Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Okay, we have two weeks of regular season football left. The Patriots are still in "Pursuit of Perfection" (I am sure that ESPN has that copywrite on that by now, so all due apologies to them for any infringement. There is really no need to sue me. I have nothing of monetary value). Until this past Sunday, the Dolphins were in "Pursuit of Putridity" (I claim that one, unless someone can show proof that it has already been used). Luckily for Miami, the Ravens were on the schedule. It is apparent from the Ravens' 4-10 record that my predictions from the end of October were more than a little off. I guess I didn't foresee the depths of THEIR putridity. As was mentioned yesterday, Billick is definitely coming back for 2008. The debate rages back and forth around here about that. But in my (not so) humble opinion, the only question is who is out there to replace him that would in fact be a step up? As I also previously mentioned, Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino have made it hard for a team to go after any college coach, unless it is a coach who has NFL coaching experience. There is only one that immediately springs to mind, and that would be Pete Carroll. His overall NFL record over 4 seasons with 2 teams? 33-31. Playoffs? 1-2 in 2 appearances. Doesn't exactly leap off the page, does it? Brian Billick's record over 8+ seasons (including the current one)? 79-63. Playoffs? 5-3 over 4 appearances. Granted, the Ravens have not won a playoff game since the 2001 season when they were defending Super Bowl Champions. That is one of the big negatives with him. But losing in the playoffs is one of the big knocks on Marty Schottenheimer, and he is going to be in demand this offseason. Even if you extrapolate from Carroll's record with USC that he has learned a lot about coaching since he went to the NCAA, the Terrible Two (Saban and Petrino) have proved once again that college success does not necessarily translate into the pros (and vice versa, kind of like Chan Gailey proved at Georgia Tech and Al Groh is proving at Virginia). And why would Pete Carroll want to leave USC? Look at what happened to Steve Spurrier when he left Florida for the Washington Redskins? 2 years later he was back in college. They are two distinct separate mindsets, coaching in the NCAA versus the NFL, and for every success story either way they moved, there are probably 10 failures. So drop the NCAA from the conversation. In the pros, there are no uber-hot coordinators out there, no Romeo Crennell or Charlie Weis out there. Jason Garrett at Dallas is close, but Jerry Jones is grooming him to take over for Wade Phillips, and I don't think he would let him go without a big fight. And after one year, I am not sold on him being the second coming of Vince Lombardi (who was the Offensive Coordinator for the Giants before taking over in Green Bay. And who was the Defensive Coordinator for that Giants team? Tom Landry. No wonder that team was so good). Without any stand out prospects, what is left? Cowher is out for at least one more year (also previously mentioned. Aren't you keeping up with all of this?). Besides, I am pretty certain that he is holding out for the Carolina Panthers job. That is where he is from, and coaching at home would appeal to almost anyone. Of course if Butch Davis (another NFL head coaching retread) leaves UNC, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go there. So you have one coach with a proven track record in Schottenheimer, at LEAST two open coaching positions, and a bunch of retreads who have not shown the ability to win like Billick has. And the Ravens still owe Billick $15 million over the next three years. So factoring all of that in, even with all the hand wringing the fans are doing, it looks like Billick is the way to go.

So where do we go from here? Let's look at the draft...

If the draft were to be settled today, the Ravens would draft 8th (if my calculations are correct). How is the draft decided? With thanks to James Alder from, here are the criteria:

Determining Order of Selection

• The team with the lowest winning percentage at the end of the previous season drafts first in the NFL Draft.

• The rest of the teams are placed in order from lowest winning percentage to the highest.

• The Super Bowl winner drafts last, even if they do not have the highest winning percentage.

• The Super Bowl loser drafts next to last.

• Strength of schedule for the previous season is the first tie-breaker for teams with the same
winning percentage.

• Divisional and conference records are the next step in the tie-breaking procedure.

• As a last resort, a coin toss is used to determine the order of selection for teams with the same winning percentage.

• If a playoff and non-playoff team end the season with the same winning percentage, the non-playoff team selects before the playoff team regardless of strength of schedule.

The one thing this does not mention is head-to-head competition. If two teams play each other and then end up with the same overall record, the team that lost that game will pick before the team that won. So with two games to go, here are the division records...

