Tag Archive | "Steve Bisciotti"

Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Echoing the sentiments offered by head coach John Harbaugh and general Ozzie Newsome in recent weeks, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti offered his support to running back Ray Rice and reiterated that he will be part of the team in 2014.

Speaking to The Baltimore Sun as the league meetings commenced in Orlando on Monday, Bisciotti described the incident as “disappointing” and one that the running back will live with for the rest of his life, but Rice’s future with the organization — at least for the upcoming season — isn’t in jeopardy regardless of how the legal situation is resolved. Rice and Janay Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence in mid-February after the two allegedly struck one another with their hands.

“Ray will be here,” Bisciotti said. “This is a singular moment six years after we drafted him. It’s embarrassing for him and his fiancée. It is especially hard to see somebody that is proud of his reputation have to take this kind of public-relations hit.”

Atlantic City police referred the case to the county prosecutor’s office for review, but there’s been no update if any additional or different charges have been filed.

NOTES: The Ravens awarded Harbaugh with an extra year on his current contract, extending him through the 2017 season. Bisciotti said he offered an extra year to his head coach as a show of support that nothing has changed in his mind despite Baltimore missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2007. … Bisciotti also confirmed the Ravens will honor future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis with a statue planned to be unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium before the start of the 2014 season. The likeness of Lewis will stand in Unitas Plaza.

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Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

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Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Luke Jones

After more than two months of preparation following a disappointing 8-8 season, the Ravens will officially see offseason business pick up with the start of free agency on Tuesday afternoon.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has already taken care of two of his own — signing linebacker Terrell Suggs and tight end Dennis Pitta to long-term contracts — as well as parted ways with two key veterans — linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach — but plenty of work remains as the Ravens try to rebound from the first non-playoff campaign of the John Harbaugh era. Even with roughly $25 million in salary cap space prior to the tendering of exclusive-rights and restricted free agents, the concerns are plentiful with gaping holes on the offensive line as well as needs at wide receiver, free safety, and inside linebacker.

Just 13 months removed from their second Super Bowl title, the Ravens are facing heat to bounce back from a failed season in their eyes, but the cupboard is far from bare considering they were just one win away from the postseason despite their many issues — particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Pitta returning next season at full strength as well as the addition of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will be viewed by many as instant improvements for an offense that finished 29th in the NFL last season.

“There are teams that are a whole lot more disappointed,” owner Steve Bisciotti said at the season-ending press conference. “If we found ourselves at 3-13, like the Falcons, then I think that they’re sitting there thinking, ‘We’ve got to make a lot of changes.’ I really don’t think that we do. If 8-8 is a failure, I hope it’s a long time before I feel worse than this. That’s just the way it goes.”

With the offseason ready to kick into high gear as teams can begin negotiating with other free agents this weekend before the market officially opens for business at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, here are a few themes to remember between now and the start of the 2014 season:

1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

With a few rare exceptions such as the quick signings of wide receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle in 2005, the Ravens haven’t been swift to act in free agency, instead allowing other teams to overspend in an effort to make a splash in March.

This lesson is forgotten annually as many confuse Newsome’s methodical ways with hesitancy and indecision. The temptation can be strong to throw money at a top wide receiver such as Hakeem Nicks or Eric Decker or a top offensive tackle like Branden Albert or Jared Veldheer, but the market will be full of potential suitors for their services, potentially driving up the price to unreasonable levels.

Typically, the best free-agent value comes in the second and third wave of activity where the Ravens pride themselves in identifying so-called “80-20″ guys who theoretically provide 80 percent of the production of an incumbent or marquee free agent for 20 percent of the cost. Examples of such players might be Cincinnati left tackle Anthony Collins or a cheaper slot option such as Philadelphia’s Jason Avant who could presumably be coupled with a rookie in the draft.

The abundance of cap space now compared to recent years provides flexibility but encourages stupidity if you’re not careful. Newsome made it clear in January that the Ravens have every intention of adding an impact wide receiver and laid out the avenues in which that goal — along with others — can be achieved.

“That player will be available between now [and September], whether it’s in free agency, whether he’s a cap casualty, whether it’s in the draft or whether it’s through trade,” Newsome said. “There is no reason that he might not be here at the beginning of the season, but I always try to leave myself a little leeway to give us a chance to get it right.”

Remember that there’s no Lombardi awarded in mid-March.

2. Use all outlets in moderation.

It isn’t solely about re-signing your own free agents, playing the open market, looking for trades, or relying on the draft.

Everything in moderation.

