Tag Archive | "Steve Bisciotti"

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Ravens to announce concession price reductions at M&T Bank Stadium

Posted on 15 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Continuing their efforts to reconnect with a disenchanted fan base, the Ravens will lower concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of the 2018 season.

Team president Dick Cass will discuss the details of the changes during a Thursday press conference at the stadium. The move follows owner Steve Bisciotti’s suggestion that the Ravens could follow in the footsteps of the Atlanta Falcons, who lowered food and drink prices by 50 percent and still saw fans spend more money on concessions in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium last year.

One of the obstacles to such a move was the organization’s contract with Aramark, the concessions vendor at M&T Bank Stadium.

“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” said Bisciotti in early February. “I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waving. I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”

The Ravens have been aggressive responding to the increasing number of empty seats at home games last season, putting individual game tickets on sale earlier than ever this year and continuing their $120 million stadium renovations project that will include escalators and more elevators being installed. Select fans and sponsors have also been invited to take part in question-and-answer sessions with the team’s brass this offseason.

Much frustration stems from Baltimore missing the playoffs four times in the last five seasons, but a vocal portion of the fan base also took issue with the dozen or so Ravens players who knelt during the national anthem when the team played in London last Sept. 24. The declining attendance last season prompted Cass to write a letter to personal seat license holders in which he acknowledged the protest being a factor in fans staying away from games.

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First-round quarterback would cap disappointing finish to Newsome era

Posted on 25 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will get the benefit of the doubt until they turn in their card late Thursday night.

Whether staying at 16th overall or moving elsewhere in the first round, Ozzie Newsome has a variety of directions he can go in the final draft of his Hall of Fame-caliber run as general manager that includes two Super Bowl titles and 10 playoff appearances in 22 years.

Despite signing three veteran wide receivers this offseason, Baltimore needs a pass-catching tight end and could still use another receiver with upside for both the present and future. After losing two starters from last year’s offensive line, a tackle such as Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or even center Frank Ragnow from Arkansas would make sense despite neither being a sexy pick for an anxious fan base.

You could try to sell me on not being able to resist a special defensive talent such as Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith somehow sliding down the board, even if that would continue the post-Super Bowl XLVII theme of neglecting the offensive side of the ball. These are the defense-obsessed Ravens, after all, so that wouldn’t be all that stunning.

But a quarterback in the first round?

Nope.

Absolutely not.

Sorry, that’s a hard pass.

As owner Steve Bisciotti famously said in February, the Ravens have “bigger fish to fry.”

Yet the smoke persists with NFL Network’s Mike Mayock becoming the latest draft maven to mock Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to the Ravens at No. 16. It’s one thing when a run-of-the-mill reporter or draft enthusiast makes the connection in the hundreds of mock drafts currently circulating the internet, but the likes of Mayock and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer are connected throughout the league. At the very least, the Ravens are making it appear that they’re seriously considering drafting Joe Flacco’s heir apparent in the first round as Jackson reportedly even took a pre-draft visit to Baltimore.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-Jackson stance. The former Heisman Trophy winner is an intriguing talent who has a chance to be a good NFL quarterback if he lands in the right environment, the same caveat that applies to other high-profile signal-callers in this year’s draft class.

Putting aside the warm-and-fuzzy narrative of Newsome taking the Ravens’ quarterback of the future in his final draft, let’s look at reality.

With Bisciotti admitting he considered replacing John Harbaugh at the end of last season, do you think the 11th-year head coach and his staff are going to be receptive to a first-round pick unlikely to make any meaningful impact this year when they’re in win-now mode and very likely fighting for their jobs after missing the playoffs three straight times? That puts them in an unfair position.

No matter how they spin it, taking a first-round quarterback would be a clear message that the Ravens are done with Flacco. You can point to the final year of the Alex Smith-Kansas City marriage that resulted in a trip to the playoffs as much as you’d like, but we still have no idea if Patrick Mahomes will work out for Andy Reid and the Chiefs, making that a flimsy example to use as justification.

