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Random Ravens Thoughts 12-26-18

Posted on 26 December 2018 by Dennis Koulatsos

Just a couple of weeks ago the Baltimore Ravens were given around a 4% chance of making the NFL playoffs, and lo and behold now here they are on the doorstep of not only getting in by beating the Cleveland Browns, but also in great position to win the division and earn a home playoff game.

One of the funny things – and believe you me, there’s no shortage of funny things surrounding this team right now – is the notion locally and nationally that this team can’t win with this “gimmicky” offense.  It reminds me of back in the day when Ray Lewis and the Ravens faced Miami with their version of a gimmicky offense which came in the form of the Wildcat formation.  After easily disposing of the Dolphins, Lewis quipped “that no matter what, it’s still football.”

What the 1st ballot Hall of Famer was talking about is that no matter how you scheme it up, it still comes down to blocking and tackling. It still comes down to one on one matchups. It’s a simple game.  Win those matchups, win the game.  And that is exactly what the Ravens are doing, right now.

Chargers’ coach Anthony Lynn said as much after the post game rubble he was standing in that the Ravens had left.  He said they got outplayed and got outcoached.  The most noteworthy thing he said was that the Chargers didn’t see anything from the Ravens that they hadn’t seen before, and that they hadn’t seen anything that they weren’t expecting.  It was all right there, on film, on the field, right in front of them.  They simply couldn’t stop them.

That’s the beauty of the current edition of the Baltimore Ravens.  They run a very simple offense, and they execute the heck out of it.  It’s just a handful of plays, disguised by different sets and multiple players in motion.  It causes linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks to pause and look to see where the ball is, often confused by where the ball is going.

Defenses are built on read and react principles, and they are having a hard time of doing just that against the Ravens.  Much has been made that mercurial rookie QB Lamar Jackson forces defenses to play 11 on 10 football, versus the traditional 11 on 11.  It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them.  If they key in on Jackson too much, then bruising backs Gus Edwards and Ken Dixon gain chunk yards between the tackles.  Focus on the backs, and they risk Jackson going around the end for big gains.

And then there’s the play action passes, when Jackson pulls the ball out and surveys the field.  It is truly rare to see a rookie QB with his eyes downfield, but Jackson has done this since day one.  That’s a skill that takes some time to develop, and lots of QBs never develop it.  In terms of Jackson’s future and continued growth, the fact that he has this skill in spades bodes well for him as well as the organization.

Jackson has developed good rapport with all of the receivers, particularly Willie Snead and Mark Andrews.  He’s also shown the ability to deliver crisp, on target passes across the middle. That’s where most interceptions in the NFL occur.  It’s usually late throws across the middle, and Jackson thus far has excelled in that area.

Of course pundits are quick to point out that Jackson is prone to put the ball on the ground, but he also recovers about 70% of those fumbles.  He’s also shown a penchant for shaking off not only fumbles and interceptions, coming back to make big plays.  His short term memory in regards to making mistakes also serves him well.

The Ravens have a big time game coming up against the Browns, who are also on a hot streak right now.  I watched their last game, in which they disposed the Jeff Driskell led Bengals in a workman like fashion.  It wasn’t much of a game, as the Browns dominated in every phase. It looked to me like the Bengals had packed it in for the season.

It was also a home game for the Browns, and they had that going for them.  Baker Mayfield looked good at times and like a rookie QB at others.  He made some gains with his feet, buying some time to find open receivers as well as tucking the ball in and taking off with it downfield.  He is barely 6 feet tall and he had a couple of passes batted down.

His frequent  targets were WR Rashard Higgins and TE David Njoku.  Jarvis Landry and Breshad Perriman also contributed but to a lesser extent.  Nick Chubb is a handful at running back, and that’s the one player I am sure that the Ravens defense will focus on taking away.  Chubb and Njoku are the keys to that offense, and who the Ravens defense needs to pay particular attention to.

Much of the credit for the Browns’ dramatic turnaround this season not only goes to their interim head coach Gregg Williams, but to their offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.  His offense has been very creative, productive and overall fun to watch.  Kitchens has done such a good job, that his name is emerging as a head coach candidate for many of the jobs that are going to be open at the end of the season.

He uses RB Duke Johnson very creatively in the run and pass game, as well as Jarvis Landry and Breshad Perriman.  In fact, Landry threw a bomb to Perriman on a double reverse.  But going back to what Ray Lewis had said, it’s still football.  The Ravens have to stay discipline, the ends have to stay at home and set the edge, and they will be fine.

As far as the Browns’ defense is concerned, the Bengals had some success running between the tackles with Joe Mixon.  The Browns are 24th in the league against the run, so the Ravens should have continued success running the ball against them.

