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Lackluster Offense Diminishes Ravens' Entertainment Value

October 18, 2017
Nobody likes to be told their baby is ugly. Well, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, I am here to tell you your football team, your baby, has grown ugly. 

That the team is just 35-37, including playoffs, since its Super Bowl XLVII win in New Orleans is just a small part of your team's problem.

This goes beyond the win-loss record. This is about a team that has ceased to be fun. I know inside Bisciotti's skybox he has to be seeing the same things his fans are grumbling about week in and week out.

This past week, I emailed a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless in the event he ever wants to hop back on the wagon) and asked a simple question: "Did you go to the Ravens game Sunday?"

Before I give you his answer, I have to point out that my friend is a thoughtful sports fan, not at all a knee-jerk type.

"No. I can buy anything I want, except I can't buy back time wasted. Product is horrible," my friend said.

I pressed my friend, thinking perhaps it's an anti-protest reaction and asked if it was the NFL in general or just the Ravens. He got back to me: "NFL OK in general, Ravens unwatchable."

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who is a good man and a terrific leader of men, was asked at his most recent Monday news conference to explain why he still had confidence that Marty Mornhinweg's offense could still succeed. Harbaugh's answer showed a disconnect with his fan base that may be irreparable.

"Marty is a great coach," Harbaugh said. "There is no question in my mind about it. I have seen him over the years. I know what he can do." 

Harbaugh went on to say his team is fighting together, and his coaches are working hard and trying to put the players in positions to make plays. 

But the fact is that Harbaugh has been allowed to double-down again on having an offensive coordinator who plays a brand of offensive football that is, well, "offensive." In fact, the only time in Harbaugh's tenure -- this is his 10th season -- when the team played a sound and attacking brand of offensive football was the year he had Gary Kubiak foisted upon him as his offensive coordinator. Since then the Ravens have had two offensive coordinators in Marc Trestman and Mornhinweg who have made the fan base yearn for the days of Matt Cavanaugh and Cam Cameron. 

Since Mornhinweg took over for Trestman, the Ravens are 8-9 and have scored a rather pedestrian 31 offensive touchdowns.

Missing from any of this is an acknowledgement by Harbaugh that the team he coaches when Joe Flacco is behind center has for the most part -- there are occasional respites, such as the game in Oakland Oct. 8 -- become one of the dullest to watch. Of course part of that is the brain trust's seeming inability to surround their highest earner with players who can make plays.

The fact that for the past 10-15 years Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome's best receivers have been Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. -- all free agents -- is a sad commentary on the scouting department. Moreover, only two times during Newsome's 20-plus years with the Ravens has he been able to draft running backs that made a difference in Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice.

I get that Newsome and his scouting department have done an excellent job with interior line players on both sides of the ball. I also get that interior line play is an incredibly important part of any winning team's DNA. But nobody is sitting in those stands with tickets at all-time-high prices to watch interior line play and because the Ravens outsmarted their opponents by picking a 350-pound lineman in the fifth round even though they had him graded as a third-round talent. 

The Ravens Mission Statement reads: "Our mission is to win football games, serve our fans, and be a positive force in the community."

I'd say the Harbaugh era, as it looks to be heading into its inevitable sunset, has the Ravens positioned to still very much be a positive force in our community. However, during the past four and a half seasons, the winning football games part hasn't quite been what it used to be.

But where Harbaugh has lost his fan base and probably the loyal support of his boss, is that he stubbornly clings to a brand of football that has ceased to be a good value investment for a large portion of the people who pay the freight.