In today’s NFL, the benefit of hitting on a quarterback in the draft is the flexibility it provides with the salary cap, but the Ravens will have essentially wasted the first year of that rookie contract and would still be dealing with $16 million in dead money on the 2019 cap by cutting Flacco next offseason. Sure, you could give his release a post-June 1 designation to push $8 million of that dead money to 2020, but that does you no good during free agency, meaning you’ve now minimized the benefits of the second season of that four-year rookie contract. That’s not a good start, and that’s assuming Jackson or whichever first-round quarterback you’d like to envision actually pans out.

Beyond those realities, does the current regime really deserve to reboot at the quarterback position yet? Why should the Ravens be trusted to build around another quarterback when they’ve done such a dismal job putting talent around the one who led them to their second NFL championship five years ago?

And please spare me the talk about Flacco’s contract.

The Ravens rank last in the NFL in non-quarterback money invested in the offensive side of the ball, according to OverTheCap.com. They’ve used just four of their 17 total picks in the first, second, and third rounds of the last five drafts on offensive players while attempting to recreate the 2000 defense with underwhelming results.

Since investing nine figures in the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player, the Ravens have consistently asked Flacco to do more with less than virtually any quarterback in the NFL.

To be clear, Flacco has underperformed and needs to own his share of the team’s shortcomings like anyone else, including the front office and coaching staff. There are legitimate reasons to doubt his future, ranging from his steadily-declining yards per attempt to concerns about his durability as he enters his mid-30s.

The end could very well be near for Flacco.

But the Ravens owe it to themselves and to their longtime quarterback to put their best foot forward for 2018 in Newsome’s final draft. They’ve hired a new quarterbacks coach in James Urban, who has a good reputation around the league and will hopefully address Flacco’s mechanics that have regressed since Gary Kubiak’s departure three years ago. Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead are each coming off down seasons, but they bring diverse skills to the passing game and have all tasted NFL success to varying degrees in the past. Investing meaningful draft picks on the offensive side of the ball would put the finishing touches on an offseason in which the Ravens brass can at least say they made more of an attempt to help Flacco than the usual dollar-store signings and Day 3 draft picks of recent years.

If he shows no meaningful improvement in 2018 from what we’ve seen the last few years, I’ll be the first to say it’s time to move on. New general manager Eric DeCosta can then begin his own quest for a new quarterback as the organization would likely be in transition in more ways than one.

This isn’t a special case like the New York Giants having the second overall pick and wondering if they’ll have another golden opportunity to replace their aging quarterback. The Ravens are picking in the middle of the first round and would be taking the fourth- or fifth-ranked quarterback in the class at best. Starting over by drafting a quarterback is never a high-percentage play and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially when you’d be moving on from someone who once got you to the pinnacle when he had enough talent around him.

Newsome taking a quarterback Thursday would essentially be letting Flacco take the fall for his own shortcomings in recent years.

I’m still not buying it being the Ravens’ true play, but such an outcome would cap a lackluster finish to his long and successful run as general manager.

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Ravens restructure Brandon Williams’ deal to create cap space

Posted on 15 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Owner Steve Bisciotti mentioned last month the possibility of restructuring defensive tackle Brandon Williams’s contract to create salary cap space, and the Ravens have followed through on that.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, Baltimore has converted $7.5 million of Williams’ $8.5 million base salary for the 2018 season into a bonus, an accounting maneuver that creates $5.625 million in cap room. It’s the second time the Ravens have restructured the sixth-year defensive lineman’s five-year, $52.5 million contract signed only last March.

NFL Players Association records indicated the Ravens entered Thursday with $12.898 million in cap space, but that was before the free-agent signings of wide receivers Ryan Grant and John Brown became official. Grant agreed to a reported four-year, $29.5 million contract while Brown is receiving a reported one-year, $5 million deal, meaning their additions will eat up a sizable portion of that cap room.

The downside of the Williams restructure is the long-term consequence of increasing cap numbers for the remaining three years of the agreement after 2018. Williams, 29, will carry a $5.92 million cap number this season, but each of the next three seasons now carry cap figures north of $14 million.

For those originally on the fence about the Ravens investing so much in a run-stopping defensive tackle who hasn’t offered much as a pass rusher in his career, these cap ramifications for a player who will soon be on the wrong side of 30 aren’t exactly ideal. But it’s the cost of doing business when you’re tight against the cap and want to make additions to your current roster.

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Ravens still paying for past mistakes at start of free agency

Posted on 13 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Owner Steve Bisciotti declared last month that the Ravens could “make a splash” to improve one of the NFL’s worst passing attacks, but it was always going to need to come at their price.

Free agency hasn’t yet officially begun, but dreams of a discounted rate for a high-impact wide receiver like Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins are long gone as both agreed to deals for a combined $55 million in guarantees. Former Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham is going to Green Bay. Even second- and third-tier free-agent receivers such as Paul Richardson and Albert Wilson are fetching deals with an average annual value of $8 million despite underwhelming production in their careers.

If the Ravens wanted to hand out a contract or two along those lines — many of them aren’t exactly looking wise — entering the week with less than $5 million in salary cap space left them in poor position. And as Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer noted, the popular three-year structure being used in many deals this offseason makes it difficult for a cap-strapped team to spread out high guarantees and keep a free agent’s 2018 cap number affordable.

That isn’t an excuse, but it serves as a reminder that the Ravens continue to pay for past mistakes that have piled up since Super Bowl XLVII. And it’s why fixing their passing attack in one offseason isn’t going to be easy. Yes, these free-agent prices have looked outrageous, but Baltimore hasn’t shown the ability — or used the necessary resources — to draft and develop its own receivers over the years, either, meaning something has to give at some point.

To their credit, the Ravens have spent to the salary cap on an annual basis, but how they’ve used it is certainly open to criticism as too many back-loaded deals and veteran restructures have frequently left them in tight spots. It’s a vicious cycle that’s contributed to the current era of mediocrity, leaving one to wonder if some type of reset is needed sooner than later. Of course, try selling that strategy to John Harbaugh and his staff, who are likely coaching for their jobs after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

Joe Flacco’s biggest critics will point solely to his $24.75 million cap figure and label the remainder of his lucrative contract as holding the roster hostage. Of course, they’d be overlooking the fact that the Ravens felt compelled to give a box safety (Tony Jefferson) a $34 million contract last offseason when it was clear the offense was what needed more help, just a recent example of that side of the ball being neglected in favor of the defense. Two of the three modest veteran additions (running back Danny Woodhead and right tackle Austin Howard) made to the offense last year have already been jettisoned with the other (wide receiver Jeremy Maclin) possibly going next, illustrating the minimal impact they made.

Only four of Baltimore’s 17 combined picks in the first three rounds of the last five drafts have been used on offensive players with all four of their Day 1 and Day 2 selections last year spent on defense. Exactly one of those four offensive picks — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — has panned out with wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams standing out as major disappointments at positions of great need. Making matters worse, several of those early picks on defense didn’t pan out, either, which compelled general manager Ozzie Newsome to pump even more resources into positions like safety.

The Ravens did re-sign offensive lineman James Hurst on Monday, but it’s difficult selling that move as a positive after the decision to cut Howard, who was solid at right tackle last season. Neither Hurst nor Alex Lewis is a proven starter at the position, creating another question mark on offense to go with the gaping holes at wide receiver and tight end. And should center Ryan Jensen receive the lucrative deal elsewhere that many are predicting, it would mark the third straight offseason in which the Ravens have lost an above-average offensive lineman in free agency.

When you haven’t spent major free-agent money or used meaningful draft capital on your offense, what exactly do you really expect from Flacco, who clearly has his own flaws?

Perhaps this offseason and this draft will be different. A number of marquee free agents have already come off the board, but potential value remains and some cap casualties are still to come with Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson being the latest cut loose on Tuesday. Maybe the organization will actually focus on the offense for this year’s draft and hit on multiple picks in a way similar to how New Orleans reversed its fortunes last year.

It’s only mid-March and much will happen between now and the start of the season, but the Ravens’ needs are too great and their resources too limited to simply trust that everything will be OK.

Too many mistakes in recent years leave them no longer enjoying the benefit of the doubt like they once did.

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How did Ravens quarterbacks stack up to rest of NFL in 2017?

Posted on 08 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens failed to make the postseason for the fourth time in five years, but where exactly did their players stack up across the NFL in 2017?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few put in the necessary time and effort to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop any kind of an authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Los Angeles Chargers this season? What about the Detroit Lions linebackers or the Miami Dolphins cornerbacks?

That’s why I can appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither should be viewed as the gospel of evaluation and each is subjective, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis. It’s important to note that the following PFF rankings are where the player stood at the conclusion of the regular season.

Below is a look at where Ravens quarterbacks ranked across the league, according to those outlets:

Running backs
Defensive linemen
Tight ends
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Inside linebackers
Offensive linemen
Safeties

Joe Flacco
2017 offensive snap count: 1,027
NFL1000 ranking: 27th
PFF ranking: 23rd
Skinny: A herniated disc suffered in the summer preceded one of the worst seasons of Flacco’s career as he finished last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.7) and yards per completion (8.9). However, he posted a 91.4 passer rating with nine touchdowns and two interceptions over the final five games.

Ryan Mallett
2017 offensive snap count: 59
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: If Flacco’s back was as big of an issue as his early play reflected and Steve Bisciotti recently suggested, you’d like to have had a backup who could have been a viable option to fill in for a few weeks. Mallett’s summer play made it clear the Ravens need to upgrade this spot, most likely through the draft.

2018 positional outlook

There’s no point in belaboring Flacco’s numbers as he was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league from a statistical standpoint and needed a strong finish just to avoid 2017 being the worst season of his career. The real — and complicated — issue is determining how much his play through the first 11 games of the season was a product of his health, conservative coaching, the dearth of skill-position talent around him, and his own regression as his yards per attempt and yards per completion dropped for the third straight year. The only prudent course of action this offseason is to upgrade the skill-position spots and hope the 33-year-old responds favorably to new quarterbacks coach James Urban and stays healthy enough to bounce back. If the Ravens do improve the offensive talent and Flacco still doesn’t show meaningful improvement, significant changes could be on the table as soon as next winter.

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Newsome to still hold “significant position” with Ravens after 2018 season

Posted on 03 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The morning after the announcement that Eric DeCosta would take over as general manager in 2019, Ozzie Newsome reiterated that he won’t be leaving the Ravens anytime soon.

The longtime general manager will remain with the organization in a title yet to be determined.

“I will remain as the Ravens’ general manager through the 2018 season and continue my role directing free agency and the draft,” Newsome said in a statement released by the Ravens on Saturday. “After that, Eric will take over as our general manager and assume all the duties that come with that, including heading our personnel department and directing free agency and the draft.

“I plan to remain with the Ravens in a significant position in personnel and help us win more Super Bowls. We have planned this succession over the last five years.”

Owner Steve Bisciotti said Friday that Newsome received a five-year contract extension after the 2013 season that included the transfer of the general manager title to DeCosta after 2018. The owner quipped that his two-time Super Bowl-winning general manager would then become “the highest-paid scout in America” while helping with the transition to his lieutenant.

DeCosta has received countless inquiries from other teams over the years with the Green Bay Packers most recently expressing interest in him becoming their general manager last month. The 46-year-old began working for the Ravens in their inaugural season in Baltimore in 1996 and was named assistant general manager in 2012.

“I think he’s learned from Ozzie,” Bisciotti said. “I think he’s a great leader of the scouts. It’s Ozzie’s department, but most of the interaction with all the scouts is with Eric. I have seen the way he goes about the business. I have seen the way he has embraced technology and analytics, and I like working with him.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Steve Bisciotti’s press conference

Posted on 03 February 2018 by Luke Jones

With Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti holding his season-review press conference on Friday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The news of the day was Bisciotti revealing Ozzie Newsome would step down as general manager after 2018 with Eric DeCosta then taking over. Newsome doesn’t like the limelight and did release a statement confirming he’d retain a “significant” role, but he should have been the one to announce this.

2. Meanwhile, Bisciotti admitted firing John Harbaugh was a “consideration” after the season, but the owner refused to give a “playoffs or bust” edict for 2018. I respect that, but you’d think it would take some extreme circumstances to preserve Harbaugh’s job if Baltimore misses the postseason again.

3. It’s telling that Bisciotti remains steadfast to the long-term plan of DeCosta taking over as general manager while Harbaugh’s seat appears so warm, especially when looking at the lack of playmakers and underwhelming drafts in recent years that haven’t exactly helped the 53-man roster.

