Well there has been just way too much Ravens news lately that it has required its very own Free Kicks segment. While rooting hard for the Phillies to start hitting (against one of the deepest rotations in the majors that could be wishful thinking), I couldn’t help to reflect on all the big issues making national news for our home football team (no, the Redskins don’t count over here). Let’s line up for the kick…
Money for Nothing
For anyone who bothered to listen to the audio of Suggs’ now infamous radio comments it should be apparent that not only was he goaded into the statement, it may not have even been accurate. He did not dwell on who made the “bounty” or who benefited, it is more likely that the defense simply built each other up and emphasized the importance of stopping these individuals from beating them. Just as Mendenhall gloated about how he would slice through the Ravens D, Suggs and others likely gloated equally about how they would shut him down. Likewise, they would get back at Hines Ward for his cheap shots by hitting him hard himself.
Something particularly illuminating was an interview of Brian Billick about the issue. He told Dan Patrick that even if this was a bounty, every team does this and every coach knows about it; but it rarely has an impact on the game itself. The Ravens have been painted as a particularly dirty team and now Suggs’ comments have simply added fuel to that myth. Hines Ward, as he sat with his plastic smile on Pardon the Interruption advertising the NFL’s regulation against “bounties” knew full well that the Steelers were legendary for this, and could attest to the two times he has been fined for cheap shots on the field. No, Suggs wasn’t smart. But he wasn’t a villain and he was not dirty.
Chris McAlister has been benched due to injury. Chris McAlister has been benched for poor play. Chris McAlister has been benched for violating a team rule. No, apparently it isn’t a disciplinary benching. When Coach Harbaugh took over he emphasized discipline and commanded that the Ravens run a tighter ship. However, he has horribly mismanaged the Chris McAlister situation. Why was McAlister benched? We have no idea. The media and fans don’t necessarily have to know. But Chris should. Instead, the coach has not informed the 3 time Pro Bowler as to why he was benched, but left him guessing based on Harbaugh’s statements to the media, which have changed as often as the Ravens playoff hopes.
The Head Coach has an obligation to ensure that a player knows why he is on the bench, particularly if it is for disciplinary reasons. “You know what you did” is not sufficient in the NFL. Whether his stubbornness is out of principle or simple mismanagement is unclear, but has left the locker room scratching their heads and left the media wondering when or if Harbaugh will tell the truth about the issue. Say nothing if you have to, but don’t lie to us, Coach. At least the player deserves the truth.
Okay, so I understand why Suggs shouldn’t say it, but why is it so wrong for us to start talking about Troy Smith again? The biggest bonus for Flacco was supposedly his “big arm” to take shots down the field. However, this has not worked out for the Ravens. Flacco ranks 25th out of 34 eligible passers with a paltry 6.4 yards per completion, and more importantly ranks 27th in passes of more than 20 yards. Where is that big arm? Defenses have been able to take away the deep ball and kept everything close to the line of scrimmage, neutralizing the ability to throw down the field. So what is the bonus of having Flacco? Keep him in there as the Ravens are still at .500, but it might be something to consider down the road if he continues to struggle down the stretch.
I have always felt that Troy Smith was the better quarterback for a struggling team- a better than expected line protecting Flacco has been the only thing giving him even moderate success. Should the offensive line start to waver, Flacco will be a deer in headlights and fans will be calling for a quarterback who can improvise and keep drives alive any way possible.
P.S. Bonus points for anyone who can tell me the theme of the titles here…