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Eisenberg: Fact & Opinion On Leslie Frazier, Joe Flacco, Playoffs


Dusting off an old standby …

Fact: The Ravens hire Leslie Frazier to coach their defensive backs.

Opinion: His official title, secondary coach, is slightly misleading. Frazier really is being brought in as the turnovers coach. That area is where the Ravens' pass defense really fell short in 2015, grabbing just six interceptions, easily the franchise's all-time low. As for defending the pass in general, the unit actually came on strong after a horrid start, finishing with a No. 10 league ranking after sitting near the bottom early. The pass defense was pretty effective in the second half of the season, with the extreme exception of the Seattle game, which revealed that improvements still are needed. But picks never materialized, and the Ravens hope Frazier, a respected veteran coach, has some ideas about how to change that.

Fact: Ed Reed starts his coaching career as the Buffalo Bills' assistant defensive backs coach.

Opinion: Sure, it makes sense that a defense starving for turnovers quite possibly would benefit from the tutelage of one of the game's all-time ball hawks, who happens to be an iconic Raven. But Reed is nothing if not an independent thinker, and I don't believe his choice is in any way a referendum on his relationship with the Ravens, who just put him in their Ring of Honor. Reed simply is testing the coaching waters, seeing if he takes to it, and if he wants to do that under Rex Ryan, his sideline alter ego, that's great.

Fact: Michael Oher, the Ravens' 2009 first-round draft pick, is the starting left tackle for the Carolina Panthers, who will play in the NFC championship game Sunday.

Opinion: I'm sure those in the Ravens' organization who know Oher are happy for him; he was hard-working, loyal and flexible here, really the ideal foot soldier, except his performance lacked consistency and didn't warrant a "second" contract. Yes, it's ironic Oher is one win from another Super Bowl appearance while the Ravens are again mulling their options at left tackle, but the Ravens still don't regret letting him go. While protecting Cam Newton's blind side this year, Oher has received consistently low grades from Pro Football Focus.

Fact: Ted Marchibroda, the Ravens' first head coach, died Saturday at age 84.

Opinion: It's great that the moving testimonials are piling up. What a football life. Marchibroda went from competing for a job with Johnny Unitas in the 1950s to coaching Jim Harbaugh with the Ravens in the late '90s. He was a tough-minded coach with dignity and class. He bailed out the Ravens by taking on the unwinnable task of coaching their undermanned early squads when the world was against them for moving from Cleveland.

Fact: Joe Flacco is no longer Baltimore's highest-paid athlete after Chris Davis signed a $161 million deal with the Orioles last weekend.

Opinion: Actually, Flacco's $120.6 million deal, signed in 2013, contains fewer guaranteed dollars (reportedly $52 million) than Oriole outfielder Adam Jones' $85.5 million extension signed in 2012. The Jones and Davis deals are fully guaranteed, like all major baseball deals, a testament to the strength of the baseball players' union, as opposed to its football counterpart. (Non-football opinion: The Orioles may have overpaid for Davis, but it's good they signed him. Aside from the home runs that drove up his price, he brings good defense, a high on-base percentage and positive clubhouse intangibles.)

Fact: The Denver/New England AFC title game matchup means Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger will have quarterbacked the AFC team in 12 of the past 13 Super Bowls, with Flacco in 2012 as the only outlier.

Opinion: The stat indicates just how quarterback-driven the NFL is. But Manning is 39, Brady 38, Roethlisberger 33. The evolutionary wheels are going to be turning soon, and the Ravens are positioned well with Flacco, who just turned 31.

Fact: Pittsburgh's loss in Denver on Sunday means the Ravens are still the last AFC North team to play for the conference title.

Opinion: Three years have passed since the Ravens won in New England on their way to a Super Bowl triumph. At that point, their division had sent a team to the conference title game in four of the past five years and six of the past nine. That was quite a run, but it has slowed. The three-year shutout is the first since the NFL realigned into four-team divisions in 2002. The AFC North needs to raise its game.

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