4. Beyond the Newsome news, Bisciotti acknowledging the loss of heralded scouts like Joe Douglas having a harmful effect was arguably the most significant nugget. The Ravens have developed many great scouts over the years, but infusing some experienced eyes from outside the organization wouldn’t hurt.

5. I haven’t put much stock into the narrative of the coaching staff having too much influence on recent drafts, but Bisciotti’s theory that the Ravens have “over-analyzed” their top 60 prospects in recent drafts with too many opinions is interesting. Is he talking about the scouts, the coaches, or both?

6. Bisciotti saying he has “bigger fish to fry” than finding Joe Flacco’s successor should squash notions of the Ravens drafting a quarterback early. It’s the only logical way to proceed now, but the clock is ticking before it becomes possible to cut him starting next year and especially after 2019.

7. I buy Flacco’s injured back being a major detriment to his play early in the season, but color me skeptical hearing Bisciotti say the offseason focus will be on acquiring weapons for the quarterback. Perhaps it’s fitting this presser took place on Groundhog Day since we’ve heard that one before.

8. Bisciotti comparing the losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati the last two seasons to Jacoby Jones’ touchdown against Denver falls flat when considering these defeats occurred in the regular season — not the divisional round. The “we’re close” narrative conveniently overlooks all the mediocrity leading up to those defining moments.

9. As the owner noted, the Ravens aren’t going 4-12 every season and remain competitive, but I couldn’t help but recall the days when Bisciotti would dwell on his team not securing enough home playoff games. In that context, it’s difficult not to feel the standard has diminished recently.

10. Baltimore is again tight against the salary cap, but the mention of restructuring Brandon Williams’ contract isn’t ideal when the 29-year-old already has scheduled cap figures north of $12 million from 2019-21. This practice typically results in diminished value from otherwise-still-productive veterans having cap numbers that are too expensive.

11. Bisciotti bristled at questions about the Ravens being stagnant and at a crossroads, but missing the playoffs four out of five years, a pending general manager change, a coach on the hot seat, an under-producing quarterback with recent health concerns, and declining attendance pretty much speak for themselves, don’t they?

12. Bisciotti deserves credit for answering questions and reaffirmed his passion for owning the Ravens. There’s work to do on and off the field, but fans should be encouraged to hear he’ll be around for the “foreseeable future” as owner. Old Colts fans can remind you the grass isn’t always greener.

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Ravens owner Bisciotti scheduled to meet with media next Friday

Posted on 26 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The annual “State of the Ravens” press conference will apparently be a solo act this year.

Owner Steve Bisciotti will meet with reporters in Owings Mills next Friday afternoon, but a release announcing the press conference made no mention of team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, or head coach John Harbaugh being available as in past years. This is the latest the Ravens have held their season-ending press conference after a non-playoff season during the Harbaugh era, but the head coach did meet with reporters several days after the shocking season-ending loss to Cincinnati.

With there being thousands of empty seats for games at M&T Bank Stadium this past season, Cass would likely be a more popular target for questions than in past years. Newsome has never been one to regularly talk to the media and is expected to be available at next month’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, but he hasn’t taken part in a press conference with local reporters since Jacoby Jones’ retirement ceremony in late September and hadn’t fielded questions before then since the final day of the 2017 draft.

Perhaps we’ll see a blunter version of Bisciotti without him being flanked by the rest of the team’s brass during the press conference, but it’s certainly interesting to see the Ravens deviate from their typical structure after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

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Five years later, the magic of Purple Reign 2 and Ravens Super Bowl title revisited

Posted on 11 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Prologue:

Here we go again, Baltimore!

 

 

May 14, 2013

 

When I wrote “Purple Reign: Diary Of A Raven Maniac” in March 2001, it was no less than a small civic miracle that the Baltimore Ravens even existed. Given what our community had been through trying to get back into the NFL after the departure of Bob Irsay and the Mayflower van exodus of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis on that snowy night of March 28, 1984, just having an NFL team was a victory in itself. This is sometimes lost on the younger generation of fans in Baltimore and should never be forgotten.

The ensuing hostage situation involving civic money, stadiums, lawyers, lawsuits, a private-mostly-old-boys-club of NFL owners, and the expansion charade that Paul Tagliabue presided over in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was as big a part of the story for anyone who loves Baltimore, loved the Colts, or was falling in love with the Ravens. As an aside, two decades later the choice of Jacksonville and Charlotte look fairly dubious as NFL hot spots despite the insistence of The Sun King that Baltimore was unworthy and should consider building a museum.