We’ve already seen this play out to some degree as the Ravens elected not to use the franchise tag on left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is reportedly looking for upwards of $10 million per season. Even after giving up fourth- and fifth-round picks last October to acquire the former Jaguars tackle, the Ravens simply didn’t feel Monroe was worth the $11.65 million franchise tag tender and are likely to lose him as a result of not seeing eye to eye over his value.

“If things don’t happen before Tuesday, then we’re going to have to build a team the way we build it in other directions,” Harbaugh said. “But we’re working really hard to get that done right now. We want to keep our guys, and we want our guys to be here just like Dennis. We want to keep those guys.”

Beyond Monroe, the Ravens would like to keep inside linebacker Daryl Smith and a couple others such as wide receiver Jacoby Jones and cornerback Corey Graham, but you can’t fall in love with your own players in the same way that you don’t want to throw lucrative money at a free agent on the first day of business. It’s for this reason that Baltimore is pretty much resigned to the idea of defensive tackle Arthur Jones walking away for a bigger contract elsewhere since Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson, and Kapron Lewis-Moore are waiting in the wings and they have many needs elsewhere.

Though patience is key, the Ravens shouldn’t — and can’t — wait until the draft and expect their many positional needs to be filled with only four scheduled picks as well as four anticipated compensatory picks.

Again, rely on everything in moderation.

3. Don’t alter how you value players because of a greater amount of salary cap space.

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Truth — Bisciotti wouldn’t have minded a college coordinator for O.C.

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Truth — Bisciotti wouldn’t have minded a college coordinator for O.C.

Posted on 06 February 2014 by Drew Forrester

An interesting after-story has surfaced in the Ravens’ search for a new offensive coordinator.

It turns out owner Steve Bisciotti did, in fact, have a specific suggestion for John Harbaugh, but as we all now know, it wasn’t Gary Kubiak.

Bisciotti wanted Harbaugh to look away from the NFL and at least consider bringing in the “new hot offensive commodity” from the college ranks. His only suggestion in the hiring process of the offensive coordinator was, according to a source, “don’t just assume you have to hire someone from within the NFL in order for this to work.  Look at the new guy.  Don’t be afraid to find someone with new, fresh ideas.”

Interestingly enough, the 2008 coaching search in Baltimore focused on several “fresh” names, including Harbaugh, Jason Garrett, Brian Schottenheimer, Jim Caldwell and Rob Chudzinski.  Folks who remmeber that search will recall the “retread” name everyone  immediately brought up was Marty Schottenheimer, but he was never even seriously considered by the search committee.

“Steve loved the process we used to uncover John (Harbaugh),” says a team source.  ”It delighted Steve that we went away from the tried-and-true and hired a guy with no head coaching experience and it turned out to be such a great hire for the organization.”

It’s assumed based on the term “new hot offensive commodity” that Bisciotti’s formula would have perhaps included Auburn’s offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee.  As it turned out, Harbaugh went in a different direction entirely and scooped up unemployed Gary Kubiak to run his team’s offense in 2014.

Harbaugh, in fact, confirmed this element of the coordinator search during last Friday’s live interview with WNST from Super Bowl 48.  You can hear that interview here, and hear the head coach acknowledge that Bisciotti pushed for the consideration of a college coordinator or coach to take over the Ravens offensive opening.

“Steve wouldn’t ever stand up in the room and say, ‘This is the guy you’re going to hire’, because it’s just not his style.  But, he’s a big believer in looking everywhere for new people.  That’s what his core business has always been about and it’s a great way for any company to go about hiring new employees.”

Bisciotti didn’t get his way this go-round, as the hiring of Kubiak and Rick Dennison (plus a handful of other Texans’ staffers) was simply too good to pass up for a Ravens organization desperate for a new offensive philosophy.

But the process is worth remembering, as it once again reminds everyone that the Ravens are always capable of doing something different.

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Harbaugh fires back at detractors over coodinator search

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Harbaugh fires back at detractors over coodinator search

Posted on 01 February 2014 by Luke Jones

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has heard the criticism in recent days about a perceived track record of hiring unqualified coaches and how he was allegedly overruled by owner Steve Bisciotti in the process of finding new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

He fired back at his critics in an exclusive interview with WNST.net in New York on Friday afternoon where he was accepting the NFL’s Salute to Service award this weekend.

“It’s definitely insulting; it’s really stupid,” Harbaugh said. “It’s reflective of not knowing the facts. People who are putting it out there know darn well what they’re saying and they know it’s not true.”

Harbaugh didn’t shy away from the fact that he communicated regularly with Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome throughout the process as he does on a variety of matters related to the organization. Many have assumed that Bisciotti was enamored with hiring a big name such as Kubiak or longtime NFL offensive coodinator Norv Turner, but the owner wanted to be thorough enough to potentially “find the guy that nobody had ever heard of before,” according to Harbaugh.

This led the seventh-year head coach to consider a number of college names as he looked at upwards of 30 potential candidates for the job Kubiak ultimately won. After previously working under the assumption that Kubiak wouldn’t be interested in the position, Harbaugh reiterated that it was a conversation with new quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison — originally about former Washington Redskins offenive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — that prompted a call to Kubiak and set the wheels in motion for the former Houston Texans coach to be hired for the coordinator job.

Bisciotti remained in the loop and offered insight along the way but never gave the directive of who to hire, according Harbaugh.

“Of course he’s going to have a lot of insight into that,” Harbaugh said. “You’d be pretty dumb not to listen to it. Steve and I talked probably through that process more than we usually do. He knew what was going on, who we were interviewing [and was] asking me questions. ‘Have you talked to this guy? Have you talked to that guy? Why haven’t you talked to him? Are you going to talk to him?’ He wanted to know all of that.

“His biggest piece of advice was if you weren’t going to hire right away out of the gates and you didn’t know who you had, then take a thorough process on very similar to the one that [the Ravens] used when they hired me in 2008. He kind of laid out to me how that works. That was really great and very helpful in terms of how to go about doing it. That was really it. He didn’t give me any interview questions or anything like that, and he certainly didn’t say who to hire.

“Steve Bisciotti would never do something like that, and not very many coaches in this league would stand for something like that. That’s not what it’s about.”

In addition to Kubiak and Dennison, new tight ends coach Brian Pariani is coming over from the former Texans staff, but Harbaugh refuted reports that other Texans assistants would be coming to Baltimore to fill the vacant running backs coach and wide receivers coach openings.

Harbaugh said Kubiak identified Dennison and Pariani as assistants he would need to help install and teach his offensive system, but the Ravens will look at “some younger guys” for the remaining two openings instead of hiring other former Houston assistants.

In addition to shooting down reports about Bisciotti and Newsome going over his head to hire Kubiak, Harbaugh took exception to the criticism of his track record hiring assistant coaches as many have used offensive line coach Juan Castillo as a damning example and predicted that he would tab wide receivers coach Jim Hostler as the new offensive coordinator despite his unsuccessful one-year stint with San Francisco in 2007.

The 51-year-old coach reminded that he’s hired a number of former or future NFL head coaches as assistants, ranging from Rex Ryan, Cam Cameron, and Chuck Pagano to Jim Caldwell, Jim Zorn, and Steve Spagnuolo. Kubiak became the Ravens’ first external hire for a coordinator position since Cameron was selected as Harbaugh’s first offensive coordinator in 2008.

“I want to have the best coaches we possibly can,” Harbaugh said. “If you go back over the last six years all told, it’d be hard to find a better six years of coaching staffs than the Ravens have had. Criticize me the other way –- say that I need great coaches around me to be successful. But don’t say that I’m hiring bad coaches or guys that won’t speak their opinion.”

To hear Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s entire conversation with WNST.net on Radio Row in New York, click HERE.

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Here are #WNSTSweet16 people who had a dream in Baltimore

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Here are #WNSTSweet16 people who had a dream in Baltimore

Posted on 21 January 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

These are people who’ve inspired, led, built and left or are leaving a legacy that affects people in Baltimore or elsewhere in the world. Some of them dreamed their whole lives, some had one big dream or act that keeps giving, producing and growing. Most of these “dreamers” have an eternal gift to have given something that transcends their initial efforts, legacy or life. Dreamers see the end before many see the beginning. I always think of guys like Walt Disney and the founding fathers of the United States of America, who built things.

Let’s start our list, page by page and go through our rationale and rankings. Feel free to share, feedback or comment with your own lists and ideas.

 

#WNSTSweet16 Dreamers

 

16. John Ziemann

There’s no doubt that John Ziemann had a dream of seeing the NFL back in Baltimore from 1984 through 1995 but unlike many local football fans, he actually did something about it. Something profound and beautiful and well-told by local film rock star Barry Levinson in The Band That Wouldn’t Die, Ziemann’s ability to keep the marching band of the Baltimore Colts together and see it through to the Ravens and two more Super Bowl titles makes him a dreamer who saw his vision to its fruition.

