The Baltimore Ravens held their annual 'State of the Ravens' address Wednesday, one that certainly didn't have near the excitement or media scrutiny as the one held last year following the Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
While the number of media eyeballs might have been less, there was plenty of attention focused on the Ravens brass in charge of fixing a team that went just 8-8 and missed the playoffs coming off five straight trips to the postseason and a Super Bowl.
Owner Steve Bisciotti was the most candid, as usual, clearly expressing disappointment and frustration over the way the season played out, particularly with the play down the stretch and the performance of the offense.
I thought his most interesting comment was that he would have cleaned house had their not been such a great track record over the past five years. He also made it clear that failure often happens the road to success, but repeated failure won't be tolerated.
While John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome both play things close to the vest, a number of things became clear when reading between the lines.
The team is not going to restructure any contracts. There will be no kicking the can down the road just for the sake of stacking next year's team to try to win the Super Bowl. Without coming out and saying it, Newsome made it pretty clear that Terrell Suggs will either sign an extension that will result in a paycut for 2014 or he will probably be released to save the team $8 million. Suggs is the one player on the roster where the Ravens can save a lot of money by cutting him.
All three men made it pretty clear that the Ravens need to get bigger and stronger on the offensive line, need a fast, athletic free safety to move Matt Elam to the strong side, and a wide receiver that can make plays and move the chains. There was a lot of frustration about the team's inability to keep the defense on the sidelines by converting first downs.
The Ravens were pleased with Elam's play, but the release of Michael Huff due to poor performance forced the rookie to play more in space. Elam is athletic, but it may have been a mistake by the Ravens to hype him up as Ed Reed's replacement. He wasn't even as good as Reed in the twilight of his career, much less when he was the best safety in the game. Elam's strength is making the big hit and coming up in run support, and the Ravens need to find a free safety so that he isn't playing out of position.
The biggest news to come out of the news conference was the decision to keep Juan Castillo as the offensive line coach. The Ravens were set to kick him to the curb, but it seems like the front office had a change of heart once some of the emotions of the season died down. Harbaugh is a friend of Castillo's and likely urged the team to hold onto him. It seems that the problem is believed to be more about the personnel and the fact that the Ravens had too many offensive line coaches.
While there was tremendous disappointment and frustration over the way the season played out, the organization is in good hands. Bisciotti is one of the best owners in the league, Newsome is one of the best GM's and John Harbaugh, for all his faults, is still one of the better coaches in the league. The team has an excellent scouting department headed by Eric DeCosta. It would be a surprise if there isn't significant improvement on the field next year and the Ravens don't return to the playoffs.