Schmuck: Ravens were never going to win all their fans back in one week

The Ravens faced quite a dilemma after last Sunday’s season-crushing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

They needed to do something to mollify their already-discouraged fan base after missing the postseason for the third straight year, and owner Steve Bisciotti has already demonstrated that he values loyalty and stability more than public relations and marketing.

So, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who figured to be the sacrificial lamb after the Ravens stumbled through that horrid first half against the Bengals, is still in place and the team reorganized the coaching staff. The Ravens promoted running-game guru Greg Roman to assistant head coach and hiring former Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles assistant James Urban to be their quarterbacks coach.

This is where it would be easy to trot out the old saw about “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” since the Ravens clearly aren’t much for dynamic change. It’s understandably hard for fans to process an emphasis on “continuity” when they’re still wondering how their team managed to miss its charter flight to Kansas City.

It’s also difficult for the front office to satisfy the desires of a disenchanted (and diminishing) fan base while adhering to management principles that have — until recently — resulted in a level of success that was the envy of all but a small handful of other NFL teams.

Ravens fans should know by now that the organization hears them, but a truly knowledgeable fan base should understand why the team doesn’t always listen.

This is not a new problem. Years ago, when I was covering the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda came under criticism for a decision that was unpopular with that team’s loyal fan base, but he was unapologetic.

“If I listen to [the fans],” he said, “it won’t be long before I’m sitting up there with them.”

There is some real truth in that. The Ravens have to do what the owner and upper management think is best for the franchise, even if that risks disappointing more of their customers over the short-term. The alternative would be to appease the most vocal fringe of the fan base and start rolling heads, which would be a risky proposition for an injury-ravaged team that finished the season less than a minute away from making the playoffs.

In this case, the Ravens are trying to have it both ways by moving Roman above Mornhinweg on the coaching depth chart, which satisfies the need to give the appearance of change while keeping the coaching staff largely intact.

Should the Ravens have fired Mornhinweg and gone in search of a new offensive coordinator? That depends entirely on whether the front office — rather than the fans — felt Mornhinweg was the reason for the team’s inconsistent performance. Apparently, that wasn’t the case.

The 2017 Ravens were a flawed team, but nobody would have been talking about the offensive coordinator all week if the defense had been able to get a late stop against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 10 or against Cincinnati last Sunday. It’s also hard to fault the offensive coordinator for the passes that bounced off Ravens receivers and turned into points against both the Chicago Bears and Bengals.

For that matter, would a new offensive coordinator solve the Ravens’ marketing problem?

We all know the answer to that. The fans have weathered frustrating seasons before and showed up faithfully to fill M&T Bank Stadium. The local fan revolt was spurred largely by the ill-advised London anthem protest and the team’s inability to prevent it.

Discontent with the NFL in general already had been simmering for the past several years for reasons that don’t need to be rehashed at length:

Colin Kaepernick. Concussions. Bad officiating. Stupidly complicated and confusing rules. Shaking the fans upside down to get the last loose change out of their pockets.

None of that is going to go away overnight. The only way the Ravens will reignite the base is by drafting well, signing a couple of free-agent playmakers, avoiding a series of preseason injuries and getting off to a good start next season.

To help the fans forgive, the Ravens need to give them a chance to forget.

If none of that happens, you can be sure that at this time next year, you won’t be hearing about continuity and stability.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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