How many times did Ziemann think or hear that his band would die long before – and hell would freeze  before the NFL would return to Baltimore? The Marching Ravens tie the community and its roots back to Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts of 33rd Street more than any other local tradition.

Just for the record, Carroll Rosenbloom and Bob Irsay didn’t make our #WNSTSweet16 cut. They were a part of taking the Baltimore Colts from our city. Ziemann was the loudest and most authentic part of bringing the NFL back.

See next page for No. 15

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To honor an American hero, this week’s #WNSTSweet16 is about “dreamers”

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To honor an American hero, this week’s #WNSTSweet16 is about “dreamers”

Posted on 19 January 2014 by Glenn Clark

We’re into the third week of our year long #WNSTSweet16 celebration, recognizing a remarkable 16 years of WNST.net as Baltimore’s sports media leader.

To mark the occasion, we’re spending the year looking into the biggest “water cooler” topics in Baltimore sports history. If you’ve missed our first couple of lists, take a look back on them. Last week Luke Jones celebrated the NFL Playoffs by looking into the greatest postseason moments in local sports history. We introduced #WNSTSweet16 the week before when I took a look at the greatest debuts in local sports history.

As a country this week we’re recognizing one of our greatest Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an incredible visionary and leader of the civil rights movement. We recognized the 50th anniversary of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington just last August and continue to recognize the role he played in bringing social justice in our country as we celebrate MLK Day Monday.

It’s with that in mind that this week’s list is about “dreamers” as well. “The Nasty One” himself Nestor Aparicio will take on this week’s topic, the “#WNSTSweet16 Local Sports Figures Who Had A Dream”.

This is where we need your help. Nestor certainly has an idea of which 16 dreamers should be included in this list, but he wants your help to come up with those he might not have thought of and where these dreamers should rank on this list. Like in other weeks, we’re looking to make a “definitive” list, not just a personal opinion list.

As I thought about the possibilities for this week’s list, a number of names came to mind. William Donald Schaefer had a dream for downtown Baltimore that was heavy in local sports. Former Maryland football player Kevin Plank had a dream for a product that would help athletes in tough conditions that would ultimately lead to one of the biggest companies in the world. Lefty Driesell had a dream to make Maryland “the UCLA of the East”, Gary Williams had a dream for a new basketball facility in College Park.

Art Modell had a dream to re-create a football culture in Charm City, Steve Bisciotti had a dream to take that franchise even further. Daryl Hill had a dream to integrate the ACC. John Rallo had a dream to bring Mixed Martial Arts to the state of Maryland, Bob Bowman had a dream to coach Olympic swimming champions. Peter Angelos had a dream to…well…I’m not entirely sure.

Who else? What other local sports figures were “dreamers”? Where should they rank? Let us know here in the comments. We’ll be discussing our “dreamers” throughout the day Monday on AM1570 WNST.net. We encourage you to discuss the topic Monday via social media by using the hashtag #WNSTSweet16. On Tuesday morning, Nestor will unveil the list here at WNST.net and he will discuss it with Luke Jones on “The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction” Tuesday morning at 8am. He’ll then check back in Tuesday afternoon at 4pm on “The Reality Check Driven by Jerry’s Chevrolet” to discuss the list with me.

Give us your thoughts. Whose dreams most shaped local sports?

-G

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Five questions about the Ravens’ offensive coordinator search

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Five questions about the Ravens’ offensive coordinator search

Posted on 15 January 2014 by Luke Jones

As the search for a new offensive coordinator to replace Jim Caldwell continues, head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Wednesday that the Ravens will look inside and outside the organization to find the best candidate.

Several names have already been offered by numerous outlets for consumption, but the Ravens’ history with the hiring of Harbaugh as their head coach in 2008 supports the possibility of the next offensive coordinator being an off-the-radar candidate no one is currently discussing.

Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler will interview for the position — he was San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2007 — but it remains unclear if any other in-house candidates such as offensive line coach Juan Castillo will interview. Of course, most think the Ravens are more likely to bring in an outside option for the job, but their exact specifications for Caldwell’s replacement remain unclear.

“We’re confident that whether we select someone currently on our staff or from another team, we will have a coach that best fits what we want to be, where we want to go and understands what Ravens football is all about,” Harbaugh said in a released team statement. “I have a profile in mind, and we are excited about the coaches who have shown interest in the job.

“One of the positives with the change is that we’re reminded that this franchise — and team — is attractive to many in the profession. We will have a coaching staff that will get the most out of our players.”