Back to Baker Mayfield.  At the end of the game versus the Bengals, as he was running off of the field he stared down Hue Jackson for what seemed like an eternity.  It wasn’t exactly a good look for him, and it showed that he still has some immaturity issues that have haunted him throughout his college career.

It’s still early but it looks to me that not only have the Ravens selected the better quarterback, but more importantly the better person.  These two have some history going back to 2016, as Jackson beat Mayfield and Deshaun Watson for the Heisman Trophy.  That one still burns Mayfield for sure, and you can bet he’s going to be fired up to end the Ravens’ season this Sunday.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address coach John Harbaugh and his status with the Ravens.  I thought that Friday’s 7:00 p.m. announcement by the team that he is going to coach the Ravens through 2019 while they mutually worked on a contract extension was brilliant.  Whether they do or not at this point is irrelevant.  Lots of people questioned the timing of the announcement, but I thought it was great.

It accomplished two things.  First, I thought it was a good way to double focus the team the day before a big away game with the Chargers.  It told them that if they had any doubt about Harbaugh and his coaching staff to just get it out of their minds.  More importantly it sent a message to the veteran players that they – not Harbaugh – were playing for their jobs.  They didn’t have to worry about the incoming coach – they had to worry about the current one, not only for this year but the next and even well into the future.

Respected sports journalist Peter King – among others – is still skeptical in regards to Harbaugh’s return to Baltimore as head coach in 2020.  He is of the opinion that Harbaugh – who gets a raise in 2019 and will make in the $8 million range – will play out his contract and see what his options are in 2020.

I certainly don’t share King’s opinion.  John Harbaugh is a smart man, but the Ravens are also a smart organization.  I cannot imagine a scenario where Harbaugh is a lame duck coach next year.  The Ravens will make it a boy or a girl.  It will be one or the other.  Either he signs a long term contract, or they will trade him to a team and receive as much compensation for him as possible.

Harbaugh will agree to that for a number of reasons.  For starters he would be the hottest head coach on the market.  He would be clearly the number 1 candidate on almost any teams’ wish list – this year.  Who knows what the market will be next year and who’ll be available?  Coach will strike while the iron is hot, and he should.

I believe that Harbaugh wants to stay in Baltimore and I believe the owner and front office want to keep him.  The only reason I can see stopping it from happening is if there is additional power that Harbaugh would demand over personnel decisions.  That could end negotiations.  And if that happens, I believe the Ravens would leak out word to the rest of the league that Harbaugh is available, and would seek to trade him to a team they would receive maximum compensation from in the form of draft picks.

That aside, here’s to a victory over the Browns and a long playoff run.  The Ravens have a shot to write history.  It is a long shot, but winning a Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback would be one for the ages.  They have experience, defense, special teams, running game, coaching and momentum to get there.

I don’t know if truly any teams fear them and don’t want to face them, but I do know that they are going to be an awfully tough out.  If in fact they beat the Browns and get into the Super Bowl tournament, history tells us that anything can happen.

 

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 4) – The Dumb Dumb error begins in Baltimore

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 4 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

Chapter 13 is available here.

 

4. The Dumb Dumb error begins in Baltimore

 

“I don’t think any boss, anybody in charge should ever criticize subordinates publicly. That is even in this business here that Frank Sliwka operates [at The Barn in Carney]. If he has a problem with one of the employees I think he should take them in the back room quietly and tell should tell him or her what he objects to. I don’t think anyone should publicly chastise an employee. When you’re a boss you keep that kind of thing to yourself. And that’s what I said to Davey Johnson. And I’ll repeat it again and I’ve told him that since then. He’s a great manager. He’s a great guy. I love him like a brother and we get along fine. Except I’ve said to him, “If you have to criticize someone, you take him in your office, shut the door and let it be between you and the player.”

 – Peter G. Angelos on WWLG Budweiser Sports Forum

March 1997

THERE COULD BE NO ENCORE for an act and a night as emotionally charged as the Cal Ripken 2131 night at Camden Yards in September 1995. Once again, there was no postseason baseball in Baltimore for the 12th consecutive year and Angelos, aided by the immortal Iron Man streak and the intense, family-like local passion for baseball, had enough revenue coming into the franchise to afford any baseball player he wanted in the marketplace. The club was swimming in money vs. its MLB foes. Plus, given his pro-player stance in the contentious labor dispute, many believed the Orioles would be a haven for free agents who wanted to sign with an owner who saw their side and wanted to win and put the best team on the field.

Looking ahead to the 1996 season, Peter G. Angelos was obsessed with one thing: bringing a World Series to Orioles fans.

