Q&A with Mike Preston

Baltimoresun.com Staff

Larry, Baltimore: Never have I seen such a pathetic display of pro football. Where are the players? We have an all-star team on paper. However, they play like they've all had lobotomies. Blame Kyle Boller? No. Blame Compucoach. More bonehead penalties, inept offense. I'm done. I'll never watch another game until they get a new coach and players.

Mike Preston: Compu Coach? Where did you get that name? A genius must have invented it. Maybe I'll borrow it one day for a column. Watch your back now, Larry. You're in the fraternity. Once you call him Compu Coach, he'll say you're trying to get him fired, that you have an "agenda." He'll say you fabricate, or take things out of context, or that he didn't say it but he really did say it. I don't know if the Ravens will fire Billick. It depends on how they end the season, and if morale is high. But the media doesn't get coaches fired, wins and losses do, as well as bonehead penalties and an inept offense.

Larry, I do need to caution you about the "lobotomies" stuff. Isn't that a tad harsh? Terrell Suggs doesn't have a thinking problem, he's just a "marked man." Another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? Nah, Patrick Johnson, of all people, was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The other guy punched him first. Anyway Larry, it's just a game. It's been nice knowing you. I guess you won't be writing anytime soon since you'll never watch another game until they get a new coach and players. Have a nice life.

Shawn, Owings Mills: Watching Jamal Lewis, he seems to doubt his own ability to run with the authority he has run with throughout his career. On one occasion, he started dancing in the backfield with only one defender in front of him where in past seasons he would just run to the outside and try a stiff-arm. He seems to be dancing more and more instead of just hitting the hole hard. Is it lack of confidence, or is his ankle not as healthy as he'd like us to believe?

Mike Preston: It's about the Benjamins, baby. I wrote that earlier in the year and took a lot of criticism for it. Now it's interesting because former Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary says the same thing. When the Ravens, according to Jamal Lewis, broke their promise about giving him a contract extension before the start of the 2005 season, it took away his passion and intensity for running the ball. Basically these guys who perform at such a high level are saying: I'll put it on the line for you, tear up my body and risk injury, but you have to compensate me for it. There has to be a trust factor. It didn't happen, and Lewis has become just another running back. He's not finished. He's just not motivated to play like the old Lewis. Running backs worry more about their contracts than most other players because their careers are so short.

Darien, Germantown: Chester Taylor received no running plays until seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. He's been averaging more yards per carry than Jamal Lewis, and he's been a more productive back yet Billick continues to favor Jamal, and this week was even more lopsided than in the past. What is going on?

Mike Preston: The media and fans have forced Chester Taylor to the bench. We've all suggested that he get more playing time because Lewis is struggling, but the more we suggest it, the more Billick resists. It's like in 2000 when everyone said run the ball instead of throwing it, and it took Billick three quarters of the year to adjust. It's like when we all suggested he play Randall Cunningham over Elvis Grbac, and the Ravens died with Mr. Tearful.

So, as of today, I'm suggesting Billick stay with Jamal Lewis. Fans should write letters to the newspaper, call in to talk radio and get behind Billick playing Jamal Lewis all the time. Today, we're launching psychological warfare.

Matt, Mountville, Pa.: Mike, it's clear that the Ravens can't run the ball with Jamal Lewis. Whether it's because teams crowd the line or he's lost a step is still up for debate. Do you think there is any chance that he gets a new contract, because I'm hoping we go in a different direction.

Mike Preston: OK folks, let's not get carried away with beating up on Jamal Lewis. Have you taken a look at the offensive line lately? It's a sorry group. The only one that has played with any consistency is left tackle Jonathan Ogden. Other than that, the group looks old and slow. It's hard to evaluate Lewis playing behind this offensive line. I don't want Taylor in because I think he is that much better than Lewis. I want Taylor in hoping he can provide some kind of spark. It's too early in the season to say what the Ravens should do with Lewis. I thought if he played reasonably well this season, the Ravens would franchise him. If they continue to lose, maybe he won't want to play here any longer at the end of the season. Maybe they still might want to franchise him. Let the season play out, and we'll go from there.

