A Retrospective for the Future
We are now through 8 weeks of NFL football and it’s been quite an unconventional season, to say the least. Many NFL teams have been left with more questions than answers up to this point, and being a Baltimore Ravens fan might just leave you with the most questions of them all. When talking about the highest highs and the lowest lows of the season, it would be near impossible to leave the Ravens out. Despite probably not getting the most mainstream media coverage, it has been nothing short of a rollercoaster of a season so far. So what should Baltimore’s staff and players be thinking about as to the direction they can take in the future?
In terms of this season and what Baltimore should have their sights set on, there are quite mixed opinions from the Ravens fan base. After two weeks the Ravens were 2-0 and were looking like they could easily win the AFC North. Now, two weeks is obviously not near enough time to make a proper assessment, but fans were hopeful nonetheless. Then week 3 came along and after which Ravens fans were quick to call it quits on the season despite having a positive record. What could’ve caused this? A 44-7 blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars who have brought nothing but below average seasons to their city. While this was quite the blow to a playoff hopeful Baltimore squad, fans were quick to voice their frustrations on social media, which were mainly over quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco, who just a couple years ago was the main topic of a heated debate on whether he was an elite quarterback or not, has proven the latter thusfar this season. In spite of the 2-0 start for his team up to that point, he had not impressed, even in the wins. Fans were at this point calling for a Colin Kaepernick signing after only 2 games. You can only imagine what these same fans were saying after the week 3 massacre. “Told you so, sign Kaepernick”, “Tank for Baker Mayfield”, “Literally just start Ryan Mallett, anybody but Flacco please”. To other fanbases, this would probably just seem like another spoiled fanbase trying to get their way, and that’s pretty much exactly what it is. There is, however, some merit to these statements.
Flacco has been caught in a downward spiral since winning Super Bowl XLVII. While some seasons have been better than others, he has not been able to reclaim that “elite status” that had become an argument after that very season. Thusly, he had not been able to take his team far in the playoffs since winning that Lombardi trophy, which is what fans really care about. The problem is that Flacco played completely out of his mind that playoffs. In fact, he did not throw a single interception that entire offseason, including the Super Bowl. In Joe Flacco standards this is almost unheard of. Obviously, since Flacco hasn’t really gotten his team out of the first round of the playoffs (not including Wild Card) since this magical season, there has been an almost unanimous backlash from fans. The backlash has mainly been a proposed change in quarterback, which wouldn’t necessarily have much opposition from fans, myself included.
How the Rest of the Season Panned out
As for the rest of the season (so far) for Baltimore: after the disappointment that was week 3, they followed up with another disappointing loss to division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. This was without a doubt a huge blow to both the Ravens and their fans, being that A) we lost our home matchup with Pittsburgh already, and B) the Ravens-Steelers rivalry is one of the most prevalent rivalries to this day. Then came a win against a battered Oakland, which would be way more impressive if Oakland was playing at the standard they were playing at in the previous season. Then came the Week 6 overtime heartbreak of a loss against the up and coming Chicago Bears. Week 7 brought the Ravens further down the hole with a loss to Minnesota. At this point in the season, Ravens fans were ready to throw in the towel and call it a tank season. We are now in present day, and needless to say, the Ravens had a lot to prove.
Week 8 brought a matchup with the Miami Dolphins, and it was a must-win for both teams. Baltimore fans were ready to hold their breath. Joe Flacco haters got their “twitter fingers” ready. The game seemed like it was going to be a toss-up between two teams that desperately needed a win to get their season back on track. What ensued was a 40-0 blowout win for the Baltimore Ravens, which left many fans (including myself) scratching their head and wondering where this Ravens team had been all season. Granted they were playing against what would technically be a 3rd string quarterback in Matt Moore (who is below Ryan Tannehill and now Jay Cutler) but not even the most loyal of fans expected a statement victory like that.
