Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions on the Ravens' loss to the Denver Broncos.
Paul in Cape Cod: I know common sense dictates franchising him next year, but what are the chances of the Ravens simply cutting Joe Flacco loose before the start of next year or even trying to trade him?
Mike Preston: Paul, there is zero chance that the Ravens just let Joe Flacco walk away at the end of this season. The Ravens have invested too much time in him. Flacco will be franchised, unless his asking price comes way down on a contract. There was also talk of the Ravens using the transition tag on Flacco. However, that does not make sense since there would be no compensation if any team was able to come to terms with Flacco and the Ravens chose not to match. Trades in the NFL are difficult, and when it comes to starting quarterbacks they are almost impossible. This will be the main storyline for the Ravens this entire offseason, so enjoy the show.
AC: When the Ravens got inside the Broncos’ 5-yard line before the half, why didn't Flacco or John Harbaugh use one of their three timeouts before the interception?
Mike Preston: Coach John Harbaugh stated during his news conference that the Ravens were trying to keep the Broncos on their heels since they were trying to make a substitution.
But we need to call a timeout right here. Maybe the coaching staff should concentrate on getting Flacco off his heels before trying to keep an opponent on theirs. Flacco had a terrible first half, and this was the first glimmer of hope. The entire Ravens organization, if they choose to move forward with Flacco, needs to focus on making him a more consistent player.
Good Joe/Bad Joe used to be discussed by the half, and then the quarter, and now it is by the series. You have to wonder what the Ravens, as an organization, were thinking as they watched Flacco take a personal timeout lying on the field, face down, and not moving for more than 20 seconds. Or as it is now known around town, "Flaccoing." Those thoughts couldn't be full of holiday cheer.
Pat Feeney: I realize Flacco had a chance to close the gap at the end of the first half, but did Cam Cameron really not get fired? The play-calling was not an upgrade.
Mike Preston: The Ravens cannot change the entire playbook with three weeks to go in the season. New offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is going to be using the same plays as Cameron, but will be trying to develop a better flow in the game management. Also, keep in mind this was his first game calling plays in the NFL. This is going to be a rough transition with the quality of defenses the Ravens are playing.
Tom in West Palm Beach: So with this season lost, how much do you factor in the injuries in assessing it? Terrell Suggs has never been himself and the secondary has been gutted. While the offense has been hit-or-miss, what would have been wins have become losses due to the D. At a certain point, injuries simply become insurmountable and some seasons just have to be written off as a result, in terms of judging the trajectory of a team and its place in the NFL. Is it fair to say that this is one of those seasons for the Ravens? Thanks, and keep on givin' 'em hell.
Mike Preston: Tom, every team deals with injuries. The Ravens have had their fair share this season, but so has every other team in the league. As far as writing the season off and judging the team’s trajectory, there are plenty of franchises in the NFL that would trade places with the Ravens in a second. The Ravens are going to the playoffs for the fifth straight season. The Ravens have a top-level front office, and that group will keep the team in contention every season.
Do I think the Ravens are winning the Super Bowl this season? No, but I still dream of seeing Beyonce live at halftime in New Orleans. The playoffs are its own season, and the team that gets the hottest heading into the playoffs wins it every year. If the Ravens go in on a five-game losing streak, you may not want to hold your breath.
Chris in Prince Frederick: Why does Harbaugh continue to run this offensive line out on the field? Jah Reid is constantly on the ground and Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele struggle mightily against speed rushers. Why not at least try Bryant McKinnie? I hate to think what might happen next week against New York.
Mike Preston: Chris, imagine being Flacco and having to think what might happen against the New York Giants. The Ravens need to get McKinnie out of Harbaugh's doghouse, dust him off, and get him into the left tackle spot. When you look at an offensive line that has Reid, Matt Birk and Bobby Williams in the middle, you know it is going to be a rough game. The Ravens have to hope guard Marshal Yanda comes back. Then they can move Oher to the right and shift Osemele to the left guard spot. Those are the best five offensive linemen on the team and they need to play together.
Bryan in Salisbury: What is going on with Cary Williams and Anquan Boldin? They seem to be re-establishing Baltimore's reputation as a "dirty" football team. Or are they just symptomatic of Harbaugh's eroding power and sway over his players?
Mike Preston: Bryan, I believe it is a combination of two things. First, Williams and Boldin are obviously frustrated with the way the team has performed over the past few weeks. Second, I think it shows that Harbaugh has lost some control over the locker room. The ability of the coach to control his team is the most important thing he has. Harbaugh is dealing with a lot of issues right now with not only the players, but also getting his offensive coaching staff on the same page. This is the first major bump in the road for Harbaugh, who has been very successful in his first four years. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the remainder of this season and into 2013.
Ravens man in DC: When do we begin to hold Ozzie Newsome accountable for the Ravens’ dramatic decline this year? One only has to look at our draft record over the past few years to understand what's wrong with the Ravens. We're not drafting quality people. Here are just a few examples: Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody as the first two picks in 2010; Jimmy Smith and Jah Reid in 2011; and Kelechi Osemele in 2012. Then there are the marginal "successes" such as Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw. Ozzie promised the O-line would be upgraded after we lost Ben Grubbs to free agency. That didn't happen. Is Ozzie on his way out? He should be.
Mike Preston: Ozzie Newsome has been one of the top GMs in the NFL for a long time. He will decide when he wants to leave the Ravens. In all of the drafts you reference, the Ravens have been selecting at the end of the first round, and either attempted to trade out, or actually did trade back into the early part of the second round. Newsome's draft record alone should tell you all you need to know about the players available when it was the Ravens’ turn to make a selection. This might be the offseason for the Ravens to be more aggressive and move up in the draft for an impact player, and make a splash in free agency.
As far as the offensive line goes, it is obvious letting Ben Grubbs sign with the Saints was a mistake. This is the first area that should be addressed in the upcoming offseason. Wash, rinse, repeat!
Gerry in Bel Air: Enough about Cameron and Flacco – would you agree that it's time we start holding the head coach accountable? Defense made a head coach out of Billick and Harbaugh. The defense is falling apart and Harbaugh hasn't shown me much. He caved to the players when they objected to practicing in pads, fires Cameron with three games left, and his in-game decision-making is horrible. Is it just me?
Mike Preston: Gerry, Harbaugh knows that he has to get better and fast. When a head coach fires one of his coordinators, he knows that he is next on the pecking order. I’d expect that Harbaugh will be doing a lot to take full control of this team over the next few weeks and months.
Patrick in Berlin: How does this season's collapse compare to that of 2004? The similarities are eerie, to say the least.
Mike Preston: This is not a clear-cut comparison. The Ravens are going to the playoffs this year, while the 2004 team did not. Each year the Ravens dealt with a lot of injuries, and that has impacted each season. I expect the Ravens to do better than 6-10 next year versus what the 2005 Ravens did as well.
Ryan: Is there a chance that Dean Pees is fired? Who would be some replacements? Do you see Ken Whisenhunt as a good offensive coordinator option? Also, is Jerry Rosburg on the hot seat too?
Mike Preston: I find it highly unlikely the Ravens will fire Pees. He has done well considering that Terrell Suggs is playing on one arm and one leg, his best cornerback, Lardarius Webb, is out with a knee injury, and safety Ed Reed refuses to tackle anyone.
Are you kidding that you want Jerry Rosburg fired? He has the best unit on this team, and has done an excellent job with a rookie kicker in Justin Tucker and a new addition to the team in returner Jacoby Jones.
When things get tough, fans always want someone fired. Fire Newsome. Fire Harbaugh. Fire Bisciotti. Fans should keep things in perspective. I would fire Poe.