Gary, Baltimore: Mike, You have written often how the offensive line can't pass block. It seems like they can't run block this year. Who should be replaced for next season?

Mike Preston: Call the maid, get the broom, grab the vacuum cleaner and clean house. With the exception of Ogden, and forcing left guard Edwin Mulitalo to slim down, I'd say goodbye to the rest.

Rick, Indianapolis: My frustration is with these penalties. We essentially gave the Bears two scoring drives by keeping alive drives with third-down penalties. With my head, I say it's the coaches' fault, but with my heart I say these guys are responsible for their action on the field. How do you see it?

Mike Preston: I bet you need to see a doctor, because your heart and head must hurt every Sunday. You can excuse some of these penalties once and a while, but it's every week. These holding penalties on the offensive line, just like I mentioned last week, are a sign that the Ravens are getting beat up front. Constant penalties are a sign of a lack of discipline, and the Ravens apparently have no fear of repercussions for the penalties. We could point fingers at the head coach, but let's not go there. Because if you do, you have an agenda. Rick, I recommend aspirin on Sunday. It helps with your head and your heart.

Yiannis, Baltimore: Billick has had seven years to assemble an offense that is getting worse every year. Our defense is not as dominant and remains undisciplined. The locker room is in disarray. We are 2-4 with an easy schedule. Fifteen months ago Billick proclaimed us Super Bowl contenders. The team is playing without focus or ambition. When does Billick get fired?

Mike Preston:Wow, if only the Ravens showed as much passion.

Here's what should happen: Let's not buy into the injury situation again like last season. The injuries are mounting, so we can see where it's going to go. I think at the end of the season, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti should sit down and meet with Billick. If this team continues to play like it has, then Bisciotti will have no choice but to let him go. If they play well, finish strong, and Billick shows that he has control of the situation, then Billick should stay. Right now, I don't know if Billick is the right guy for this team in the future. Regardless of some of the shortcomings, this team has talent, certainly more than the Lions, Titans and Bears. Oh my. But Billick should be given every reasonable chance to prove he can still get it done in Baltimore for the remainder of the season.

Matthew, Baltimore: Our season is over. There is no way we can finish this season with a winning record. I doubt we can win any of the next five. Once Billick is fired, who are some potential head coaching candidates?

Mike Preston: I suspect over at the Ravens training facility the powers in charge are encouraging Billick as he tries to work through this mess. Billick is high-maintenance and has to be fed positive support. The Ravens really don't want to make a coaching change. But at the same time, they're not stupid. Every GM keeps a short list of coaching candidates. Most teams hire a coach opposite of the type they already have, so the Ravens would probably want a strict person, and someone who can generate some offense to get this town excited about football again. One name off the top has to be Giants offensive coordinator John Hufnagel. Another may be Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore, even though Moore has some age on him.

Dean, Baltimore: I'm looking to next year, Mike, and our young players. I know it's early but any info on how the assistant coaches evaluate the potential of guys like Mark Clayton, Dwan Edwards, Jason Brown, Adam Terry, Roderick Green?

Mike Preston: Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Dean. Receiver Mark Clayton is the real deal, but the rest of the group has a lot of work to do. Maybe you want to look ahead to 2007.

Sid, Hauppauge, N.Y.: Mike, if you were Ozzie this offseason what changes would you make to the team and the coaching staff to make the team a winning team again?

Mike Preston: First and foremost, I'd evaluate Billick, and then determine his status. I'd suggest changes, like getting more discipline. Light training camps were fine for that group back in 2000 because it had veteran leadership, but it won't work with these players. I think Billick has to learn to adapt, not just do it his way. I'd invest in some offensive and defensive linemen, either through the draft or free agency, and then look for a possible quarterback of the future. Neither Kyle Boller nor Anthony Wright are the answers. I'd also look into why the offense is so bad. There has to be something wrong with the system. The Ravens have players at key positions, but it's not even an average offense.

That would be on page 1. Page 2 comes next week. Bye.

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