Three field goals and a 9-7 road win at San Francisco wasn’t good enough.
Five field goals and a 22-3 win at home over St. Louis resulted in more criticism for the head coach.
Scoring points — particularly touchdowns — has never been the forte of the Ravens in the Brian Billick era. Any goof with ESPN.com can tell you that just by looking up the numbers.
But this year, probably because the team is 4-6 and about to probably become 4-7, 4-8 and 4-9 in rapid-fire succession, offense, points and scoring has somehow become more important to people than winning games.
Oddly enough, the Ravens rattled the Browns for 30 points on Sunday but lost. And now, it’s STILL not good enough.
Oh, so you want points AND wins? Ahhh … shoulda said so in the first place.
I don’t know about you — and you’re welcome to answer this question honestly if you’d like — but I’d MUCH rather see the Ravens win at San Diego 6-3 in overtime than lose 33-30. My experience in sports tells me winning is typically better than losing.
There’s no denying the hot seat that Brian Billick is sitting on at Owings Mills has a “SURFACE VERY HOT” sticker right on the spot where he plants his tush each morning. He knows that. He’s smart enough to know that despite the injuries to nearly half of his key players, the offense has looked more like an intramural club team outfit from Dartmouth or Cornell. And, since it’s HIS offense, it’s HIS hot seat. That’s fair.
What’s puzzling though is the week-by-week onslaught that Billick gets, while the rest of the lads in purple generally get a pass. A national NFL writer suggested to me yesterday — when I brought up this very subject — that it probably stems from a fan base in Baltimore that lacks true sophistication on what makes a team win and lose games in the NFL. Perhaps that’s true. But if that IS true, it’s not true just in Baltimore. It’s likely true in every city in the league. I think it has something to do with understanding (or not) the game, sure … but I also think it has to do with this odd feeling that we all seem to have that we’re entitled to win every week. It’s almost as if everything WE do is supposed to work out the way WE want it and the other team isn’t allowed to game plan for us or have their players make plays.
Speaking of making plays: Were the tackling dummies on vacation over at Owings Mills last week? Did no one practice tackling at practice last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? Continue on with your anti-Billick, anti-Gansz, anti-Boller crusades all you wish, but the Ravens inability to tackle people — a fairly standard part of the professional game — is the biggest reason why they lost on Sunday. How does one guy — and a slight, speedy, kick returner at that — carry four other men 13 yards? That’s what Joshua Cribbs did on the kickoff return that set up the overtime field goal. That’s how teams win games. Players make plays.
Speaking of plays — and playcalling — as our very own Rob Long has said time and time again when reviewing the games on Monday, “anyone can tell you that was a bad play call when the play didn’t work.” How true. But here’s a question. Who called that play to Devard Darling that tied the game at 27-27? Now THAT was a good play call, right? I mean, the play call was what made it happen, right? Wrong. What made it a good play call — as Rob Long would tell you, and he’s a coach, so he knows a little something about running plays – was that our two players (Boller and Darling) made a play.
The end of regulation is also an interesting part of armchair quarterbacking, because it once again exposes the element of “what if” – and there’s that sense of entitlement we all seem to have rearing its ugly head again. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 20 times. ”All we had to do there was run the ball. If we get the first down, we can run the clock down and kick the game-winning field goal at the buzzer.” How come the “what if” always works FOR us when we’re chastising someone for doing the wrong thing? Here’s a scenario: What IF Boller hands the ball off to McGahee, he tries to go up the middle for a yard, and gets gang tackled at the 33, loses 3 yards and now Stover is kicking from the 50 instead of the 47? If you enjoy playing the “what if” game, you need to play from both sides of the table.
When your Hall of Fame field goal kicker says, “I’d really be comfortable if you could get the ball to the 25 (making it a 42-yard kick), do you wave your hand in his face and say, “you worry about making the kick … we’ll get you where we can get you” — or do you say, “yeah, OK, we need to pick up five yards in one of the next two plays then …” ?? Again, I’ve never coached at the NFL level, but when my Hall of Fame kicker speaks, I listen. So they tried two throws (forget about the “first down” there – they weren’t trying for the first down … they were trying to get the ball to the 25-yard line) and neither worked, one because a Cleveland player MADE a play and one because our quarterback missed a fairly open receiving target and DIDN’T MAKE A PLAY. And yet, somehow, old Golden Leg still made the kick — like we all knew he would anyway.
Then, despite this supposed epic, grandiose gaffe by the head coach, the Ravens still had the lead with 26 seconds to play and turned matters over to the defense. Time for our playmakers to do what they do best back there — make plays. One, maybe two deflected passes, a bull rush or two from the outside, some strong, shut-down cornerback play … that’s all we needed — 26 ticks of the clock. No problem, right? I would have won a lot of Chinese lunches if I would have taken Cleveland -2.5 points with 26 seconds left, huh?
Face it, the Ravens lost on Sunday because when the smoke cleared, the Browns had a handful of players who made critical plays with the game on the line. Derek Anderson might not have had the greatest of games and he showed more like Batch than Brady, but that throw he made to Braylon Edwards for 18 yards to set up Dawson’s carom-bounce game-tying boot was a sensational throw under great pressure from Trevor Pryce. And Braylon Edwards — say whatever you want, but that kid has big-time skills. And in overtime, Anderson again made a great throw to Kellen Winslow Jr. Players — making plays. When the Ravens had a chance to tackle a guy at the 30, they let him wiggle and squirm out of trouble and make those last two throws from Anderson possible.
Billick, of course, will remain on the hot seat for the rest of the year. There’s no getting around that. Nine years into this, he gets it now better than ever. His paycheck resembles “combat pay” more than it does “coaching salary”. If the offensive woes continue, I think it’s likely Brian will turn over the offensive coordinator reins to someone totally new next year and he’ll go back to just being the head coach, plain and simple.
In the meantime, Brian and the rest of the team need a win. Or two. And they should know by now the only formula that’s acceptable to the fans is a win AND a lot of points.
We’ve seen firsthand this year that winning 9-7 isn’t good enough.
Then again, losing 19-14, 38-7, 21-7 and 33-30 isn’t good enough either.
In Billick’s case specifically, it might just be that nothing he does is good enough anymore.