For many years, like the proverbial kid who couldn't go outside and play, the Ravens and their fans had to watch from a distance, with their noses pressed to the window, as much of the rest of the NFL played increasingly fast-paced, high-scoring football.
Oh, the Ravens racked up plenty of wins and playoff appearances with their defense leading the way and kicker Matt Stover saving the day, so no one got too upset. But a typical final score was 13-10 with the occasional 9-6 mixed in, so it wasn't wild and crazy.
I served out those years in the press box, apart from fans in the stands, but I think I can speak for the group in saying we all sat through our share of low-scoring slugfests, watched scores from other games rise until they spewed smoke, and wondered what it was like to be THERE.
Well, now we know. And as we suspected, it's fun to be THERE.
Finally, the Ravens are playing high-scoring football with the rest of the league. They've scored 34, 33 and 28 points in their past three games, exhibiting a balanced, consistent, prolific offense as they hunt for a playoff spot. For the year, they're ranked seventh in the league in scoring and ninth in yards.
A year ago, they missed the playoffs largely because they couldn't get out of their own way on offense. But Gary Kubiak has engineered a dramatic reversal in his first year as the team's offensive coordinator. While it's too soon to know if the Ravens are a playoff team in 2014, it's not too soon to declare Kubiak's overhaul a resounding success. He has taken a ho-hum offense that lacked an identity, installed his run-first, play-action philosophy and produced results that compare with the best in the franchise's history.
Even without Ray Rice and Dennis Pitta, who were going to play major roles, the Ravens are rolling, especially since the bye-week break in November, when Kubiak focused on identifying what the unit does best. The line is opening holes and keeping Joe Flacco upright. Flacco is having his finest season; he was downright masterful in picking apart Miami Sunday. Justin Forsett has rushed for more than 1,000 yards. A deep receiving corps is making plays.
The only problem with Kubiak's success is it's bound to attract attention. He was the Houston Texans' head coach before he came to Baltimore. A handful of teams will need new head coaches after this season. His name is likely to circulate.
Again, I think I can speak for the group when I ask, "So this is Kubiak's one season in Baltimore? The Ravens finally get a guy who gets their offense going, and he's gone in a blink?"
It's too soon to know, of course. And hey, maybe Kubiak will want to stay. I'm guessing he's enjoying just coaching this year, as opposed to absorbing darts and doing the other things a head coach does. He had a health scare a year ago, and at heart, he's an offensive wonk who loves X's and O's. He can easily stay in that role here for a team that's always in the playoff hunt, hardly the worst situation.
But of course, the chance to run his own show again could tempt him, as it does so many coaches.
What could the Ravens do to try to keep him?
They could certainly give him a raise. Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant GM, got one when other teams wanted to talk to him.
They could hire a personal chef to cook up the best possible Mexican food at any time. Kubiak, a Texan, loves the stuff.
Hey, University of Alabama boosters paid off Nick Saban's mortgage, reportedly a $3.1 million tab, to keep their beloved coach happy. What do you say, Ravens fans? How troubled are you by flashbacks to 13-10 and 9-6? How excited are you to see the offense marching up and down the field? Troubled and excited enough to donate in support of Ravenstown's collective happiness?
In the end, a decision, if there is one, would rest with Kubiak. My suggestion is to hope for the best with the understanding that there might not be much the Ravens can do.
If he stays, it's great news for the team. If he were to leave, I would recommend the hiring of a Kubiak disciple (they exist) as opposed to starting over and overhauling the offense again.
It made perfect sense to change direction after last season, but after a season like this, why would you?