With Harbaugh and the Ravens not exactly willing to share a clear list of candidates at the onset of the search, several important questions must be answered as they look for the best man for the job:

1. Are the Ravens looking for a coordinator to tweak their current system or to offer something new entirely?

The offensive system received some new wrinkles with the increased use of the three-wide, single-back formation and the introduction of the pistol formation in 2013, but it’s clear the Ravens will be looking for at least some changes to revamp the league’s 29th-ranked offensive attack. How much change will be the question as a different offensive system comes with new verbiage and a learning curve for newcomers and veterans alike.

Ultimately, Harbaugh will want some say in his team’s overall offensive philosophy, so it remains to be seen whether the Ravens will prefer some minor modifications — along with their anticipated personnel changes — or a complete revamping. The knee-jerk reaction will be to blow it up and start fresh after an 8-8 season full of offensive ineptitude, but there are drawbacks to that and Caldwell showed late in the 2012 season that the offensive system is capable of being successful with the right personnel.

2. How much will they value experience against the appeal of an up-and-coming younger coach?

There’s no such thing as the perfect candidate as critics will view established names as underwhelming retreads while scoffing at guys they’ve never head of, but it will be interesting to see if the Ravens prefer more play-calling experience after previously promoting Caldwell, a man who had never served as an offensive coordinator. Hiring an experienced coordinator is the safer play, but it can also take away mystery in opponents’ minds as tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses are no secret in the NFL establishment, possibly limiting the coordinator’s ceiling for success in the process.

An up-and-coming coach might bring enthusiasm, new ideas, and exciting potential, but you never quite know how he’ll respond if he hasn’t been a play-caller at the NFL level. Being a major asset in meeting rooms and on the practice field as a positional coach is valuable, but that doesn’t always translate to success as an offensive coordinator in the same way that not all great coordinators are capable of making the successful leap to a head coaching job.

3. Is the thought of continuity a bigger priority as the Ravens are about to have their third offensive coordinator in the last 13 months?

The Ravens are clearly looking for the best candidate to breathe life into their struggling offense, but it’s fair to wonder if they’ll value a candidate who’s more likely to remain on the staff for the long haul than one who could easily bolt for a head coaching job in the next year or two even though that’s often difficult to predict. If Harbaugh doesn’t go with an internal candidate, this would mark the first time the Ravens won’t hire from within for a coordinator job — offensive or defensive — since Cam Cameron joined the new staff in 2008 as Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano, Dean Pees, and Caldwell were already in the organization.

Baltimore had interest in interviewing the 36-year-old Ben McAdoo before he was hired as the Giants offensive coordinator on Tuesday, which could be an indication that they’re not worried about choosing a coordinator who could bolt for a head coaching gig sooner rather than later. As Harbaugh mentioned in Wednesday’s statement, having assistant coaches leave for better jobs reflects favorably on the organization, but a lack of continuity on the staff can stunt the growth of your football team when you can’t find the ideal replacements.

4. Will the Harbaugh connection be a relevant factor — for or against — any potential candidate?

One of the silliest criticisms that fans have for Harbaugh is his preference to hire coaches with which he shares connections when you realize coaches everywhere have the same tendency. Just like any other career field, networking is a major factor in the hiring process and it’s human nature to gravitate toward familiarity, whether it’s right or not.

Because of that, it would be unwise to immediately dismiss candidates who share ties with Harbaugh such as former Vikings head coach Brad Childress. However, it’s possible that owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, or even Harbaugh himself have decided that a coordinator who doesn’t have a history with the head coach would be the best fit at this particular time.

5. How much will quarterback Joe Flacco be involved in the interviewing and hiring process?

This is easily the most interesting question as it appears to be a no-brainer to have the seventh-year quarterback’s input as the Ravens consider the various candidates. Flacco certainly isn’t going anywhere, so why wouldn’t you want a candidate that he has endorsed and feels comfortable with?

Ultimately, the new offensive coordinator needs to be Harbaugh’s decision, but it would be counterproductive not to have your veteran quarterback involved in the interviews in some way to offer his input on whether he thinks he can work well with a given candidate. Whether it’s to offer feedback after observing interviews or to be directly involved in the questioning, Flacco should have a significant voice in helping to idenitfy the man who will not only lead the offense but also strive to make the franchise quarterback better after a disappointing 2013 season.

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Building offense around Flacco only offseason priority that matters

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Building offense around Flacco only offseason priority that matters

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Luke Jones

The uncertain future of linebacker Terrell Suggs and the decision to retain assistant Juan Castillo were topics that understandably garnered the most attention at the Ravens’ season-ending press conference on Wednesday.