Immediately following the 1995 campaign, Angelos fired manager Phil Regan and “accepted the resignation” of Roland Hemond, who was actually forced out, along with Frank Robinson, who was glad to leave the Orioles at that point and wound up working for commissioner Bud Selig in the MLB office.

Angelos was clearly running every aspect of the Baltimore Orioles at this point and was quite brazen in the media regarding his daily involvement. He bragged that he had enough time to run a law firm that was netting more than $15 million per year in personal income for him at the time and a MLB team on the side. Now with all of the “baseball people” gone except for his self-appointed farm director Syd Thrift, Angelos needed a new manager and a new general manager. He had already developed quite a reputation in the insulated, incestuous world of baseball men and lifers. He had owned the team for less than 24 months and had already pissed off every one of his 27 MLB partners, upstaged Cal Ripken on the biggest night of his life on national television and chased off two managers and a total of five baseball men: Roland Hemond, Frank Robinson, Doug Melvin, Johnny Oates and Phil Regan. Together they spanned three generations of baseball and touched virtually everyone in the industry with their true stories of an owner who called a manager into his office and demanded – among other things – which third basemen would be in the lineup on any given night.

A year earlier Davey Johnson, a former Orioles second baseman and World Series champion as manager of the 1986 New York Mets, was interviewed by Angelos and his internal committee that included Joe Foss and team lawyer Russell Smouse, but they instead selected Phil Regan, who they thought would be a hot commodity the previous year and whom never was given much of a chance under Angelos.

Johnson, who had a storied reputation for being snarky, cunning and anti-authority, took a shot at Angelos 12 months earlier when he didn’t get the job: “I heard they wanted an experienced manager and a proven winner. That’s why I interviewed for the job. But I guess that’s not what they wanted, right?” he told the media when he was clearly disappointed that he wasn’t selected in October 1994.

Now, after a disastrous year on the field in 1995 under Regan, Johnson’s name surfaced again and Angelos wasted no time in complementing the decorated yet difficult managerial prospect stating, “His baseball knowledge is impressive, and his strong background with the Orioles came through.” Johnson, meanwhile backtracked from any contentiousness in an effort to get the job: “I enjoyed meeting Peter,” he said. “You read stories about the Big Bad Wolf, but he was really nice.”

On October 30, 1995, Johnson was named manager of the Baltimore Orioles, the club’s third skipper in just 18 months under the Angelos regime. “This is a move in the direction of producing a winner,” Angelos said. “We are committed to building a winner in Baltimore, and Davey is a vital part of that effort. He has a winning attitude. He’s a very down-to-earth, forthright baseball professional with an extensive knowledge, and his record clearly establishes that.”

Was Johnson still sore about being passed over the previous year? “I do have a lot of pride, but I don’t have a big ego,” Johnson said. “Maybe I was hoping they’d offer the job so I could say no, but I discarded that idea in about two seconds because Baltimore represents my baseball roots. I thought it was a good fit a year ago, and I still do.”

Angelos allowed Syd Thrift to represent the Orioles at the MLB meetings in Arizona while he remained in Baltimore to interview a bevy of candidates to be the next general manager. Kevin Malone, a former Montreal Expos general manager, and Joe Klein, who had local roots and had been the GM of the Detroit Tigers, were considered to be the front runners but much like with every baseball decision made by Angelos, time wasn’t considered a pressing concern.

And despite most legitimate general managers wanting the opportunity to hire a field manager, Angelos did it backwards. The new manager, Davey Johnson was sent off to the MLB winter meetings along the farm director, Syd Thrift. Both were encouraged by Peter Angelos to recruit an appropriate general manager and working partner that would bring the Baltimore Orioles a World Series title.

In Phoenix, Johnson tracked down former Toronto general manager Pat Gillick, who was his old minor league teammate from

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Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers  - Matty Melting Ice Ryan

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NFL Quarterbacks who are “Coach Killers”

Posted on 13 August 2016 by Dennis Koulatsos

Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers - Matty Melting Ice Ryan

Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers – Matty Melting Ice Ryan

There are a handful of NFL quarterbacks that seem to have all the physical tools to get the job done, but for some reason have never put it all together.  They look like a duck, walk like a duck, even quack like a duck – but they just can’t swim.  More often than not they sink straight to the bottom, and in most cases they’ve cost their coach and his coaching staff their jobs while they get to keep their’s.

QBs that quickly come to mind are Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, and Jay Cutler.  They’re in a league of their own.  There is a second tier of QBs that includes Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, and Sam Bradford.  RGIII may eventually get in to this second tier, but then again he is attempting to jump start his career at the Factory of Sadness known as the Cleveland Browns.  I don’t know if any QB could be successful in that awful organization.

