Eisenberg: Ravens Don't Owe Anyone an Apology, But Must Adapt to the New Normal


Let me start with a simple declaration: I don't think the Ravens need to apologize for missing the playoffs for three straight years.

Yes, it's disappointing. And yes, the most recent miss was beyond frustrating. Never again will a Baltimore fan utter the phrase "fourth-and-12" without experiencing a frightening flashback.

Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals dropped the Ravens' record to 40-40 since they won the Super Bowl in February 2013. Fans are upset. It's tough to reconcile.

But apologize? Please. There's a big picture to consider. The franchise has forged quite a tradition in 22 years here. Two Super Bowl triumphs. Ten playoff appearances. A 6-0 record in the wild-card round since the current playoff format was instituted.

Of the NFL's 32 teams, only the New England Patriots, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens have won as many as two Super Bowls in the new century.

Fans cracking wise about the Ravens not knowing a pass from a pompom might want to take that into consideration.

Unlike some of the 28 teams that have failed to win multiple Super Bowls since 2000, the Ravens probably do know what they're doing.

But that doesn't mean their time-tested methodology is always going to work.

They're now experiencing one of those fundamental lessons everyone eventually confronts. No one is perfect. You're going to swing and miss sometimes. There'll be times when your plans go awry, the breaks go against you and you're left disappointed.

It's called real life, which is full of ups and downs, especially in the NFL, a league that is insanely competitive and legislates parity.

It's humbling, no doubt. And that's where the Ravens are now, caught in one of their lowest ebbs. Not since the end of the 1999 season could they look back and say they'd missed the playoffs for three straight years. (The streak was four years at that point.)

The organization has accomplished too much over the years to have to apologize. But a very wise person who happens to be my mother once told me that a key to getting by in life is understanding that you'll encounter a "new normal" all the time, and you'd better be ready to adapt. The Ravens aren't asking for my advice, but if they did, I'd suggest they recognize they're encountering a new normal.

Here are the facts: 24 teams have made the playoffs at least once in the past three years. The list of those who haven't made it is small and hardly impressive. The Cleveland Browns are on it, as are the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Bucs and Chicago Bears. None of those teams won more than five games in 2017.

The Ravens won nine, but they're still on the list with the others. That's the pool they're swimming in. And I think the sample size is too large to suggest it's some sort of freakish occurrence, an outlier bound to go away. The Ravens actually have missed the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. We aren't counting in dog years just yet, but that's quite awhile.

I'm not advocating sweeping changes as a response, and even if I was, the Ravens simply aren't wired that way. They preach continuity as a bedrock philosophy. For the record, I'm generally good with it, especially when a team comes as close to a playoff berth as the Ravens did this season. Staying the course tends to work better than consistently shuffling through changes.

But it wouldn't hurt for the Ravens to acknowledge that they're facing a new normal. Few teams can fall back on a better modern history, but that buys less confidence every year. I would go so far as to suggest a crisis of faith might soon exist.

It happens. In all pro sports, you have to win or face consequences that don't necessarily fit your narrative.

The Ravens have amazing fans, but they're upset. They aren't ungrateful. They just care, and really, all they want is to see and hear that the organization is just as upset, that stomachs are churning madly, that no one inside the walls will be satisfied until something is done to change the situation. It might seem unnecessary to do that, but such are the dictates of a new normal.

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