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Baltimore Ravens Struggling to Bask in Super Bowl Glow

Posted on March 16, 2013 by Dean Hybl
The Baltimore Ravens broke the bank to keep quarterback Joe Flacco.

The Baltimore Ravens broke the bank to keep quarterback Joe Flacco.

The Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens sure haven’t done a very good job basking in the glow of their remarkable Super Bowl run. They have made some very questionable decisions that have impacted the team both on and off the field.

The Ravens certainly have been busy in the six weeks since defeating the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII.

In a move that many felt they had to make, but some question as being excessive, they made quarterback Joe Flacco the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. By signing him to a six-year, $120.6 million contract, they have now given a player who in five seasons has spent more time being average than being great a contract higher than that of the quarterbacks generally thought to be the best in the game in Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

They say timing in sports is everything and Flacco’s timing was perfect. With his contract expiring, Flacco was marvelous in the playoffs with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games as the Ravens rolled to the Super Bowl Championship.

If Flacco can perform like that every week for the next six seasons, then the Ravens have certainly made a good investment. However, Flacco’s own history suggests otherwise. During the 2012 regular season Flacco threw 22 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He had only five games in the 2012 regular season where he threw a touchdown pass without also throwing an interception. And while Flacco threw three touchdowns with no picks in three straight playoff wins, he had previously accomplished that feat only three times in 80 regular season games.

With his new contract in hand, Flacco in 2013 will be judged in a very different manner than in previous years. In the past, the fact that he has never made a Pro Bowl and that his statistics were very good, but not great, really didn’t matter because the team has always been a winner. Flacco is the only quarterback to win a playoff game in his first five seasons and has a 9-4 career playoff record.
However, now that he is receiving more money than Manning, Brady or the others, he will be expected not only to win, but put up statistics that justify his salary.

The problem for Joe is that winning with the Ravens seems to have suddenly gotten much harder.

After finally reaching the pinnacle and winning the Super Bowl after five straight playoff appearances, the Ravens seem content on taking some steps backwards to regroup and prepare for their next window of opportunity.

The Ravens must replace the playmaking of Ed Reed.

The Ravens will need to replace the play making of Ed Reed in 2013.

Flacco will be without one of his primary targets of the past three seasons with the trade of Anquan Boldin to the 49ers. Last season Boldin caught 65 passes for 921 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season and 22 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs.

In addition, the vaunted defense is going to be significantly different in 2013.

The Ravens defense was not always great in 2013, allowing 21.5 points per game to rank 12th in the league.

For them to even return to that average level in 2013 the Ravens will have to replace departed future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as well as defensive starters Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard.

Pollard was the top tackler last season while Kruger and Ellerbe were arguably the best players on the defense in 2012. Kruger and Ellerbe both left as free agents while the Ravens surprisingly cut Pollard last week, meaning they will be without both starting safeties from last season.

The loss of Lewis was something the team has known about for a while, but for them to seemingly have no interest in retaining Reed is also a surprise. Reed has been one of the most consistent defensive players in the league over the last decade and has always provided a big play mentality. While he is not the same player in 2013 as he was in 2003, he still set a key tone for the defense and filling that void will be a challenge.

Cost cutting moves have not just been limited to the field for the Ravens. In addition to trimming salaries from the roster, the team also announced this week that they are trimming the color guard and flag line from the famous Baltimore Marching Ravens Band.

The Marching Ravens Band will be without their color guard and flag line in 2013.

The Marching Ravens Band will be without their color guard and flag line in 2013.

In a statement sent to band members, the Ravens said that, “effective March 31, 2013, the flag line and honor guard positions will no longer be a part of the Marching Ravens Band. This was a decision that was made with great difficulty. We truly appreciate all that you have given of yourselves, and we hope you understand that this decision was made in order to enhance the sound and presence of the band in their performing capacity.”

I’m not sure exactly what they meant by this as there isn’t much that enhances the presence of a band more than the colorful flag line, but evidently several band members believe it really means that the band was taking up too many seats in the stadium and they wanted to increase the number of paying customers. Customers that will be paying more for tickets as the World Champion Ravens recently announced a ticket increase of roughly 10 percent.

In a sport where the salaries for each team exceed $120 million per year and the 32 teams each receive a significant chunk of nearly $10 billion annually in revenue, I have a hard time seeing how cutting roughly 20 band members is going to significantly enhance the bottom line. However, when looking at the NFL, it is clear that they really don’t care what I or anyone else thinks as long as we keep plopping down the money to keep their money engine moving.

The Ravens have proven this off-season that regardless of whether you are a nine-time Pro Bowler or wave a flag during the pre-game show, if you don’t play quarterback, you are just another disposable cog in the NFL machine.

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