Monday October 8th, 2007
It has been months since I posted here. To tell you the truth, I had pretty much abandoned this place. It kept getting pushed back because of other stuff, then I would look and it had been so long since I had posted that it seemed like there was no point in posting anymore (damn self fulfilling prophecies, or whatever the hell it is). Either way, I have been getting the itch to expound on my sports knowledge (and sometimes on my lack thereof) for a while. And since I had a request to post, I figured it was time to dust off my Madden-cap and get to it.
Lets begin with a subject near and dear to my heart, the Ravens. 3-2, with 2 wins that were great until the 4th quarter when the defense suddenly petered out, and one UGLY ass win yesterday. Mixed with two nasty losses (6 turnovers in one game? That is bush league crap, plain and simple) and you get where we are now.
Now yesterday's win was not pretty, but I am actually okay with it. The Ravens have had their fair share of injuries, and any time you have an offensive line with 3 rookies and a combined 8 years of experience (their most experienced player had a total of 25 games under his belt by the time the carnage was over, and the team had NO backups left for the line) and are down to your last tight end on your roster..well, you take your wins where you can.
All of this is not to say that the Ravens are off the hook for their lackluster play. Every team has injuries to deal with, and that is never an excuse. I have always liked Billick's mantra of "Next Man Up". That is the way that you have to look at it. A player goes down? Next Man Up. No excuses, no whining. Next Man Up. That is the way that it has to be. But ignoring injuries, the problem with the team this year has to come down to play calling. Let's look at the Cleveland loss for an example.
The Browns jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Granted, if Chris McCalister hadn't decided to guess on Braylon Edwards' 75 yard go route and instead played man coverage like HE WAS SUPPOSED TO, it might have been a lot different. But be that as it may, the Ravens are down by 2 scores before the first quarter ends. Add to that their starting QB has a groin injury severe enough for him to be pulled from the previous 2 games and replaced by the backup (and to anyone watching, the fact that he was not stepping into his throws, which was causing him to be very inaccurate and even less able to get the ball down the field (and to be honest, Steve McNair lost his long ball a few years ago), plus there is still over 45 minutes left in the game, and they have a RB that they traded 3 picks for then gave a $40 million contract to, that the defense needs some time to regroup and game plan for a team that is beating them off the ball and to the marks, and that the other team's defense is ranked 30th in the league in rushing, and what do you do?
YOU RUN THE DAMN BALL UNTIL THE OTHER TEAM CAN'T FEEL THEIR LEGS ANYMORE.
You deflate the momentum, keep their offense off of the field, give your defense a breather, and give the other team a steady dose of Willis McGahee and Musa Smith. Make the Browns stop them.
Fact - McGahee had 68 yards on 8 carries in the first half (8.5 YPC)
Fact - McGahee ended with 104 yards on 14 carries (7.4 YPC)
Fact - McNair ended the first half 9-17 for 95 yards with an INT (10.6 YPC, 5.6 YPA)
Fact - McNair ended the game 34-53 for 307 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT (9.03 YPC, 5.8 YPA)
So what does all of that mean? Simple. Billick panicked, or at least he didn't think the game through and got pass happy, even though the few times he did call for a run, the running game delivered. And to make matters worse, he got pass happy with a QB who couldn't make the throws because he was injured, but for some unknown reason he didn't pull the QB for the healthy backup, even though he had the week before. Why is that? I think to avoid a budding QB controversy by the small brains who sit there and say that if you pull the starting QB and the backup has ANY success than BOOM there's a QB controversy. It's like the old saying goes "Who is the most popular guy in any NFL city? The backup QB" (even here in Baltimore). Even at the half, when the Ravens were down 24-6, they still had PLENTY of time to run, run, run the ball, eat the clock, and beat down the Browns. Instead McNair threw 2x as many passes in the 2nd half as he did in the 1st.
I am not known as a Billick basher any more than I am known as a Billick fan. But I am a fan of common sense football, and when you have someone who could be considered an elite RB (you would be hard pressed to name more than 5-6 backs better than him without having an argument on your hands, and you better have some solid stats to back up your claim. Personally, at this time I would rank him behind Tomlinson, Addai, Alexander, Johnson, and pretty much tied with Parker - and don't be surprised if Johnson falls off of this list in the next year or two as his body pulls an Earl Campbell on him) and an opponent that is so bad at stopping the run that only 2 other teams in the league are worse than them at it, you have to run the ball a lot. A total of 20 carries is not going to get the job done.
This leads me to my overriding problem with Billick. He keeps trying to make the team fit his idea of what they should be instead of being what they re. He is the guy who designed the offense that has (or had, it is possible that the Colts beat it) the record for most points in a single season back when he was the OC for the Vikings in 1998. He cannot let that go. I am convinced that the only reason the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 is because Billick didn't have enough built up hubris as a head coach to override what he saw happening (big ball control offense and devestating defense with timely special teams). Now he cannot help himself. He has to be right, he has to show that his system will work, even if it isn't working. Look at Don Shula. He won Super Bowls with a big bruising running game and an underrated defense. When Marino falls into his lap, what does he do? He retools the offense for its biggest asset and keeps on winning. Billick cannot do that. He is convinced that it is the system that makes the players, but really it is the other way around. The players make the system.
I have one other thing that I need to make a point of. Last night at work, someone was calling Jonathan Ogden soft for not playing because of a toe injury. And I have heard others mocked for missing multiple games with injuries like "turf toe" (an injury as misunderstood and discredited as baseballs "injury of the year", the strained oblique. Both VERY painful, yet the general public has no idea how bad they are and how much they affect a player's performance) and the like. Let me explain something to you...
Look at Ogden's personal stats (height/weight/etc). 6'9". 345 lbs. He is a BIG MAMMA-JAMMA. His job is to run into other 6'+, 300+ lb. players as hard as he can and drive them away from the guy who has the ball. What part of the body does he use to push off with? What is the only part of his body coming in contact with the ground, absorbing ALL of that weight and force and redirecting it (simple physics, y'all)? His feet, specifically, the balls of his toes. It is like someone running at full speed, their heels never touch the ground. Now imagine running at full speed while pushing a 335 lb person who is pushing against you with all of their might. Can you picture how much force is coming down on that foot? And with Ogden's big toe being the part that is hurt, can you imagine how impossible it would be for him to do his job?
Basically, I am saying to all those who question him (or anyone else with a foot injury), don't be a dork. Try it yourself and see what happens.
Wow. I wasted a lot of company time doing that. But it was fun. I shall have to get back to doing this more often.