Anyone who is over the age of 40 would tell you that they spent long stretches of their lives from 1984 through 1995 believing that Baltimore would never get an NFL team again. The odds were so slim that I went so far as to say on my radio show in 1993 that I’d run naked down Pratt Street if NFL football ever returned to Charm City. And, yes, you can google my name, “Nasty” and “naked run” to see that I pretty much paid up on the wager in the spring of 1996 after Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore to become the Ravens. I must warn you – it’s not a pretty sight, me running through rush hour traffic in tighty-whiteys taking $10 bills from cabbies who wanted to donate to the charity run.

I declared it a civic miracle that Baltimore got a team – and it really was. To think that all of the political machinations that ended with John Moag, building on the efforts of Herb Belgrad and the fading dream of outgoing governor William Donald Schaefer, succeeded in bringing the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore by offering Arthur B. Modell and his family a bigger, better deal is still the greatest “tipping point” event of my life. I’ll never forget that day and the promise that it brought to my life as a Baltimore sports radio personality and wannabe-entrepreneur.

I had faith. I was purple when purple wasn’t cool.

The Modell family brought football to Baltimore and allowed me to shed every piece of Houston Oilers’ gear I’d ever owned and loved.

The marriage between the Ravens and Baltimore gave my career life, my family the ability to hope, launch, grow and build WNST AM-1570 & WNST.net in 1998. It also landed me a nationally syndicated radio program for three years on Sporting News Radio that included the Ravens’ 2001 Super Bowl win. And it’s allowed me to follow my childhood dream to be a sports writer in my hometown in the modern era of social media. I love Baltimore sports as much as you do, and I’ve devoted my life to chronicling it.

You are holding a book that took 100 days to write, but 17 years to research and about 29 years to live. The championship was a gift to me, and I felt a calling to write about it and you’re holding the result.

And this miracle gift of NFL football in Baltimore that was willed to exist by a toxic stew of money, lawyers, lies, covert meetings, politicians, local business, fans, television, and a roomful of really wealthy white men over the past 40 years has given our sports community the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s kinda like sausage: you really don’t want to know how it’s made.

Since 1958, Baltimore has won five NFL titles via the Colts and Ravens and three World Series via the Orioles.

I’m about to enter my 30th year on the Baltimore sports media scene that began in 1984 at The News American, and I’ve never seen a bigger – or better – local sports story than this unlikely Super Bowl run of the 2012 Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis marching the Lombardi Trophy through the streets of downtown amidst 250,000 people near the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards.

Here’s the truth: this book you’re about to read was an absolute labor of love because these stories jumped off the lips of those who gave me access and honesty from inside and outside the Baltimore Ravens organization. There aren’t enough pages in this book to express how grateful I am to have been involved in chronicling all of these Ravens games over the years. For better or worse, it’s defined my life and my career. And this book is the most important project of my career.

And my first question to virtually every person in February and March 2013 in researching this book was: “What were the most important decisions that led to a Super Bowl 47 win?”

I got a myriad of different answers:

 

  • The Ray Lewis last ride inspired the team
  • Joe Flacco emerged and was flawless in the playoffs & Super Bowl
  • Cam Cameron was fired
  • Jim Caldwell took over the play calling
  • Terrell Suggs coming back allowed Paul Kruger to rush the passer
  • Corey Graham could actually play cornerback in the NFL
  • Justin Tucker was a better kicker than Billy Cundiff
  • Anquan Boldin caught big passes down the stretch
  • Having Bryant McKinnie play well at left tackle and moving Michael Oher to right tackle gave Joe Flacco time and confidence to throw
  • Jacoby Jones made big plays all year

 

These are the obvious strategic and emotional issues that led to the team winning in December and January on the field, but there were thousands of decisions made off the field dating all the way back to the day that Ozzie

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Ravens still sounding too comfortable until they prove otherwise

Posted on 04 January 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A few summers ago, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh walked to the interview podium wearing a shirt with an appropriate slogan for a sweltering training camp practice.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Many are wondering if the Ravens are just plain comfortable these days despite having missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. Harbaugh’s decision to retain offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg certainly doesn’t do anything to debunk that perception. We may never know if the Ravens might have even retained defensive coordinator Dean Pees had he not chosen to retire.