But it was something owner Steve Bisciotti said that laid out the top priority of the offseason as Baltimore tries to bounce back from missing the postseason for the first time in the John Harbaugh era. In fact, it’s the only objective that really matters if the Ravens hope to climb to the heights they reached 11 months ago anytime soon.

Bisciotti has always acknowledged his opinions on football-related matters shouldn’t — and usually don’t — hold as much weight as those of general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh, but that hasn’t stopped the 53-year-old owner from publicly calling for more accountability from his employees in the past as former head coach Brian Billick and former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron learned years ago. That’s what made his answer over how concerned he was about the underwhelming play of quarterback Joe Flacco so telling as it spelled out what the Ravens must do this winter.

There was no over-the-top comment about needing more of a return on the $120.6 million contract he forked over to the 28-year-old quarterback last winter, even though the Ravens will certainly expect a much better Flacco in 2014. Yes, Flacco must improve, but so must Newsome, Harbaugh, Castillo, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell (if he does indeed return), Ray Rice, the offensive line, and everyone else with a stake in the Baltimore offense next season and beyond.

“When you look at these guys who have been coaching in the league and have had success in the past and you look at our players that have had success in the past, if we could have fixed it, we would have,” Bisciotti said. “I certainly expected more in the second half of the season. As interrelated as the running game is to the play-action pass and the execution of the offensive line, trying to divide up the blame is something I’m really not much more qualified than you guys are to do. But, when you have a short window of failure that comes out of the blue, the key is not to make wholesale changes.

“I know that Ray Rice was limited this year, and Bernard Pierce was limited. And, if they had been better, then maybe the offensive line would have performed better. Obviously, if the offensive line were blowing open holes, then maybe [Rice and Pierce] could have achieved more with their physical limitations. And, if that had worked a little better, then I think Joe would have performed a little better. All the things, the numbers that are so striking to me to find yourself in the bottom five in offense in almost every category is again something that — had we not had a [good] history in the last five years – then I would probably demand wholesale changes. But I think you have to be careful to not to look in a vacuum and decide you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and [you] let people get healthy, let these guys work together for another year, add some people to the team in the draft and free agency.

“I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to look at the offense with the same fine-tooth comb that we looked at the defense last year. I think you’re going to see a lot of changes in personnel and how we approach that. I’m pretty proud of the defense for being able to retool on the fly, and I’ve got the same amount of confidence with these guys in building the offense.”

The final few sentences of his drawn-out answer said everything you need to know. Yes, the Ravens must address Suggs’ $12.4 million cap number, find a free safety, and tinker with various parts of their defense and special teams, but building a better supporting cast around Flacco is paramount. Last offseason saw Newsome focus solely on revamping a below-average defense while allowing the offense to suffer as a result, a perplexing strategy considering the Ravens had just won a Super Bowl with their offense doing the heavy lifting.

Fixing the offense won’t be easy as the dynamic pass-catcher the Ravens covet doesn’t just grow on trees and the organization doesn’t exactly have a stellar history of developing — or even finding — many quality wide receivers in their 18-year history. Adding bulk on the interior line is a necessity, but potentially finding three quality starters — if the Ravens are unable to re-sign Eugene Monroe to remain with incumbents Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele — will be a daunting task. Flacco’s $14.8 million cap figure in 2014 will indeed be an obstacle — just like the large numbers currently held by Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Lardarius Webb, Rice, and Yanda — as Newsome tries to use limited resources to infuse the offensive side of the ball with more talent.

But the Ravens must build a better supporting cast around their quarterback, whether you think Flacco is a potential Rolls-Royce or only a Mustang in the hierarchy of current NFL quarterbacks. He’s proven he has the ability to take the franchise all the way to the top, but he can’t do it alone as last season so painfully showed. A record-setting contract understandably brought high expectations, but it didn’t suddenly change his ability or who he is as a quarterback.

Making some difficult decisions such as parting ways with Suggs and sacrificing some ability defensively may be necessary to create sufficient cap space in order to add more dynamic offensive pieces. The Ravens have no choice but to take giant leaps forward offensively in the increasingly offensive-minded NFL.

Flacco did not have a good year in 2013, and he must own his share of the blame just like anyone else involved. But the Ravens didn’t set him up to have a strong season following an offseason trade of Anquan Boldin and the retirement of veteran center Matt Birk without adequate replacements behind them. That coupled with unforeseen injuries to the likes of Dennis Pitta, Rice, and Osemele left too much to overcome.

From the Suggs financial decision to improving the offensive line and running game, nearly all offseason moves will be tied to the theme of doing what’s best for Flacco so the Ravens can get the most out of their steep investment.

It’s fair to expect much more from the quarterback, but only if the front office, coaching staff, and supporting cast hold up their end of the bargain as well.

Even after handing Flacco the richest deal in franchise history last year, Bisciotti could recognize that simple truth on Wednesday.

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I called it last week — and Harbaugh confirmed it yesterday

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I called it last week — and Harbaugh confirmed it yesterday

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

A nice gesture by John Harbaugh in January of 2013 turned into a whopper of a train wreck for the Head Coach.

He took steps in an effort to fix it yesterday at the annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.

What did Harbaugh do?

He gave Juan Castillo the title he should have given him last January when the Ravens hired him to oversee their offensive line.

Last week as Luke and I reviewed the 2013 Ravens season, one of the topics centered on coaches and who we thought might return and who was on the bubble.

This was before Wilbert Montgomery was “moved on” for, essentially, insubordination.

As Luke and I went over the names, we eventually came to Castillo.  I contended then that Harbaugh’s biggest mistake was giving Juan Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”.  I can see why Harbaugh did it that way, but hindsight tells us the title was a mistake.

To give Castillo a “new” title (the Ravens didn’t have a “Run Game Coordinator” before Castillo showed up) implied he was coming in to do something so specifically different that no one else on staff could manage it.  The only problem, of course, is the Ravens already had someone overseeing their run game.  His name was Wilbert Montgomery.  And, since a major component of running the ball is blocking for the ball carrier, they also had one of “those guys” in charge of coaching the offensive line — Andy Moeller.

Honestly, as I said last week, Harbaugh’s mistake wasn’t in hiring Castillo.  He’s a bright guy with a terrific resume.  John’s mistake was in giving Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”.  When the running game fizzled in 2013, everyone simply pointed to the new guy who came in to coordinate the running game and said, “There’s the problem!”

Look, I understand John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti and everyone else at Owings Mills couldn’t care less about what the “armchair quarterbacks” (aka, the fans) think about their style, scheme and methods of coaching.  Frankly, the fans don’t know anything about football, truth be told.  They know when a player does something well and they know when Matt Elam gets beat by A.J. Green that Elam was to blame, but the fans don’t know anything, really, about the true inner workings of all eleven players on either side of the ball and how Player A’s mistake and Player B’s inability to cover up for it leaves Player C exposed.

That said, Harbaugh and Bisciotti do owe it to the fans to review the performance of their coaches and players and determine who deserves to carry on with the team and who doesn’t.

What “the fans” think about Juan Castillo shouldn’t have anything to do with whether the Ravens keep him or not, but it’s clear from yesterday’s press conference that Harbaugh IS aware of the scrutiny and criticism his “Run Game Coordinator” endured during the recently completed 8-8 season.

That’s why Castillo is now the team’s “Offensive Line Coach”.  It’s basically what he was all along, even with Moeller in the fold, but the Head Coach didn’t want to create a potential firestorm by stripping Moeller of his title.

And, for anyone who thinks Castillo was the guy who wrecked the running game, let me tell you this:  He didn’t coach the running backs.  Wilbert Montgomery did.  As someone in the organization said to me yesterday, “Wilbert’s job was to make the running backs better.  Whether or not he did that is up to you (the media) guys to decide and report on in whatever fashion you want.”

Oddly enough, the Ravens also brought in a smart football mind in 2013 to help with their defense.  His name was Steve Spagnuolo. The former Rams Head Coach joined the club as their “Senior Defensive Assistant”.  The Ravens defense, as we saw time and time again, couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down.  They had a tendency to give up the big play in the 4th quarter as the Ravens tried to steal a win or two in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cincinnati.  Even though the defense outperformed the offense in 2013, the team’s defense was certainly a liability on a somewhat regular basis.  Why, then, was Spagnuolo not the same sort of lightning rod as Castillo?  One reason:  Title.

Castillo’s title suggested he was going to “fix” the running game.

Spagnuolo’s title suggested he was there to watch game film with Harbaugh and play racquetball with the coaches and front office members on Tuesday afternoons.

In theory — and based on his day to day duties — Castillo was brought on board to work with the offensive line.  We all know, of course, that was quite a mountain to climb for anyone…based on the personnel.

It would have helped the running game, for sure, if the offensive line that Castillo coached would have been better.  And, perhaps, the running game would have been better if Castillo and Andy Moeller coached their players better.