Let’s take a little closer look at all of the aforementioned QBs. Matthew Stafford has been through numerous head coaches.  He’s been handed several #1 overall draft pick wide receivers, decent offensive lines, and a plethora of other offensive weapons.  Heck, even Megatron – Calvin Johnson – had enough and decided to walk away from the game during this past off-season.  Blessed with a gun for an arm, there are times that he can’t hit water falling out of a boat.  I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but there’s definitely something wrong with this guy.

Matt Ryan is another one.  Fortunately for Joe Flacco, the comparisons between the two stopped right after Big Joe won a Super Bowl.  Just look at the weapons he’s had – Tony Gonzales, Julio Jones, Roddy White – just to name a few. If not for an ill-advised time out by the Seahawk’s Pete Carroll, Matty Melting Ice would still be looking for his first playoff win. The clock is ticking on Ryan’s career, and he is running out of time to prove his growing critics wrong.

Jay Cutler has a habit of throwing the ball to defensive backs and oftentimes in bunches.  Jumping Jay has also been surrounded with weapons, who all – to a man – have lots of uncomplimentary things to say about him once they’ve escaped Chicago.  If I was coaching Da Bears, I’d put this cat on a pitch count, and never have him throw more than 20 times a game.  In fact, I’d bring back Ted Marchibroda’s offense from the 80’s – run, run, pass, punt.  You laugh, but it’s superior to pass, pass, pick, play defense.

Ryan Tannehill is a coach killer in training.  He is still young on the job curve, but I’ve seen nothing from him to indicate that he’ll ever develop into a an NFL QB worthy of his draft position and his huge new contract.  Selfishly I really like him, because as long as he is under center, we’ll all be able to easily obtain discounted tickets to Dolphins home games.  It’s always a great trip to Miami in the winter, and Ravens fans do a great job of taking over the stadium (cue the Ravens Seven Nation Army chant).

Which brings us to Dalton, Bradford and Romo.  The first two have won exactly the same number of NFL playoff games as you and I,  and the last one has a knack for throwing an interception at the absolute worst possible time. There are throwers and there are field generals, and all 3 of these gentlemen most definitely fit in the former category.

By the virtue of his dismal playoff record, Dalton used to have a monkey on his back.  Now that monkey has grown into an 800-pound gorilla, one that he cannot shake off until he gets that elusive first playoff win. It is inexplicable – and at the same time defies logic – that he has a future Hall of Fame receiver like AJ Green and can’t hit him when it counts.  Coach Marvin Lewis is extremely lucky he gets to work for one of the cheapest owners in the NFL, or he would have been gone a long time ago.

Bradford’s career has been marred by injuries, but even when healthy he has not shown that he is anywhere in the elite category.  Somehow Jeff Fisher (6 playoff wins in 22 years – but that’s going to require an entire separate article dedicated to his record) survived Bradford’s tenure with the Rams, and hopefully his Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson can do the same.  Pederson was smart enough to draft an insurance policy in the form of Carson Wentz.

Tony Romo “led” the Cowboys to a 12-4 record two years ago.  The Pokes saved Romo from himself by running DeMarco Murray into the ground, 400 plus times.  By drafting Ezekiel Elliott and signing free agent running back Alfred Morris, they’re hoping the same formula works as well as it did in the past.  Of course that will cause Dez Bryant to squawk, but then again if he didn’t then they would be the Dallas Cowboys.  ‘Merica’s Team.

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Coach Billick on the Ravens wild finish in Cleveland

Posted on 02 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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Baltimore, Md. -- 11/20/2011 -- Matt Stover, former kicker for the Baltimore Ravens points skyward like he used to do following field goal attempts, during halftime festivities to place his name in the Ravens' Ring of Honor Sun, Nov. 20, 2011. The Ravens won, 31-24, seizing first place in a critical AFC matchup. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff) [FBN BENGALS RAVENS (_D3S2838.JPG)]

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Matt Stover weighs in on Ravens late game heroics against the Browns

Posted on 01 December 2015 by WNST Audio

Baltimore, Md. -- 11/20/2011 -- Matt Stover, former kicker for the Baltimore Ravens points skyward like he used to do following field goal attempts, during halftime festivities to place his name in the Ravens' Ring of Honor Sun, Nov. 20, 2011. The Ravens won, 31-24, seizing first place in a critical AFC matchup. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff) [FBN BENGALS RAVENS (_D3S2838.JPG)]

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Dennis Koulatsos weighs in on the “kick six” in Cleveland

Posted on 01 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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Daryl Ruiter looks ahead to the upcoming MNF game

Posted on 25 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Mark Schwab talks Johnny Manziel and his situation

Posted on 25 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Jeremy Fowler previews Ravens vs Browns

Posted on 25 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Brian Dulik dissects Ravens-Browns divisional showdown

Posted on 24 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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