With Sunday’s 23-16 loss to their AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens are 44-45 since hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 3, 2013 at the Mereces Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Everyone has their theories on why the team has been trudging along in mediocrity since that glorious triumph. It’s clearly the coaching:
And if it’s not the head coaches, it’s definitely the coordinators:
Furthermore it has to be Joe Flacco that is to blame right?
None of these are incorrect in full. All of these things play a key part in the Ravens inability to escape mediocrity. It’s obvious that if the Ravens miss the playoffs this year as they currently are on pace to do, someone is going to take the fall for this at the end of the year. It is even possible that one of these dominoes fall at some point during the season.
But the real reason that the Ravens are mediocre is that they simply don’t have any consistent difference makers on their roster. I am defining a difference maker as someone who other NFL GM’s and coaches would want on their teams to upgrade their current rosters. I have been asking fans to name the top three guys on the Ravens that other teams would want for their rosters. The first name out of nearly everyone’s mouth is a freaking kicker.
After that it gets hazy. Some I have spoken with have said Marshal Yanda, a 34-year-old offensive guard in the twilight of his career. C.J. Mosley has been another popular choice. Mosley is a solid run stuffing middle linebacker but is a liability in pass coverage. Maybe you prefer Jimmy Smith as a member of this list. He has flashed shutdown corner potential in the past but has been struggling throughout most of this season.
Maybe Brandon Williams is your cup of tea but a run stuffing nose tackle doesn’t get you far in the 2018 NFL. John Brown has come up on a few lists when soliciting feedback as well. Brown is having a great first season with the Ravens. No doubt about that. However unless Flacco connects with Brown for a deep ball, he is relatively ineffective in full. Terrell Suggs? A 36-year-old former monster with his best years way behind him. Marlon Humphrey has also been floated around. His age and potential make him a viable candidate for the future, but this is about the right now. My list is Tucker, Brown, and Smith for what it’s worth.
There could be a few others that you throw hats into the ring for, but the bottom line remains that when you look at the current playoff teams in the league, their lists put the Ravens to shame. Some of these teams even have players left out of their list who would be the #1 guy on the Ravens list.
New Orleans: Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Drew Brees. NEXT
Pittsburgh: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner. This excludes players like Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, and LeVeon Bell.
If Kareem Hunt is your fourth best difference making player, you’re not hurting for talent. Image Credit: Getty Images
Kansas City: Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce. Kareem Hunt is probably fourth. Holy Talent Batman.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers. That Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa ain’t too shabby either.
Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Jared Goff. Child Please.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman. There’s some debate for the third guy but the first one is the GOAT and the second one might be.
Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, DeShaun Watson, J.J Watt. Advantage Texans.
Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, Joe Mixon, Carlos Dunlap. Ravens may be deeper than Cincy, but in terms of difference makers it’s not close.
Minnesota Vikings: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Luke Kuechly
It can be argued that the Ravens may have comparable lists to the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears. It is important to note however that Adrian Peterson (though 100) and Khalil Mack are currently greater playmakers than any that the Ravens possess.
Joe Flacco is undoubtedly part of the problem with the Ravens. But he isn’t the main one. Image Credit: Wikipedia
So a team that has no difference making talent is 4-5. What is surprising about this? They were able to beat up on the Bills, Broncos, and Titans who are all terrible. Two of those teams in the Bills and Titans are actually less talented than the Ravens in regards to difference making players. The Ravens somehow put that Steelers performance in Pittsburgh together, so good on them for that, but they have struggled with the Bengals, Saints, and Panthers who are all in the playoffs currently.
Michael Crabtree’s drop in Cleveland could come back to doom the Ravens. Image Credit: ESPN
The loss to the Browns furthers the point. At no point in the listing of players for the Ravens did any Ravens fan on any platform say Michael Crabtree. As bad as the Ravens were in Cleveland that day, they were in position to win the game when Flacco hit Crabtree in the back of the end zone for what would have been the go ahead score with 52 seconds remaining. He drops it, the Ravens settle for three and fall in overtime.
Perhaps if the Ravens had elite offensive and defensive coordinators they could scheme up better things to help assist their overall lack of talent. Could Sean McVay make the Ravens offense better? Probably. How much better? Not sure. Gurley and Goff aren’t coming along with him.
Wink Martindale is not blameless in all of this but when your best pass rusher is 36 years old, you’re asking a lot. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun
Maybe you think Wade Phillips would help the Ravens defense. The Rams, with significantly more talent, currently rank below the Ravens defense in nearly every statistical category. Is he improving the Ravens defense? Methinks not.
Is it frustrating that Harbaugh is a former special teams coach and doesn’t truly specialize on one side of the ball or other? Of course it is. But looking back at the talent this team had since the Super Bowl, I’d argue that the Ravens have gotten significantly more from their seasons than their talent would indicate they should’ve.
Matt Elam is one of many recent Ravens draft busts. Image Credit: Baltimore Sun
Look at the first five rounds from each of the drafts from 2009 to 2016. If you were grading them here’s how it would look:
2009- Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, Jason Phillips, Davon Drew: C-
2010- Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, David Reed, Arthur Jones:D-
2011- Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, Tandon Doss, Chykie Brown, Pernell McPhee: B
2012- Courney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson: C-
2013- Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, John Simon, Kyle Juszczyk, Ricky Wagner: D-
2014- C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, Terrence Brooks, Crockett Gilmore, Brent Urban, Lorenzo Taliaferro, John Urschel: C-
2015- Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, Carl Davis, Za’Darius Smith, Javorius Allen, Tray Walker, Nick Boyle, Robert Myers: F
2016- Ronnie Stanley, Kamalei Correa, Bronson Kaufusi, Tavon Young, Chris Moore, Alex Lewis, Willie Henry, Kenneth Dixon, Matt Judon: B
Those types of grades get you grounded. Moreover, very few, if any, of the players that failed to be successful with the Ravens have gone on to be successful elsewhere. That is a testament to poor scouting.
Eric Weddle is one of many veteran stop gaps that have brought in to correct the Ravens drafting errors. Image Credit: 12UP
These draft pick misses have led to many free agent moves in recent seasons. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are here because the Ravens couldn’t draft a safety. Brown, Crabtree, and Willie Snead are here because of the issues drafting receivers. The same could be said for Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin from last season’s cast of over the hill veterans.
Elite level talent in the NFL is rarely acquired via free agency. The way to secure elite level talent is to draft it, develop it, and sign it long term. That is why the teams that are often scraping the free agent pile rarely prove to be the most successful. These players are available for a reason.
This isn’t rocket science guys. Sure there is plenty of blame to go around between Harbaugh, Flacco, and the coordinators. These are your obvious scapegoats. But at the end of the day, the Ravens are mediocre because they weren’t built to be anything more than that.
Image Credit: The Baltimore Sun