Eisenberg: Ravens Were Good Enough To Win It All

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"How close are you to being good enough to get to the Super Bowl?" someone asked.

Newsome didn't hesitate.

"Three turnovers in the third quarter," he said, referring to the crucial mistakes that cost the Ravens so dearly in their playoff loss in Pittsburgh. "If it wasn't for (those turnovers), we would be playing this week, at home, with a chance to go to the Super Bowl."

In other words, Newsome, the Ravens' general manager and executive vice president, believed the team was good enough to get to the Super Bowl this year.

He was right. The Ravens were good enough.

That little factoid has gotten lost amid the moaning and handwringing about "what's wrong with the Ravens" and what needs to be done to "fix" them.

Yes, they have issues to deal with and shortcomings to address, but if they were good enough to get where they wanted to go this season, are those issues and shortcomings really so desperate?

I say no. I say the Ravens fell short not because of some fatal flaw in their structure or genetic code; they fell short because, after a season in which they ranked among the NFL's best at protecting the ball, they uncharacteristically gave it away a few times. That's called a fluke.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not denying they need a tweaking. They need to fix their running game, which was their No. 1 problem. They could use some new wrinkles on offense. Their quarterback needs to see the field better and trust his talent. A better pass rush and a big, physical cornerback would help.

But in spite of those issues, there still was enough right about the Ravens in 2010 for them to get where they wanted to go. No one who watched their games with Pittsburgh can say the now-AFC champion Steelers were any better. The teams were pretty much dead even for 12 quarters.

I'm not taking anything away from the Steelers, who play hard and smart and don't give away much. You have to earn your success against them. Not many opponents can.

If you watch the Steelers play long enough, you understand why they win again and again. They're consistently good.

The Ravens need to be more consistently good.

But that doesn't mean they should rip things up and try a drastically different approach, as some Internet posters and talk-show callers have suggested.

To the contrary, continuity is what they need.

That's the single most important quality top NFL teams share. They don't see the magic in reinventing themselves. They don't change that much from year to year.

They stay the course, and they're better for it.

It's the teams with stability at head coach and quarterback that tend to be in the hunt, the teams that understand they're close and avoid overreacting to breaks that fall for you sometimes and against you sometimes.

The Ravens certainly have that stability in the front office with Steve Bisciotti as their owner and Newsome as their general manager. They're much better off with the same continuity on the field, with John Harbaugh as their head coach and Joe Flacco as quarterback.

A lot of people wanted a new offensive coordinator, but that was never going to be a good idea with the players possibly being locked out because of the ongoing labor dispute. A year with no offseason is not the year to install a new offense.

Besides, Cam Cameron wouldn't be facing nearly as much scrutiny if the Ravens had only gained 4.7 yards per rush, as they did in 2009, instead of 3.8, as they did in 2010.

Trying to fix their running game and otherwise just tweaking their blueprint is a lot smarter than ripping things up. I could already hear the lament after next year's playoff loss: "Well, it was the first year for our new offense, a period of adjustment."

No thanks.

When you're as close as the Ravens are, you're better off making little changes, not big ones.

John Eisenberg *covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.*

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