EVERY NFL TEAM IS FLAWED IN SOME WAY
Hey, we all know this team.
They're 12-4, in the playoffs again, but their fans are uneasy, and the media is questioning how well they can do in the postseason.
A highly-respected reporter who has covered this team for decades reminded me of the common criticisms surrounding this NFL power:
- The offensive coordinator is terrible; surely too conservative, and some even suggest he should be fired
- The offense has no identity
- The offensive line can't knock people off the ball the way it once did
- The pass protection is soft
- Some critics say they throw too much; others say they don't throw enough
- The quarterback holds the ball too long and has trouble reading defenses
- The defense is OK, but not the one that scared opponents a few years ago
- The defense is one injury away to a certain safety to being just an average group
- The corners can't hold up against teams with a reasonable passing attack
But enough about the Steelers.
Yes, go to the web and read opinions on the Steelers. I did and then called a longtime Pittsburgh reporter I respect and asked him to list the common complaints about Mike Tomlin's team. The list above is what he gave me.
Sounds a lot like the ones you hear about the Ravens.
You want more? Test the media waters in Philadelphia. For giggles, look at what media and fans are saying about the Jets. Even the Patriots are not exempt. Columnists up there are reminding Coach Belichick, Brady and Co. about the fact that they haven't won a playoff game since 2007 – and the team the Patriots don't want to face – yes, our Ravens – could be up there a week from this Sunday.
Look, all NFL teams have flaws and weaknesses. But, if you've found a way to win 10 or more games in this league, you're really good and capable of beating any team in the playoffs. No doubt we can beat the Chiefs… And they could beat us; and we can win at Pittsburgh or New England, and we already know we can beat the Saints… And, we believe that we could handle the Falcons on a neutral field.
It's OK to have doubts about the Ravens. It's OK to second guess and be smarter than our coaches and players. For some, that's part of being a fan. Know this: We're ready for the playoffs. We are battle tested, both physically and mentally tough. We are the ONLY NFL team to not be blown out in any game this year. We didn't have one head scratcher. Our losses have all come by a few points when we had chances to win in the final minutes.
We're ready! Going to Kansas City. Kansas City, here we come!
CHRIS BERMAN VISIT
ESPN's Chris Berman spent seven hours at our facility on Wednesday. I've known "Boomer," the nickname his longtime friends use for him, for 30 years.
Berman loves the NFL, and he showed it during his visit to Owings Mills. He was excited to spend time with John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome, went out of his way to chat with Ed Reed, Todd Heap, Ray Rice and Haloti Ngata and did a memorable interview with Ray Lewis that will air on "NFL Countdown" on Sunday around noon. I think it will be a special piece. You might want to make a note to watch it.
I'm not sure how they will edit the conversation between Chris and Ray, because they talked for almost 30 minutes, and the piece will only run three to four minutes. These two talented and high-achieving "stars" created energy with their conversation. After they finished, "Boomer" told me, "That could be the best interview I've ever been in." Lewis said later, "Wow, Chris and I connected. That's the first time we've ever sat down for that type of interview."
The gist of the interview featured questions about Ray's leadership and the speeches he gives to the Ravens at various times of the season. While watching the interview, I clearly realized that it was special to witness. Hope ESPN's final piece reflects the connection these guys made and the energy in the room.
Before the interview, I took Berman to our Wednesday walk-through practice in our indoor field. As we came in, a number of players' heads turned, and it was clear they recognized the ESPN veteran. Berman said, "Watch, they don't know me as a reporter, they know me as the 'Whoop guy.' In the business over 30 years, and younger people know me that way." Not 10 seconds later, we heard the first "whoop" call out from one of the players.
("Whoop" is the sound Berman makes when he is describing a player fumbling the ball on an NFL highlight. He made it famous when he and Tom Jackson hosted the best NFL show ever – "NFL Primetime" – the Sunday night recap of all the NFL games from that day. When NBC-TV got the rights for its Sunday night game and NFL package in 2006, ESPN was told by the league that it could no longer air "NFL Primetime." That's a shame. All of us in the business used to rush home to see it or catch it the next morning when it was aired a second time.)
As Coach Harbaugh and Ozzie discussed after Chris' visit, Berman reminded us about why we all got into this business in the first place – because it's supposed to be fun. Thanks "Boomer."
Berman left me a voicemail Thursday morning: "Thanks for being nice to me, and thanks to everyone there. I was reminded why you guys win every year. You guys are like a family. You treat each other with respect, work hard and have fun along the way."
One more thing about Berman's visit: At the end of the Wednesday walk-through, Coach Harbaugh asked Chris to break the team huddle. John explained to Chris that he should count to three, say whatever word he wanted, and the team would shout it with him. As all hands extended to Chris' right arm in the middle of this large huddle, "Boomer" said: "Guys, you know what it's going to be. Here we go. One, two three…" And all shouted "Whoop!"
THIS IS IT!
This is what we worked for since the end-of-season meeting last February when the message was: "Let's find a way to get back to the playoffs and give ourselves a chance to win the Super Bowl." So far, so good. Sure, we would love to be off this week and hosting a game next week. That didn't happen. We're in the playoffs again –by the way, we're one of just three NFL teams (along with Indy and Philly) to earn the playoffs each of the last three years – and Kansas City is the challenge. Let's go to Arrowhead and beat those Chiefs!
Talk with you next week.