Dallas 12-2-0
NY Giants 9-5-0
Washington 7-7-0
Philadelphia 6-8-0

Green Bay 12-2-0
Minnesota 8-6-0
Detroit 6-8-0
Chicago 5-9-0

Tampa Bay 9-5-0
New Orleans 7-7-0
Carolina 6-8-0
Atlanta 3-11-0

Seattle 9-5-0
Arizona 6-8-0
San Francisco 4-10-0
St. Louis 3-11-0

New England 14-0-0
Buffalo 7-7-0
NY Jets 3-11-0
Miami 1-13-0

Pittsburgh 9-5-0
Cleveland 9-5-0
Cincinnati 5-9-0
Baltimore 4-10-0

Indianapolis 12-2-0
Jacksonville 10-4-0
Tennessee 8-6-0
Houston 7-7-0

San Diego 9-5-0
Denver 6-8-0
Oakland 4-10-0
Kansas City 4-10-0

So who is drafting over us? As it stands now: Miami, NY Jets, Oakland, Kansas City, St. Louis, New England (they have the rights to San Francisco's pick from a previous trade), and Atlanta. Because the Ravens have a 1st place schedule thanks to winning (and we have already played and beaten the Jets, St. Louis, and San Francisco they hold the first tie breaker over us) if we end up tied with them (we are tied w/the 49'ers, the other two have one less win than us), they would draft before us. We cannot overtake the Dolphins for the top spot, they have that locked up. The BEST we could do would be the 2nd pick, and all of the teams except the Chiefs would have to win out (they play the Jets in week 17) for that to happen. There is a reason their records are as sucky as ours, so I don't see that happening. So let's look at us ending up with the 8th pick. Where does that leave us? Well, currently it leaves us with 5 picks. Why? The draft is 7 rounds. The Ravens traded their 3rd round pick for the 2008 draft as part of the deal to get McGahee. They used the 5th round pick in the supplemental draft (since this article is already long winded as all hell, for an explanation of the supplemental draft, go HERE) on Jared Gaither. That leaves the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th.

The Ravens have multiple needs (like every team not playing in a stadium not maned after a razor company). The defensive secondary (specifically cornerbacks) has been a sieve with the injuries / illnesses of Chris McCallister and Samari Rolle. The offensive line has some young promise, but their is the very real chance that Jonathan Ogden and Mike Flynn are either going to retire (both) or be released (Flynn). They already have one guy (Chris Chester) listed as the primary backup for 3 positions (center and both guards). So they are going to need more offensive linemen. But honestly, both lines could use some backup, and it is hard to have too many offensive OR defensive linemen. And then there is quarterback. I am afraid that Boller is just not going to work out. I still hold out hope that he can put it together, but I now think that if it happens it will happen somewhere else. Like the rest of the world, I have not seen enough of Troy Smith to have an opinion of his NFL caliber. Ozzie Smith is really high on the guy, and he has proven to know what he is talking about (remember, drafting Boller was Billick's play, and every scout out there said that he had all the tools. He just hasn't been able to put it together with any consistency). But either way, we would need at least a backup after 2008, no matter which one is the starter going forward (I am going under the assumption that Steve McNair is going to retire. It is a hard fact of life in professional sports, but he just doesn't have the ability anymore). There is always free agency, but at least when it comes to linemen (especially offensive linemen), it could be argued that they have been overvalued, so I don't know what they could do there. Defensive linemen might be an option, as well as cornerbacks. But what should the Ravens do?

If Petrino had stayed at Atlanta, I would expect them to draft Brian Brohm. But Petrino is gone, and Matt Ryan is available. I don't think that Ryan lasts to the 8th pick. Personally I am not that high on Brohm. I think he was more a product of the system that Petrino ran at Louisville and that he just won't translate to the pro game. That would be (at this point) the only player that I think is worthy of both the draft position and would fill the needs of the team in a manner that would be consistent with the money a top 10 draft pick would get. If he is there, the Ravens should grab him. He won't be there. So what should they do? Trade down. Pick up some more picks. Offensive and defensive linemen, as well as cornerbacks, are always available in the later rounds, and they are (more times than not) good, talented players. Look at the lines for the teams that set the standard for offense. The New England Patriots have ONE player they drafted in the first round as a starter. Indianapolis has none, and neither do the Dallas Cowboys. Anyone who really follows professional sports knows that you build your team in the draft and complete it with free agents (look what has happened to the Yankees since they went to the "GET EVERY OTHER TEAM'S FREE AGENTS!!" philosophy) and trades. The Ravens need to trade down, get some extra picks, and rebuild the team. The game is won and lost on the line, on both sides. Fix that, and use trades and free agency to fix the secondary and the quarterback position (unless something incredible falls into our laps during the draft in either position, in which case we jump at it).

Maybe I make it sound too simplistic, but it seems to me that too often people make things way more complicated than they need to be.

