It’s understandable now why team owner Steve Bisciotti needed so much time before he held his annual State of the Ravens address at the end of the season.
Bisciotti had a tough decision to make, and he made the right one. He said he considered firing John Harbaugh but that the coach will remain through at least 2018. Considering Bisciotti’s announcement that Ozzie Newsome would step down as general manager after that season, it made perfect sense to retain Harbaugh.
It would be tough on an organization to make a coaching change and then bring in a new general manager (Eric DeCosta) the next year. A new general manager likes to name his own coach, though Bisciotti probably would have final say.
So, the Ravens basically will keep the status quo for at least one year, but after listening to Bisciotti speak Friday it’s apparent the Ravens have other problems he needs to address.
He took both sides on the issue of players kneeling during the national anthem. He didn’t give Harbaugh a ringing endorsement except to compliment him on keeping the team together (Bisciotti says the same thing every year) despite the team’s struggles during the season. It was great to hear him talk about adding seasoned people to his personnel and scouting departments.
But there were some areas he seemed to gloss over, such as grooming a quarterback for the future, signing or drafting players who are leaders instead of “yes” men, and improving an offense that lacks creativity.
“I think that you can think about life after Joe, but most of the franchise quarterbacks … I don’t know of any franchise quarterbacks that are retiring at 33, 34, 35 anymore — none of them,” Bisciotti said about finding an heir apparent to the 33-year-old Flacco. “Eli [Manning], Ben [Roethlisberger] and our friend up in New England [Tom Brady], they’re all staying [at] 35, 36, 37 — Drew Brees. So no, that’s not really something that we’re worried about right now. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, I guess. I don’t consider that a big worry.”
It should be a concern and a priority. It has become apparent that no one in this organization wants to criticize Flacco publicly, but he isn’t in that class of quarterbacks mentioned except Manning. Brees, Brady and Roethlisberger carry their teams while Flacco needs a strong supporting cast.
The Ravens need to look at Flacco’s numbers, production and injuries during the past three or four seasons. Regardless of how many years he has left, there is nothing wrong with grooming a young quarterback as opposed to starting a rookie immediately.
And it certainly beats having Ryan Mallett as a backup.
The Ravens need to jazz up the offense.
“We need an exciting brand of football, and we need to win, but New Orleans has a really, really exciting brand of football that went 7-9 three years in a row,” Bisciotti said. “It didn’t help them.”
There is a disconnect. The Saints have Brees with coach Sean Payton calling the plays. Fans here don’t need excitement, but they want a competent offense. It’s not always about having star players but also formations, concepts and analysis. We saw that Sunday night in the Super Bowl from both the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
Don’t expect to see that from the Ravens in 2018. They didn’t hire a new offensive coordinator, and it’s unlikely they could have drawn a reputable one with Harbaugh’s job security being questionable right after the season.
What is a possible solution to help make this offense more explosive?
Hopefully, the Ravens will participate in free agency and sign an unrestricted free-agent wide receiver such as the Miami Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry, Jacksonville Jaguars’ Allen Robinson or Los Angeles Rams’ Sammy Watkins. Hopefully, then they can find some impact players in the college draft. The Ravens, though, need to get away from their philosophy of trying to draft “safe” players.
It has been that way since they parted ways with key veterans after the 2012 Super Bowl season and the Ray Rice domestic abuse case in 2014. The Ravens’ approach seems to be similar to Bill Belichick’s in New England, but Harbaugh is no Belichick.
It’s OK to draft grunt players such as Kyle Juszczyk, John Urschel, Maxx Williams, Carl Davis, Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi. But the Ravens need impact players, too, and those are the players who win big games. That’s why they can’t keep failing on first- and second-round picks.
The Ravens are stuck in mediocrity. They are 40-40 in the regular season since winning the Super Bowl five years ago and have been to the playoffs once. Top team officials like to point out that they were a play away from being in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. But a lot of other teams can do that as well. The winners don’t.
They just correct things and move on.