Everywhere I went on Monday, the question was basically the same: “What’s wrong with the Ravens?”
A few folks who asked that of me quickly followed up with, “You shouldn’t be this bad a year after winning the Super Bowl.”
Well, what’s wrong with the Ravens is, in fact, a by-product of winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans last February.
The 2013 edition of John Harbaugh’s team isn’t the same one that won the title in 2012. Simple, right? Well, yes, it sort of IS that simple, actually, even though people are always trying to find the “hidden secret” or “untold story” of the team.
Try this simple exercise for a second. You’re going to have to put your pre-conceived negative opinions of John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice on the side for a moment, because this little game won’t work if you can’t do that.
I want you to rewind your brain all the way back to last January. The Ravens have just finished 10-6, won the AFC North, and get to take on the Colts in the first round of the playoffs. If they win there, their “prize” is a trip to Denver to take on a Peyton Manning team that rocked you in Baltimore a month earlier. And, if you’re somehow fortunate enough to get past the Broncos, the last remaining hurdle between you and the Super Bowl is a visit to Tom Brady’s house in Foxboro.
Still with me?
OK — the week before the Colts game, a crippling virus races through the Ravens locker room and these ten players are deemed OUT for the remainder of the playoffs: Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Dannell Ellerbe, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbedejo, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams and Dennis Pitta. Add Bryant McKinnie to the mix after Monday’s trade and that makes eleven key players gone. (Keep in mind, as much as people like to beat up McKinnie, the Ravens are 0-2 since they jettisoned him to the bench in favor of Eugene Monroe.)
Could the Ravens have won four straight games in January and February without those eleven players a year ago?
Of course not. They wouldn’t have moved past Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs given those ten starters missing the game due to the mythical “virus” I described above.
Well — of those eleven players I listed, nine of them were STARTERS from a year ago who haven’t played a single down for the Ravens this season. McKinnie played 5 of 7 games before they sent him packing on Monday afternoon.
Of the players listed above, only Dennis Pitta remains on the roster, and he’s injured and was unavailable through seven games of 2013.
If you’re looking for the biggest reason why the Ravens are 3-4 at the bye, you just saw ten of them above. There are, generally speaking, 22 “starters” in any game. Ayanbedejo wasn’t technically a starter, but he WAS a special teams ace, so I deem him to be an important cog in the machine. So, ten starters – out of 22 – are gone. That’s not quite 50%, but it’s a huge chunk of quality missing that needed to be replaced.
(Please see next page)