So what do you say? Do you agree or disagree? Drop me a line, leave a comment, and let me know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Again, REALLY overdue to post here.

I am aiming (after the holidays when things calm down at one of he jobs at least) to post every Tuesday and Friday. Any questions or topics that anyone has questions on, send 'em in and I will try to cover them. But until then, a few random thoughts w / a smidgen of explanation...

  • DO NOT START TROY SMITH IN EITHER OF THE LAST TWO GAMES!! DO YOU HEAR ME BILLICK?!?!? It is bad enough that you are guaranteed to come back next year (but I DO have a theory on that. More in a sec), do NOT ruin this kid like you did Boller when you threw Boller to the wolves after your "QB Competition" which was a bigger sham than the end of the US-USSR '72 Olympics basketball game (don't know what I am talking about? Go HERE). And for those who are clamoring for him, let's look at this honestly. Against Indy he was basically playing against the 3rd stringers. It was an exhibition game at that point. Against Miami he was playing against a prevent defense at the end of he game, and the drive in OT was all runs except for one pass for 4 yards. Troy Smith might wind up being a good QB. Ozzie Newsome thinks so, and he has shown himself to be a pretty good overall judge of talent so far. Let him stay on the bench and keep learning, let the game slow down for him a bit more before he is thrown to the wolves.
  • Going for the field goal at the end of regulation was the right call I think everybody here knows I am not a Billick fan, but the fact remains that he made the right call at the end of the game. The fan in me was screaming for him to go for it, but it was 4th down, so it was do or die. The Ravens were mired in a (then) 7 game losing streak. A 5th round draft pick rookie just drove the team down the field (Darling should have rolled into the damn end zone. But that is another story). There was one possible positive outcome, a touchdown. Look at the negatives, and how many of them could have fallen on Smith. Incomplete pass, fumbled / muffed hand off, muffed QB / center exchange, just keeps going. Even with all I just said about what he did was against a prevent defense (everybody say it with me...what does a prevent defense prevent? VICTORY!), the fact that he did drive the team down the field by going 4-7 for 45 yards (not counting the spike to stop the clock), all of that could do nothing but give him the confidence that he can be a pro level QB. Why risk that positive momentum for him by putting him in a situation where he makes a mistake? At this point I am looking towards the future, and the negatives far outweighed the positives on that scenario. Billick going for the tie and OT was the sensible move (although I have no doubt that somewhere in the DC suburbs that Gregg Easterbrook was making his "Game Over" note in his notebook, and will undoubtedly have a smart yet pithy comment on that going for the tie instead of the win in his TMQ article this week. That being said, I am a huge admirer of Mr. Easterbrook, and read his column every week. I highly recommend you do the same).
  • Billick back in 2008 I know it wasn't what I wanted, nor what a lot of others wanted. But I have my usual conspiracy theory on that. It is well known that the Ravens had at least preliminary talks with Bill Cowher. Not much as made of it, but in the wake of the Bobby Petrino quitting (another topic I will have to hit ASAP), when Atlanta contacted him it was made public that Cowher said he was planning on staying in the broadcast booth for at least one more year (which is about right for coaches taking a break where THEY decide to leave a team and not have a team tell them that it is time to go. 2 years is pretty average off "recharging the batteries" time. Now factor in that Billick has 3 years at about $5 million per, and how much it would cost to land a big fish the size of Cowher, and the fact that he wants another year to relax with his cushy studio gig). It is a lot more palatable to a team to eat $10 million and get the hottest coach on the market (assuming he is back on the market) than to eat $15 million and go with either an untested Off or Def Coord. or a retread head coach (after Petrino and Nick Saban, I don't think there will be many college coaches who haven't already coached in the NFL coming up any time soon). You see where this is going? Stay tuned and let's see how close I am on this one.
  • The Mitchell Report I have to wrap this up, but I need to check in real quick on the Mitchell report. Honestly, it gained a LOT of credence after I saw THIS this morning. B-Rob was the one player that kept getting singled out as proof that the Mitchell Report was long on innuendo and short on facts. "A player said that another player said he tried steroids a couple of times, but he never saw him inject or take any steroids, never joined his housemates while they were cycling, and the one time the first player went to go buy steroids, the second player split before it happened"...I was just as ready to call bullshit over what sounded like a former teammate of Roberts (and close enough friend to have him in his wedding) who couldn't make it in the bigs and is now headed over to Japan to try and extend his career and is just jealous. But now, I just don't know what to think. I will touch on this again later, when I have time to really delve into the enormity of it all.

Okay, that is it for now. Talk to you soon (Hopefully it won't be a month and a half this time).