I believe in the merit system: rewards and kudos should go to those who earn them.
On Sunday, December 29, 2013 the final playoff spot in the National Football League’s American Conference went to the team that deserved it: the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers deserved that spot more than the Pittsburgh Steelers. They deserved it more than the Miami Dolphins, and they sure as heck deserved it more than the Baltimore Ravens, who closed out the 2013 season by stinking out their home stadium against the New England Patriots and then choking in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
After the Patriots drubbed the Ravens 41-7 at M&T Bank Stadium, the litany on local television stations was how Ravens fans were still hoping that their team would make the playoffs.
I had to listen to this drivel for about a week. What were those hoping the Ravens would make the playoffs basing those hopes on? It couldn’t have been the team’s performance throughout 2013.
The Ravens had to face the Bengals in Cincinnati, where the Bengals hadn’t lost all year. They were coming off that pathetic loss to New England. They still had trouble converting third-and-one and fourth-and-one plays.
A team that can’t consistently make first downs on third-and-one and fourth-and-one plays simply isn’t of playoff caliber, much less championship caliber. Or, as the late former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi is reputed to have said, “If you can’t gain one yard on a play, you don’t deserve to win.”
Ravens coaches and management didn’t need this week preparing for a playoff game they would probably lose anyway. They need this week to reflect on how the Super Bowl champs of the 2012 season got to this state. I have a few theories:
- A Ravens management that refused to abandon its delusion that Joe Flacco is a first-tier quarterback, up there with the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Flacco is at best a second-tier quarterback. He is certainly not worth the $20 million a year the Ravens are paying him. He spent nearly all of the 2013 season ranked near the bottom of the league in passer rating.
Joe Cool was at times brilliant; he was just as often downright awful. He threw more interceptions than touchdown passes, for heavens sakes. A quarterback that does that and collects $20 million a year is cheating somebody.
- A Ravens management that shipped wide receiver Anquan Boldin – the one player most responsible for the Ravens successful Super Bowl run of the 2012 season— to the San Francisco 49ers.
Rather than tell Flacco what they should have told him, which would have been something like, “You’re good, kid, but we all know you ain’t worth $20 million a year.” The Ravens honchos tried to cut Boldin’s salary. When he didn’t go for it, they sent him packing to San Francisco, where he helped the 49ers to a 12-4 record this season.
Oh, and the 49ers, unlike the Ravens, DID make the playoffs. The same day our beloved Ravens were getting their heads handed to them by the Bengals, the 49ers faced a tough Arizona Cardinals team— one that had beaten the Seattle Seahawks IN SEATTLE the week before— in Arizona.
After Boldin scored a touchdown for the 49ers, game announcers told viewers what “a steal” it was that San Francisco had gotten him for only a sixth round draft choice.
It’s not “stealing” when the party that is being “stolen” from aids and abets in the theft. What those announcers meant to say was this:
Trading Boldin for a sixth round draft choice was the most idiotic player personnel decision Ravens management has ever made.
The Ravens had one of the worst offenses in the league, and their pass rush all but vanished during the latter part of the season.
The Ravens had trouble beating the elite teams of the league.
The top AFC teams in 2013 were the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Irsay Colts. The Ravens beat the Bengals once and then lost to them. The Broncos and Patriots routed the Ravens completely.
This team has quite a ways to go before it’s in the class of the Denver Broncos; New England Patriots; Cincinnati Bengals; or the Irsay Colts.