So where should Baltimore go from here? Really it’s a tough call. They are now sitting at 4-4 on the season and are in 2nd place in the AFC North to a 6-2 division rival Pittsburgh Steelers that look like they’re in Super Bowl contention. One game below at 3-4 are the Cincinnati Bengals hot on their tail. If I were calling the shots I would say there is one clear path for Baltimore, and that would be playing the season out and fight hard for every win. All these people calling for the Ravens to tank their season are simply wrong and need to realize how much the Ravens sacrificed to get this team they have today. They played the offseason as if they were going to be Super Bowl contenders this year and need to stick to what they built around. For one any drastic change to a key position would mess up the team’s chemistry and probably hurt a few key player’s pride. Also in fighting to be contenders, they can properly assess whether or not it really is time to go in a new direction in the next offseason. If this is another season of mediocrity and disappointment for Baltimore, then I believe it would be time to start looking in new directions.
As For the Future
There are only a few ways the season can go, and in that Baltimore’s staff should be mindful for their options with how the season plays out. The most likely thing to happen would be that they could play at a super hot and cold rate the way they have been thus far, and not make the playoffs. If this is the case, I believe that it would be time to look for a new quarterback for the future, but not necessarily get rid of Flacco entirely. If they could sign a big name free agent in the offseason like Kirk Cousins then it would be best to find a way to get rid of Flacco’s huge contract as best as they can. I’m sure there are a few teams that would be interested. If not they should really trade up in the draft to acquire the University of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, as he is one of the most NFL-ready/poised quarterbacks many scouts have seen in a long time.
They would need to focus on a change at quarterback, and not many other places if the rest of the season brings mediocrity. They should absolutely not part ways with coach Jim Harbaugh; he has been the saving grace for Ravens fans and continues to prove why he’s known as one of the best coaches in the league. Parting ways with Harbaugh would be one of the biggest mistakes Baltimore could make at that point. They should also not focus on their running game, skilled positions, or defense. They have a back for the future in Alex Collins, who is proving week after week that he was a steal for the Ravens and earned his snaps respectively. They also have Danny Woodhead who has yet to play this season, but you get the point: they have a solid run game to look forward to. Their receiving core is stellar, but are easily going to look bad if their quarterback can’t play up to standards, and their defense has been elite for years.
On the off chance, the season brings a division title and playoffs for the Ravens, then great! You guys accomplished exactly how you planned for this season to go, so don’t make any sort of drastic changes except to the areas that need work once the season has come to a complete close. I have faith they would be able to seek out their flaws and assess them in the offseason/draft, and so should most Ravens fans. Baltimore has really been blessed with one of the better staffs in football.
The final option would be if the Ravens were to continue the rest of the season like they’ve been playing as of late, and just barely squeak into a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, or nearly miss them entirely. In this case what I believe the Ravens should look to do is go to the main areas that lost them games, and address them. Sounds simple enough, but Baltimore has been trying for Flacco to get back to the spotlight at quarterback that he has tried to reclaim so desperately. There’s a reason fans are so fed up with Flacco, and being the top paid quarterback in the league for so many years hasn’t really helped his odds at living up to this. This season should be the ‘one season too many’ for that mantra. Flacco has underwhelmed to put it lightly this season, and he would more than likely be the issue if things don’t go well for the remainder.
A Closing Word to Baltimore Staff
Hear me out Ravens staff (on the ridiculously small chance somebody affiliated is reading this) It’s been too many years since Flacco played up to standard. I know it’s difficult to say that you were wrong in paying him so heftily, but the truth hurts sometimes. If all the fans can see it, so can you. If the rest of the season pans out poorly, it’s time for a new direction. From what I’ve seen, I speak for most Ravens fans in saying we can take a few seasons of a rebuild to find our footing again, just as long as the main problem isn’t still somebody we’re looking to fix his resulting issues. Go to the source of the issue, and you will absolutely not regret it. My words only hold so much brevity, so without further ado and a lot of season left to prove something, your move Baltimore.