The 2016 Baltimore Ravens season ended this afternoon in Cincinnati. In reality, it ended when Antonio Brown stretched the ball over the goal line Christmas Night in Pittsburgh with the clock running out and the Ravens poised to escape Western PA with another hard-fought win. It wasn’t meant to be.
A casual fan with no hard rooting interest in either team would have likely classify that game as an NFL regular season classic. Here in Baltimore, it was a knockout blow. The fight is over, you get up, dust yourself off and get ready to fight again. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, without much at stake today, the team played poorly and was handled easily by the Bengals, 27-10. I put zero stock in today’s result.
The internet, being made more famous everyday for a good knee-jerk post by the next President of the United States, was full of complaints and overreaction this afternoon. Joe Flacco should retire and John Harbaugh should be fired are the salvos being tossed into the air.
They are the easy targets. They are the two guys who have to face the music after every game. They are two guys that i would grade about C+ for 2016. I am not giving up on them. Remember, this team went 5-11 in the injury marred 2015 season. They bounced back. Just not all the way. They were one foot away of holding first place going into this last game. I don’t know if they would have won today, but i would bet the entire feel of the game would have been most discernibly different.
Looking at Flacco specifically, he WAS coming off an ACL tear. He DID set a career high for yards in a season. He completed his 9th season that includes 6 playoff appearances, one Super Bowl MVP, three AFC Championship games. If it’s Joe’s demeanor that just rubs you the wrong way, you surely couldn’t have dealt with Unitas and his stoicness – or either Manning brother for their “Aw shucks” looks. Whether he looks the part, to me, is irrellevant. I never really saw Cal Ripken as a fiery leader either. And Joe’s career has kind have been like Cal’s (minus the two MVPs). He plays everyday which he is physically able. His numbers are solid though never really off the charts but at times – and over time – he started to be taken for granted. He takes the heat like Cal did too.
As for Harbaugh, the team has been .500 or better all but one season. There is no sure-fire alternative. The AFC North has three competitive teams. And the Browns. Cincinnati has been to the playoffs 6 of the last 8 seasons, all under Marvin Lewis – though with little playoff success. The Steelers have been to the playoffs 7 of Tomlin’s ten seasons. And then there is Harbaugh’s playoffs in six of nine seasons. Each comes under fire. Each should be in their team’s Ring of Honor one day. And each team’s owner need only to look to Cleveland to see the dangers of playing head coach roulette. The Browns have been led by 6 men since Tomlin and Harbaugh have taken over (Crennel, Mangini, Shurmur, Chudzinski, Pettine and Hue Jackson). Coaching stability is a big reason each team has been relevant recently.
Going forward, to me, the draft picks have to beef up the coverage on defense and the search for the playmaking WRs are still the priority. The offensive line has a chance to be really good if they can find a better center and stay together. The running backs show promise. The loss of Smith and the less then impactful performance of Perriman are bigger issues than the quarterback. If everything can get just a little better in 2017, the Ravens should be back in the playoffs.