Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about the fans discontent. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
Apparently the half-filled stadium at the last two home games wasn’t enough because the Ravens still haven’t gotten the message.
Coach John Harbaugh addressed the media at his end-of-the-year news conference Thursday and implied there would be no changes in the team’s front office and said the coaching staff would remain the same for the 2018 season.
The Ravens are tone-deaf.
They didn’t hear what the fans were saying or understand their anger. People weren’t showing up just because of the players kneeling for the national anthem earlier in the season, but mainly because of the poor quality of play most Sunday afternoons.
They weren’t entertained. It wasn’t just this year but for the past couple of seasons. The Ravens haven’t been to the NFL playoffs for three straight years and four of the past five. That should lead to some changes being made, but the Ravens will keep the status quo.
“I’m happy we have the coaches we have on defense and on offense, and we’re building going forward,” Harbaugh said. “I believe in these coaches. I understand the job they did this year because I see it close-up, and I think our offense made a heck of a lot of progress, especially considering the adversity that we faced and the challenges that we were up against this year.”
Team owner Steve Bisciotti had to be furious after the last-minute loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on New Year’s Eve, which kept the Ravens from making the playoffs. Given how impulsive he is, it wouldn’t be surprising if it had to take two or three days for members of the front office staff — either team president Dick Cass or general manager Ozzie Newsome — to calm him down and possibly talk him out of firing the entire coaching staff.
No one was let go, so Bisciotti apparently had blinders on at the games or didn’t get the memo from the crowd. The Ravens are in the same class as the Bengals, who gave coach Marvin Lewis a two-year extension after going 13-18-1 the past two seasons, or the Cleveland Browns, who retained Hue Jackson as coach after compiling a 1-31 record in two seasons.
So if the Ravens want to keep Newsome around, then bring in another personnel guy or consultant to help find out why the Ravens can’t draft quality skill-position offensive players. Each year it becomes a bigger problem.
Harbaugh says he still has confidence in offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, but few in Baltimore do. And yet Harbaugh left the media with this great nugget Thursday about the offense last season.
“The bottom line is we improved tremendously,” Harbaugh said, referring to the second half of the season compared with the first. “The creativity that I saw and the ways we schemed guys open, schemed the run game, schemed the pass game, schemed plays to be created, I was happy with that.”
Oh, some days you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The Ravens had a better passing game in the second half of the season because they played teams such as the Detroit Lions, Cleveland, Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers, who had some of the worst secondaries in the NFL. In fact, the Ravens played the third-worst schedule in the league and beat only one team with a winning record. This was a great opportunity for them to make the playoffs.
One of the reasons was that they had one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL. It was Marty Ball. It’s clear that Bisciotti gave Harbaugh permission to bring his good friend Mornhinweg back for another season, but Mornhinweg hasn’t had as much success as two of his predecessors, Cam Cameron or Jim Caldwell.
So how about bringing in a passing game coordinator? The Ravens did that with assistant Greg Roman last year and the running game was much better. There is no advocacy here for change for the sake of change, but for improving and jazzing up the offense.
Fans are tired of seeing quarterback Joe Flacco throw check-downs to his running backs or have receivers run 3 or 4 yards short of the first-down marker. Next, how about a full-time quarterbacks coach for Flacco?
The Ravens need someone to stay on Flacco full time to work on his mechanics and help improve his football IQ. Harbaugh was at least receptive to that Thursday, along with possibly drafting a quarterback since Flacco has struggled with injuries the past two seasons.
Harbaugh might want to look at his receivers coach, Bobby Engram, and ask him why the development of young players such as Michael Campanaro, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore has been so slow.
On defense the Ravens need to replace retired coordinator Dean Pees. Former Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano is the front-runner, and Harbaugh said he wants someone who has worked in the system.
But the burning question here is why the Ravens have struggled playing zone. Do they need to change secondary coaches or was Pees ineffective for years in getting his message across? The Ravens failed to comprehend.
The Ravens might also want to consider bringing in a pass-rushing specialist to work with some of these young outside linebackers. Former Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary was a candidate several years ago.
This team just can’t maintain the status quo. The Ravens aren’t good enough to do that. Even if they had advanced, a lot of things would have had to go right for them to go deep into the postseason.
To ignore the problems would be a mistake. The Ravens need a splash or at least some changes that would give their fan base hope and optimism.