft a handful of players that make an impact in ’08 and the Ravens could be right back in the frying pan a year from now.
Like I said, I’m not predicting it’s going to happen, but things change awfully quick in the NFL. Good this year, bad the next. Or vice versa.
As for the Cowboys, Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano both lost a little bit of their “mojo” with today’s sputtering offensive effort against the Giants. The aforementioned Spagnuolo, meanwhile, might have beefed up his resume with that defensive performance from New York.
A month ago, you could have picked up a nice wager if you would have been willing to bet that the Giants were going to be in the NFC title game.
It’s the NFL.
At least one of the four teams currently left standing probably won’t make the playoffs next season. It happened to a pair of the final-four from a year ago (Chicago and New Orleans). It happened to the Steelers and Broncos in ’06.
Good one year, bad the next.
(If only our baseball team in town could adopt that philosophy, huh?)
So, our ’07 campaign isn’t looking all that drab after you analyze that both Indy and Dallas played only ONE more game than the Ravens. They’ll be home next weekend, watching with the rest of us. Or, maybe they’ll be in Cabo.
And, who knows, this time next year, we might have just stolen a road game at San Diego or at Jacksonville to move on in the post-season.
It’s the NFL. Weird stuff happens.