Have the Ravens Lost Their Way?

“The Ravens Way” its long been the motto for the Baltimore Ravens since coming to Baltimore in 1996. From Ray Lewis to Ed Reed, to Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco. The Ravens way has not only been the tough, hard nose, never give up play on the field. But also the way former players have talked about the Ravens front office, and the way former GM Ozzie Newsome and Owner Steve Bisciotti conducted business and looked out for their best interests.

But all those aforementioned are gone and its a new era in Baltimore with a new generation of players that have new ideas on what it means to be a Raven. So while its normal for cultures to change from year to year as players come and go is it for the best?

Over the last few season it’s felt like the Ravens have had cultural problem and strayed away from the “Ravens Way”. Last month the NFLPA released a team by team report card. The NFLPA anonymously asked players what they felt about their respective teams treatment of their families, food service/nutrition, weight room, strength coaches, training room, training staff, locker room, and team travel. The Ravens had a C+ grade in weight room ranking 22nd, a C in training room ranking 21st. But the most glaring grade came from what Ravens players thought about the strength coaches. The Ravens were given an F- in that category by far the worst grade in the entire NFL.

The Ravens have been one of the most injured teams over the last several seasons and many have called upon the ways in which the Ravens conduct practice and the way they conducted their lifting programs under former strength coach Steve Saunders. Former Ravens defensive lineman Derek Wolfe has been on record several times explaining that his hip injury that forced him out of football was largely contributed to the Ravens negligent training program. With many other former players including former Ravens wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo coming to the defense of Wolfe, and voicing his own displeasure for the Ravens and Steve Saunders.

But that can be viewed for some as former disgruntled players that are just mad at an organization for their own failures. But what about when its current players openly voicing their frustrations. Marquise Brown famously voiced his displeasure in 2020 after he felt he wasn’t be used within the Ravens offense the right way. Many believed the tweet was aimed at former offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Brown would be traded during the 2022 NFL draft to the Arizona Cardinals. Many fans have called for the firing of Greg Roman for a long time and many within the organization have felt that the players themselves were frustrated with Roman and the offense, not a good look to have a disconnect between coaching and players.

Rashod Bateman appeared to become frustrated last month towards current Ravens GM Eric DeCosta, putting out a tweet in response to DeCosta saying they would “keep swinging” when it came to getting better receivers. Bateman responded in a now deleted tweet asking to stop having the finger pointed at them and to be put in better positions to utilize their strengths as players. Bateman also mentioned in his tweet he wanted the team to “keep us healthy” and “care about us” while adding he was “tired of y’all lying”. DeCosta has since signed veteran receivers Nelson Agholor and Odell Beckham Jr. in hopes of turning the Ravens passing game around.

While Roman and Saunders were the two who fans wanted gone the most. Head Coach John Harbaugh was not exempt from his own criticism as he kept both Saunders and Roman around even after the increased outcry against them. At times it has felt that Harbaugh has lacked what it means to be an NFL head coach and had failed to take control of a team that for some time now has lacked a true identity and culture. After the Ravens playoff loss to the Bengals last year running back J.K. Dobbins was very upset and while he did not name Harbaugh it was clear who his main frustrations were aimed at. After Tyler Huntley was stripped at the goal line leading to the Bengals game sealing touchdown, Dobbins was visibly upset telling reporters “I’m tired of it. I’m a playmaker. My teammates feed off me when I’m on the field. I should be out there all the time.” Dobbins added “I’m a guy who feels like if I’m on the field all the time, I can help this team win, and I wasn’t. It’s the playoffs. Why am I not out there? It’s the playoffs.” Dobbins did not get a single carry in the red zone during that drive.

Now to the current and biggest issue that has likely ever surrounded this organization, Lamar Jackson. The 2019 unanimous MVP, without a doubt the most electric players to ever put on a Ravens jersey, and beloved by all of Baltimore, may not be a Raven come 2023. The idea that a franchise quarterback may leave this team seems so out of character that has longed for a player of Lamar Jackson’s talent on the offensive side of the ball. The failure to sign Jackson to a long term deal even before the Watson deal has led us now to the reality that Jackson will be playing for someone else in 2023, and the Ravens will be left without a franchise quarterback. While the Ravens deserve some criticism, so does Jackson for his role in failing to sign a long term deal. Jackson’s refusal to agree to a deal that would have given him the second most guaranteed money in NFL history is proving to be a mistake as no teams have reached out to him with an offer sheet. It’s unfortunate that the Ravens and Jackson have gotten to this point and it again comes back to the culture and environment that is being creating a One Winning Drive.

Personally I believe that social media is to blame for this feeling that all is not well around the Ravens. While I think things may not be as positive as they want you to think, I also think things arn’t as bad as it may seem as well. Social media allows for fans and players alike to voice their opinions in real time and for fans it gives an inside look into players lives and their feelings which more often then not are taken out of context, creating rumors, and opinions that are not factual thus giving a feeling that the sky is falling. While the culture around this team is different from even just five years ago. I think its just a sign of the times and something that takes some adjusting to for some fans as players now are much more in control of their careers and loyalty to certain franchises is less, but thats just apart of the business of the NFL.

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