Having just finished his first decade in Baltimore, Harbaugh began Thursday’s press conference not by lamenting his team not being good enough in 2017, but he instead expressed deep pride in his players’ hard work to be the best they could be. That’s a noble sentiment and not necessarily untrue, but it’s not the opening message your fan base wants to hear four days after one of the biggest collapses and worst home losses in team history. This is a results-driven business in which praise for hard work and doing your best rings hollow when you fail in such a crucial situation.

Announcing he was retaining Mornhinweg made it even worse.

“I believe in these coaches. I understand the job that they did this year because I see it close up,” said Harbaugh, who cited the the Ravens being the second-highest scoring team in the NFL after their bye week. “I think our offense made a heck of a lot of progress, especially considering the adversity that we faced and the challenges we were up against this year. That’s why we are rolling.”

Of course, the passing game being the worst in the NFL through the first three months of the season was a major reason why the Ravens needed to win six of their last seven games to make the playoffs. Let’s also not overlook the first half of Sunday’s game when the offense had seven straight three-and-outs and managed only two first downs to contribute to a double-digit deficit against Cincinnati. It’s no secret the Ravens didn’t exactly play a whopper of a schedule after the bye week either. Even as Joe Flacco showed much-needed improvement down the stretch, there were still plenty of head-scratching calls to point to.

Mornhinweg certainly dealt with difficult circumstances, ranging from the front office’s lack of commitment to improving the offense in the offseason to Flacco’s summer back injury and Marshal Yanda’s season-ending ankle fracture in Week 3. But does the December improvement and his overall body of work that began as the quarterbacks coach in 2015 — the first of three straight seasons in which Flacco’s yards per attempt rate has dropped — provide enough justification to retain him for another season?

Making matters more unsettling, the Ravens could lose senior offensive assistant and run-game guru Greg Roman, who is not under contract for 2018 and could garner consideration as an offensive coordinator elsewhere. His departure would renew fears about a ground attack that improved markedly this season after being woefully inadequate the previous two seasons under Marc Trestman and then Mornhinweg. A fair argument could be made to promote Roman and hire an outsider to work with Flacco and oversee the passing game, but the status quo will instead remain at the coordinator spot.

Is it continuity or complacency?

Let’s not forget this is the same head coach and organization that fired their offensive coordinator when the Ravens were 9-4 and already a safe bet to make the playoffs in mid-December of 2012. If you’re not going to shake things up after missing the postseason for the third straight year, when will you again?

Regardless of who’s calling the plays as the offensive coordinator, Harbaugh knows the Ravens must add playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Criticize Mornhinweg all you want, but having to count on the likes of Michael Campanaro and Quincy Adeboyejo with your season on the line isn’t exactly giving a coach a great chance to succeed.

“I think if anyone looks at the needs on our team, that’s where we’re going to be looking to fill our roster,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not giving away any secret there. Everybody in the league knows that. We have to do that.”

The problem is you could have pulled that same quote from 2013 or 2014 or 2015 or last year. That’s where the front office and scouting department come into the picture and must own their shortcomings.

After again pumping most of their resources into the defense last offseason, will general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens finally change up their post-Super Bowl XLVII approach or offer more of the same? Will this organization do something to finally address its blind spot at the wide receiver position? Or will they stick with what’s comfortable?

You’d think jobs are depending on it, but many assumed that to be the case a year ago.

Those fans demanding a pound of flesh were likely always going to be disappointed short of owner Steve Bisciotti waking up on New Year’s Day and electing to clean house, but there’s still little evidence of a renewed sense of urgency after another January that will be spent watching the playoffs at home. The Ravens can’t keep using the “one play away” argument and expect their fans to buy it, evident by the thousands of empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium down the stretch.

Now 40-40 with only one playoff win since raising the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans 59 months ago, Harbaugh still looked and sounded quite comfortable at the podium on Thursday, evident by the lack of changes to his staff.

It will now be up to the front office to change the Ravens’ perception to offer fans more hope for 2018 and beyond.

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