BALTIMORE — I wonder what Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is thinking these days with his organization being in such despair.
There have been other dark moments, like the double-murder trial involving Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis in 2000 and the domestic violence criminal charges against running back Ray Rice in 2014. There was the null-and-void trade for wide receiver Terrell Owens in 2004 and the purge of the Super Bowl XXXV team following the 2001 season.
But at least then the Ravens had great players on the roster like Lewis, safety Ed Reed and outside linebackers Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs. Then general manager Ozzie Newsome provided hope as demonstrated by the fans’ corny mantra of “In Ozzie We Trust.”
Right now, the Ravens are an organization just twirling and dangling in the wind. There is only one alpha male on this roster, inside linebacker Roquan Smith. Shoot, the Ravens don’t even have a starting quarterback because no one is sure where Lamar Jackson will end up after the team designated him with the nonexclusive franchise tag Tuesday. So, to Mr. Bisciotti, I know you don’t often make yourself available to the media, but I would like to know about your sense of urgency.
I want to know your game plan for the 2023 regular season and plans for the future. I want to know why Jackson received that designation and your thoughts on the star quarterback not accompanying the team to its opening-round playoff loss against the Bengals in Cincinnati in January.
There are always easy targets to point to within the organization. Until last April when the team selected safety Kyle Hamilton, center Tyler Linderbaum and outside linebacker David Ojabo, current general manager Eric DeCosta’s drafts had been so-so. Until he traded with the Chicago Bears for Smith in late October, the Ravens lacked a big-name impact player, especially at receiver.
Coach John Harbaugh is a great organizer and motivator and is exceptional at building team chemistry, but he is guilty of having relied on offensive coordinator Greg Roman and his run-first offense and strength coach Steve Saunders too long.
So, in the past five years the Ravens have been the proverbial team stuck in the mud. They’ve gone to the playoffs in four of those seasons, but won only one of five playoff games during that time. To get into the postseason is great in cities like Cleveland and Detroit, but not in Baltimore where the Ravens are victims of their own high standards.
That’s a good thing, but where do the Ravens go from here?
Is what Harbaugh and DeCosta have done in the previous years acceptable? Is this a team still suffering from growing pains? Is Jackson’s durability in question? Is that why this team doesn’t seem to want to offer him a long-term contract?
One thing is certain: Fourth-year quarterback Tyler Huntley isn’t the answer. He was the perfect stopgap solution filling in for Jackson in the old offense, but may not fit the profile needed in the system designed by new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Maybe the Ravens want to draft a quarterback in the first round. Would that put them a year behind schedule as far as Super Bowl ambitions, or can Monken develop him quickly?
There are a couple of silver linings in this current Ravens mess. For five years now, they have generally been the best of the average teams in a league that continues to slip in quality. In fact, there are only eight good teams in the NFL, those who make it to the conference semifinals.
Despite having some housecleaning as far as offensive assistants this offseason, the Ravens have hired some quality coaches in Monken, Willie Taggart (running backs) and Greg Lewis (receivers). Combined with Monken, they should provide the Ravens with some new offensive concepts and wrinkles.
But those teams in that final eight are a step up in quality over the Ravens. They are disciplined, perform well in clock management and have several clutch performers. When you watch the Ravens, they have discipline but not the clock management or big-play capabilities.
I wonder what Bisciotti thinks.