Friday, October 24, 2008

Free Kicks- Ravens Edition!

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.

Say Anything

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.

High Fidelity

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…


Tony Herman said...

I disagree with the Troy Smith thing. Consider that coming into the season, everyone knew this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us. We're just doing better than expected.
That means we should be preparing for the future, and our future is the guy we drafted in the first round, not the guy we drafted in the fifth.
Not to mention, if we are focusing on winning this year, who has more experience between the two? Smith started two NFL games. He got slaughtered at Seattle and won against a Pitt team so depleted it allowed Cory Ross to look like Barry Sanders. Flacco has now started six.
The timing couldn't be worse for Suggs to say these things because Flacco just had his best game as a pro. Please Suggs, don't Bollerize him.

windsor said...

I couldn't agree more with you, Tony. At this point, with six starts under his belt, benching your future franchise quarterback for a stopgap in order to 'win now' is looking backward. Not forward.

Publicly calling out your young starter is how you create another boller. Could verb, "Bollerize", I like it.

Expatriate said...

Well the thing here is whether you believe that Flacco is the legit future franchise guy- I don't. In that sense I think Troy Smith is the better guy. To me Flacco in 4 years will be another washed up 1st round bust. I didn't like him before the draft and I am still not sold on him. I will gladly eat crow when I am proven wrong, but not et.

I am a huge proponent of planning for the future, and I think anyone expecting us to go to the playoffs is ridiculous- I just don't think that future is Joe Flacco.

Falco said...

It doesn't matter whether or not you believe Flacco will make it; there is no sense in benching him for a player will less credibility. Flacco, while having issues, is doing fine for a rookie and has proven he can step up in a game.

Troy Smith hasn't proven anything on the field, and with his missing most of the preseason and recovering from his sickness, there is nothing to suggest he will do anything; in fact his size suggests he won't.

Benching Flacco for Smith would be a huge mistake, and Harbaugh won't and shouldn't do it.