The running game might have also performed better if the running backs were in shape when training camp started — and capable of taking the punishment of an NFL season.

Here’s the one bullet point from yesterday that was reinforced to me by a staffer: The biggest loss the team incurred – player wise –  was Matt Birk.  And, as the staffer emphasized, “It wasn’t even close.  Our most significant loss was Birk.  We’re a playoff team if he’s the center.”

Moving forward, now, Juan Castillo is the team’s Offensive Line Coach.

There’s no word what that means for Andy Moeller.

And the team currently doesn’t have a “Running Backs Coach” after the departure of Montgomery.

One thing, for sure…regardless of title, the microscope remains focused on Juan Castillo.

For better or worse, he’s the new scapegoat in town moving forward.

And Baltimore, perhaps like no other city in the country, loves themselves a good old fashioned scapegoat.

Have fun, Juan.

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How are the Ravens and Orioles different?  You’ll see today at 10:00 am

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How are the Ravens and Orioles different? You’ll see today at 10:00 am

Posted on 08 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

Of all the days that separate the two professional sports teams in Baltimore, today is the one that stands out the most.

No games get played.

No one wins.  No one loses.

No players signed.  No money spent.

Today is the day that tells you everything you need to know about the Ravens — and at the same time, reminds you of what you already knew about the Orioles.

Some might also consider that today shows why one of the teams is a perennial winner and the other isn’t.

This morning at 10:00 am, the football team will hold its annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at their facility in Owings Mills.  They don’t do this occasionally.  They don’t do it only after a successful season.  Since Steve Bisciotti assumed full control of the team, they’ve hosted this event every year a week or two after the season concludes.

It’s called, in a word, “accountability”.

The Ravens ooze it.

The Orioles need a transfusion of it.

The only person who faces the media regularly for the Orioles is Buck Showalter, and that’s typically only in pre-game or post-game form.  Buck hasn’t had any sort of pre-season en-masse sitdown with the Baltimore media since he took the job and, likewise, hasn’t had a post-season presser for the media in town to pepper him with questions about the season.  That said, I bet you anything you want that Showalter would gladly sit down with the media if presented the option of doing so without the natural interference provided by the stuffed suits at OPACY.

Dan Duquette hasn’t had a press conference – other than when he was hired – in…well…ummm…forever.

Hilarious, right?

Repeat this to yourself at least once to completely absorb the amazing lack of responsibility on behalf of Orioles management: Dan Duquette is entering his third season with the Orioles and he’s never, once, faced the Baltimore press corps for a “bring it on” press conference where we’re all allowed to ask questions about the way the baseball franchise is run.

Go ahead, read that again.  Unreal.  Right?

This, of course, is in direct contrast to the Ravens, who will welcome any and all media members into their house today and allow questions to be thrown at Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh.

None of the questions will be dodged, unless some goof in the room says something like, “Yeah, this is for Ozzie.  Are you guys interested in trading for Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars?  He’s really good you know.”  Ozzie, of course, can’t answer any question about a player currently under contract with another team.  But he’ll answer any other REAL questions thrown his way today.

There’s no list of “off-limits-topics” distributed beforehand.  And, unlike the Orioles, who specialize in not allowing their critics to question them, the Ravens don’t “hand-pick” who is allowed in the room and who asks questions and who doesn’t.

The Orioles are so afraid of their critics they take away their press credentials and display a picture of the suspect at the main entrance behind home plate the same way the FBI posts pictures of their Most Wanted List in post offices.

The Ravens say, “Come on in, everyone, and ask whatever you want.”

The Orioles say, “You — you, right there.  You can come in.  You, though, you can’t come in.”

Accountability.  It’s what fuels today’s “State of the Ravens” gathering.

As long time Ravens P.R. Vice President Kevin Byrne said to me once, “We like this sort of review.  We appreciate the questions and the challenges.  We constantly evaluate ourselves.  We’re not worried about having people ask us why we do what we do.”

After the press conference, all four of the men will routinely hang around for some “off-the-record” discussions in the event you wanted to press an issue that was touched upon during the “open” portion of the event.

Yes, it’s true.  Steve Bisciotti simply stands in the corner and you ask him whatever you want.  One year, I asked him, simply, “How much money did the team make this past season?”  And, he stood right there and answered it.

Can you imagine asking Peter Angelos that question?

Wait — can you imagine Peter making himself AVAILABLE, first of all?  Then, what if that question got posed to him?  You can only imagine the result.

(Please see next page)

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