6:55 PM EST, December 12, 2012
The question came at the end of John Harbaugh's news conference Wednesday, and it signaled one of those days for the Ravens coach.
"John," a guy said, "some people would say this is dancing very close to the edge of chaos."
"No, that's ridiculous," Harbaugh said, giving the questioner his best death-stare. "It's ridiculous."
Leaving the podium, the normally affable Harbaugh then hurried over to the reporter to re-emphasize — this time more personally — how ridiculous he thought the question was.
That's the kind of day it was at the Castle, where the Ravens seemed determined to show that all was still right in their world.
Of course, there was plenty of evidence to suggest it wasn't.
There was a two-game losing streak and the prospect of it growing to three games when the Ravens face red-hot Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
There was the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with three games left in the regular season, a move that smacked of panic — and Steve Bisciotti's fingerprints — in a proud organization.
There was a banged-up defense missing superstars Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, who may or may not play against the Broncos, depending on whether their arms fall off in practice this week if they make a tackle.
There was a woefully inconsistent offense to fix. And there was a veteran quarterback in Joe Flacco being blamed for everything short of causing the fiscal cliff.
Let's see, since that ugly 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, Flacco has been ripped for making bad pre-snap reads, lacking pocket awareness and ball security, being afraid to throw over the middle, not showing enough emotion and not studying the still photos as much as other NFL quarterbacks do when he comes out of games.
I think he even got ripped for not staying in touch with his mom.
Wow. You wonder how he lasted this long in the NFL. To hear the critics tell it, he should be working at a Denny's instead of trying to play this game.
But that's what happens when a team like the Ravens, a team short-listed for the Super Bowl, takes it on the chin two games in a row. And it underscores how much pressure there is to win in the NFL — and the consequences when you fall short.
Think about it: you're Cam Cameron and your team is 9-4, still in the driver's seat to win the AFC North and go to the playoffs.
But a few hours after a heartbreaking loss down I-95, the head coach is calling your cell and telling you to swing by his office. And right away you know it's not to share a late-night pizza.
So now it's Jim Caldwell who's been asked to do CPR on an underperforming offense.
Now it's Caldwell who's supposed to turn Flacco into Tom Brady and give Ray Rice 70 touches a game, or whatever will satisfy the howling masses on sports talk radio.
Now it's Caldwell who has to figure out creative ways to get Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones more open than they have been — unless you want to blame Flacco for that, too.
And it's Caldwell who's been tasked with getting more out of the no-huddle offense, which showed such promise earlier in the season before it was mostly a dud on the road. Yep, crowd noise made the no-huddle look like no-clue.
But Caldwell is no miracle worker. And the Ravens all know it.
When Rice was asked Wednesday if Cameron's firing and Caldwell's ascension to offensive coordinator is something that'll spark the offense, he veered off-topic and cut to the chase.
"I think it's a wake-up call for everybody," Rice said. "... If you can let go of the offensive coordinator in the middle of the season, it's a wake-up call for everyone around the building that the expectation is to win. We want to win.
"There's a reason they put the Lombardi Trophy [banner] in the indoor facility. It's the only thing you can see. It's the biggest sign in here. The expectation is to win around here. We've been to the playoffs. We've been to the dance. Getting to the dance is sometimes not enough around here anymore. We'd like to keep dancing — dance all the way to the Super Bowl."
It sure beats dancing close to the edge of chaos.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."
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