I'm not a gambler by any means. My wagering goes no farther than a couple of bucks at the Preakness every year, and almost without fail, those bets are nothing more than charitable donations to the state.
Every once in awhile, though, I see a proposition that makes me want to dig into my coin bucket and lay some nickels on the line. For instance, when I saw the Bovada sports book put the Ravens at 40-1 to win the next Super Bowl, I thought, hmm, that's an "engaging" proposition.
Only nine of the NFL's 31 other teams have longer odds in Bovada's book, and none of those nine qualified for the playoffs in 2013. It's not the company the Ravens usually keep: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc.
At 40-1, the Ravens have the same odds as the Houston Texans, who won two games in 2013; the Washington Redskins, who won three and cleaned house; and the St. Louis Rams, who haven't made the playoffs since 2004.
The Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and several other teams that didn't make the playoffs in 2013 are considered better Super Bowl bets than the 40-1 Ravens.
Where's that coin bucket? I might want some of that.
I get that the Ravens are coming off a disappointing .500 season, and that they didn't impress many folks with their underperforming offense. I also get that sports books lay odds as an enticement to get people to bet.
But 40-1 suggests the Ravens are on the way down after winning the Super Bowl a year ago, and given their organizational track record, I think that's a dubious assessment. A bounce-back season in 2014 is a better bet, in my mind. The Ravens are stable at quarterback and already made one of this offseason's top coaching moves, bringing in Gary Kubiak to reinvigorate the offense. It's early, but so far, so good.
When teams that haven't even played in a conference final since the 1990s (Lions, Cowboys) have shorter odds, the team that has played in three conference finals since 2008 is a value deal. I might just have to shift my annual Preakness investment this year.
The dismantling of the Ravens' offensive staff loosed some quality coaches on the marketplace. It's no surprise they all found work elsewhere. The Ravens won a Super Bowl with those guys.
In the case of Wade Harman, who coached the team's tight ends from 1999 through 2013, the Ravens won TWO Super Bowls with him.
Talk about a long run. In Harman's first year, the Ravens' tight ends were Aaron Pierce and Greg DeLong. (If you knew that, you might need counseling.) He then held the job through years when Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta held the position.
Unknown to many fans, Harman was valued in the organization as a technician and teacher. After a regime change finally ended his run, which happens, he quickly caught on with the Atlanta Falcons.
After 14 years in purple, he warrants a fond shout-out as he leaves.
The end of the season means the league is now on the clock to review its game and make changes. There will be some. You've already heard about possible alterations to the point-after play.
I would suggest the Competition Committee take an especially hard look at how pass interference is adjudicated. From my seat in the press box, there were problems in 2013. It's an understatement to say there were gray areas between what various officials interpreted as legal. Most pass plays ended with someone asking for a flag. That got to be tiresome. And it's a major problem with so many games hinging on what is flag-worthy on a long pass play.
Carolina Head Coach Ron Rivera, who sits on the coaches' subcommittee of the Competition Committee, recently said it might help to include replay in the PI process. It's an interesting idea. Most judgment calls are exempt from review, but not ALL judgment calls – ball placement, for instance. I'm not sure you want to review every PI flag, as games would never end, but perhaps anything in the end zone, or passes over 25 yards.
The mantra should be "get it right." Too many times, that isn't happening.