There’s nothing good that comes from losing four straight football games.
Things get weird. People don’t handle it well. It’s understandable. We’re talking about a month’s worth of losing. Imagine if the Orioles went weeks at a time without winning a single game. Or … remember when they did that. It wasn’t fun! Now imagine if that was a team that thought they could win the Super Bowl before that started. The Orioles had NO CHANCE of winning the Super Bowl!
You see how bad things get after four straight losses! Columnists’ jokes get worse and worse!
Look, we know what’s happened in Baltimore during the last month. Or at least I thought we did. But this is what a month’s worth of football losses tends to do to a community.
Two particular tweets this week have really stood out to me for how they represent the conversation surrounding the Ravens’ woes. I thought I’d use them to frame this column.
I lump these together not because they’re the same thought but instead because they come from the same place. Both Ken Weinman and Tim Barbalace are personalities at 105.7 The Fan locally. As I know all too well (not because I’m casually cruel or anything like that), sports radio personalities are reminded constantly that their job isn’t to be “right” or “wrong” in what they say. Their job is to get people to react.
Paul Kopelke was the general manager at former Baltimore sports talk station WNST during the six years I hosted there. I would always love the way he would describe it to aspiring hosts. “You probably think your job is to cover sports. You’re wrong. Your job is to sell pizzas and haircuts and whatever else we need to sell.” That’s the concept of sports radio. Discourse be damned! Say whatever you need to say to build an audience! Whether they love you or hate you, they’ll hear the commercials!
Perhaps this framing makes you think I’m attacking Weinman and Barbalace. I am not. In different fashions, they’re both doing their job. And since both tweets garnered response, you would argue they did it fairly well. Hell, they both got a local interwebs columnist to further share their tweet!
But I really share them for vastly different reasons. Barbalace is asking a question more than making a statement (perhaps he made more of a statement on the radio station but I apologize, I simply do not know). Because of that, it’s easier to simply dismiss the premise altogether. There are certainly fair criticisms of Eric DeCosta (and even the general managers of the teams with the best records in the NFL).
We’ll never understand what made this team believe they could trust one of their starting tackle positions to Alejandro Villanueva, clearly on the downside of his career. That signing was so puzzling to me that I did FAR more background work on the player than I have done on almost any signing. The Ravens get so many things right! My reaction to the signing was so negative that I feared I had to have gotten something wrong. So I started checking in with multiple NFL sources, NONE of whom thought it made sense for the Ravens to commit to Villanueva as a starting tackle.
That’s a fair criticism. It didn’t make sense then. It hasn’t worked out. It’s fair to criticize spending a draft pick on a fullback who had little chance of ever making the roster. That criticism has to be measured considering the expectations for the 184th overall pick are minimal, BUT it can be pointed out that a few running backs selected after Ben Mason (Eli Mitchell, Khalil Herbert, Chris Evans) may have proven to be helpful in Baltimore. But I’m using the benefit of hindsight in my critique.
Ultimately, the question is worthless. (With all due respect to the author, who has a job to do!) As much as we want to stir things up, we know what happened here. The Ravens built a largely outstanding roster that was quite capable of competing for a title, but they suffered more misfortune than a Lemony Snicket book. They miraculously overcame significant injuries for awhile, but another unfathomable rash combined with the COVID outbreak derailed the season.
Which brings us to Weinman’s thought. I’ve heard some variation of this take from … quite a few Ravens fans this week, actually. And while I don’t agree with how Weinman worded it, I certainly understand those who might be saying, “I don’t know if I would even want to watch any more of this secondary in the postseason.”
But this premise is just to blatantly absurd. When Joe Flacco was lost for the rest of the season in 2015 and the Ravens’ hopes were dashed, I was the first (and seemingly the loudest) to openly suggest that as a fan, I preferred to see the Ravens lose every game the rest of the way. Because the season was over. And they didn’t have their quarterback.
Many of these types of “takes” have included a suggestion that the Ravens purposely do not play Lamar Jackson even if he’s healthy enough to play. To be clear, Weinman’s tweet did not. That’s an even more absurd premise than my 6-year-old asking me what happens when Santa Claus needs to poop! (He has access to literally every bathroom in the world. Come on, kid.) If Lamar Jackson is healthy enough to play a professional football game on Sunday (or in Week 18 if the Ravens aren’t eliminated), he plays. How hard is this? How far are we willing to go to just say anything at all?
I get what Weinman is saying. He’s saying it’s unlikely that given everything they’re dealing with, the Ravens could do anything of significance in the postseason. And he’s probably not wrong, honestly. But it’s still a ridiculous thought. The Ravens are definitely better off making the playoffs because … you truly never know what can happen. Other teams can have injuries and COVID issues too! Lamar Jackson could be … Lamar Jackson again!
It’s tough to do this job and just say, “It sucks that the Ravens have been so decimated that they’ve lost four straight games and we’ll have to wait and see if they can have just enough pieces on the field to have a chance in their next game.” It’s very boring. It doesn’t sell mortgages or lap dances or anything like that. But it’s the reality that faces this team and this fan base until the season ends.
Then we can go back to screaming about Lamar Jackson’s contract.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox