November 15
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issue 15
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let's make a promise

This, I assume, is going to be hard for some folks to grasp, but I'll do it if you'll do it.

Let's make a promise.

No matter what happens with Lamar Jackson on Sunday, let's vow not to overreact.

I know, that's going to be awfully hard for a lot of people in town, but at least in our little world here at #DMD, let's pinky-swear to keep our heads.

If Jackson lights it up and leads the Ravens to a 27-21 win, let's promise not to come in here on Monday and send him to the Hall of Fame. Let's not say stupid stuff like, "Well, we don't need Flacco any longer." Let's do our very best to treat it for what it will have been. One game, his first ever "real" moment of professional football, and understand, like any smart person will, that one game does not a career make.

On the flip side, if Jackson stinks it up on Sunday in a 24-20 Ravens loss, let's swear to one another that we won't trash the kid and proclaim him a "bust". Promise? Let's vow that we won't give up on him after just one loss. And let's do our best to rally around him for, it would appear, he's the Ravens' quarterback of the future.

I'll throw in an editor's note here: As I tweeted out mid-day on Wednesday, my purple sources tell me Flacco is indeed OUT for this Sunday's game against the Bengals. There appears a reasonable chance he could be ready to go against Oakland on November 25 but the mindset right now is if the Ravens beat the Bengals, Joe will sit out that Raiders game as well. If somehow the Bengals win here this Sunday, it would be all hands on deck for the November 25 game and Flacco would likely return for that tilt vs. Oakland.

Now, back to our vows.

This all makes sense to you, right?

I completely understand it's not easy to do. Take a look at our country these days, where the division has become so strong that "blue" people can't get along with "red" people despite claiming over and over and over that what's wrong with the country these days is that "everyone can't get along".

Football in this town, and the quarterback position in specific, have become very political looking.

"Flacco is terrible."

"Joe's fine, everyone else around him is terrible."

"Harbaugh has to go."

"It's not Harbaugh's fault the players are useless."

"Mornhinweg is the worst."

"The players have to execute the plays he designs."

The discourse around town has become as confusing as a Presidential tweet. Isn't it possible that everyone and everything contributes to the team's 44-45 record since 2013? Ownership, coaching, players, and, of course, the other teams in the league are trying too.

Are you really that naive to think it all comes down to Joe Flacco? One guy? In a game where 22 people on the field all have a specific and very clear "duty" on each play, the quarterback dictates all of it?

I bring up that point to circle back to the reminder about our promise.

Lamar Jackson can't win this Sunday's game by himself. And he can't lose it, either.

We know going in what's going to happen, right? Jackson is going to be very athletic. He'll be MUCH more athletic and mobile than Flacco because, naturally, that's his strength. One thing for sure: The offense will look different with Jackson under center.

We know Jackson will make some mistakes. Rookie quarterbacks do that. News flash: Veteran quarterbacks make mistakes as well. So do rookie and veteran wide receivers, linebackers, etc.

There's no telling precisely what sort of performance LJ will produce on Sunday, but you know going in there's going to be a lot of good, bad and in between. It's natural.

So, please, join our "Promise Club" and be prepared to treat Jackson's Sunday performance with quiet indifference. That doesn't mean you can't have an opinion. By all means, bring one to the table on Monday here at #DMD. But, please, don't overreact. Don't stay stupid stuff. As the saying goes at the football stadium.......don't be a jerk.


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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

the turmoil bowl

There’s football turmoil in an AFC North city that once was the setting for a popular television show.

The local populace is wondering how the veteran coach is still around, despite so much evidence that it’s time for new blood.

Things have stalled out since a run of success earlier this decade, and the team is in danger of missing the playoffs yet again.

Think I’m talking about your Baltimore Ravens, hon? Think again.

It’s the Cincinnati Bengals, of course, who just happen to be headed to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Monday’s Giants-49ers thriller might have been the Toilet Bowl. Next Monday’s Rams-Chiefs game would have been the Mexican Super Bowl, but poor field conditions at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City forced the game back to the U.S. and the Los Angeles Coliseum.

This one on Russell Street? Call it the Turmoil Bowl.

The Bengals, you see, made NFL history during their 51-14 loss to New Orleans on Sunday in Cincinnati. In the shellacking, Marvin Lewis’s group became the first team to allow 500 yards or more in three consecutive games.

509 to the Saints, who stepped off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter. 576 to the Tampa combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston. 551 in a blowout loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

With one more medium-range completion from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, the streak might be four games and counting. Pittsburgh managed 481 yards in its late-game win in Cincinnati in Week 6.

Andy Dalton and the Bengals could put another dagger in the Ravens' playoff chances with a win in Baltimore this Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, the easy scapegoat, was fired on Monday. If the name sounds familiar, he coached the secondary here in Baltimore under John Harbaugh from 2011-2013. Austin joined the Bengals as defensive coordinator just this past winter after he served four years in that position in Detroit under Jim Caldwell.

Lewis, who made his reputation as the star defensive coordinator in Baltimore, says that he’ll make the defensive calls for the remainder of the season.

Meanwhile, to help with the offense, Lewis has brought in Hue Jackson as a special assistant. You may remember that Jackson happened to be the head coach of the Browns the first eight weeks of this season.

WTF, right?

Kind of makes Joe Flacco’s balky hip, John Harbaugh’s coaching status and Justin Tucker’s missed extra point seem like a whole lot of nothing.

If the Bengals don’t make the playoffs in 2018, that will make it three years in a row, equaling the longest stretch without a playoff appearance in Lewis’s tenure. From 2011-2015, the Bengals won 52 games and made the playoffs every season.

Then again, if the Bengals do make the playoffs, it’ll feature an entire week of stories about Cincinnati’s 0-7 playoff record in Lewis’s tenure. I wouldn’t think the Bengals would be a good bet in a Wild Card game on the road in Foxboro or Pittsburgh this year either.

Either way, will this finally be Lewis’s last year? This is the second year in a row in which he’s fired a coordinator during the season. He’ll be coaching his 250th regular-season game this Sunday in Baltimore, a notable accomplishment both for him and the front office. Maybe the poor defensive stretch is the beginning of the end for Lewis, but that’s sure been said before.

And let’s not forget the loss of A.J. Green, the Raven killer himself. There’s a lot going on in the Queen City, in the present and potentially in the future.

As for Charm City, there’s no reason to repeat the recent scuttlebutt. All there is to say is that the last three games haven’t been so great for the Ravens either, and the first start for Lamar Jackson isn’t out of the question this Sunday.

Turmoil abounds, and it will play itself out on Sunday on a Baltimore afternoon that’ll feel more like the end of the season than mid-November.

Before that happens, though, it’s worth asking where turmoil really comes from, at least for the Bengals and the Ravens.

The answer, of course, is expectation.

Marvin Lewis’s greatest accomplishment in Cincinnati isn’t his record of 130-116-3, though any record of better than .500 over such a long stretch is certainly laudable. With the winless record in seven playoff games, he can’t rest his laurels on playoff success either.

His greatest accomplishment is creating the expectation that the Bengals ought to be in the conversation every year, something that hadn’t existed in Cincinnati since the days of Boomer Esiason.

Unfortunately, expectation is also a curse. They’re losing interest with Lewis in Cincinnati, and with the Bengals in general, even though he’s been the biggest reason behind that level of expectation.

Frankly, expectation ties the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers together in a way that no other trifecta of teams has developed since divisional realignment in 2002.

Pittsburgh reached the postseason eight times in Mike Tomlin’s first 11 seasons; nine out of 12 seems like a good bet. Cincinnati’s seven playoff trips in Lewis’s 15 years? That equals the seven appearances the Bengals made in their first 35 years as a franchise. The Ravens were in the playoffs six times in John Harbaugh’s first seven years; even with Super Bowl XXXV, the team only made it past the regular season four times in its first 12 seasons.

For three teams in the same division, that level of success is pretty astonishing. Because of it, each of those franchises is currently operating in an interesting universe.

The Steelers had one win in their first four games. Did you happen to read the Post-Gazette back in September? Forget about Le’Veon Bell. Tomlin’s team was a lost cause, one that got buried by Baltimore and should’ve lost to Cleveland.

The Ravens were one quarter away from an impressive victory against the same Saints team that might have put up 700 yards on Cincinnati if Drew Brees hadn’t left the game. Now, a few games later, it’s like none of the first 27 quarters of the season ever happened.

Cincinnati? They seemed nothing less than the class of the division, mediocre defense or not. Only a two-minute (actually 1:12) drive from Roethlisberger kept the Bengals from five wins in their first six games. Now, Hue Jackson somehow ended up on their sideline.

The expectation, frankly, is that everything is going to work out fine for all three teams, because it almost did for a pretty long stretch.

When it doesn’t? Turmoil on Sunday in Baltimore, even though one of the teams is mathematically in a better spot, at least for now.

We know that the Ravens have historically dealt well with a little turbulence, and about their excellent record under Harbaugh following a bye week. We also know that, even though both the Bengals and Ravens have descended a bit, Cincinnati has kept finding ways to outplay Harbaugh’s team in the end.

The great weight of expectation is headed to M&T Bank Stadium Sunday. It’s a tremendous burden for each team to bear, but it’s one each coach has created himself. Amazingly, with the results of the last month, the visitors might even be feeling it more than the home team.

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the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

dale's maryland hoops preview

After watching the first three games of the 2018-2019 Maryland Terrapin men’s basketball season, I’m left with two major points of concern: Can they score on the perimeter and can they defend the interior?

Other factors, such as youth, will also play a role in determining Maryland’s post season fate. But far and away the most glaring issues are interior defense and exterior scoring.

It’s only three games, but the lack of productivity from beyond the three-point line is already a major concern for Coach Mark Turgeon and his young Terps. You can win the “guaranteed” games (named such because of the guaranteed money the visitor will receive) against small schools on your home floor, but you can’t win many Big Ten games shooting from the outside the way the Terps have so far.

Through three “official” games this year the Terps have made just 17 of 72 three-point attempts. A few punches on the oversized buttons of my calculator tell me that’s just a 23.6% conversion rate. Numbers like that MIGHT produce an NIT bid. Maybe.

Junior guard Anthony Cowan and freshman Aaron Wiggins have accounted for the bulk of the 3-point tries. But combined, the duo has hit only 13 of 43 (30%). The rest of the team is an abysmal 4 for 29, good for 13.7%.

Can Anthony Cowan and the Maryland backout help return the Terps to the NCAA tournament?

It’s a small sample size right now, and likely to change. Much like the obscure MLB player that hits .435 in April, but is back to .270 in June, the Terp numbers are bound to normalize a bit. But to what degree can we expect this team to improve their 3-point shooting?

We certainly can expect Cowan to improve from his current rate of 26%. He hit almost 37% last year and 32% during his freshman year. With more attempts, his numbers should begin to even out.

The 6’6” North Carolinian freshman guard, Aaron Wiggins, has a really smooth stroke and shoots with little hesitation. He comes in with a reputation as a solid shooter and overall scorer. After making just 3 of his first 12 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, he connected on 4 of 8 deep shots during the Terps last game, a win against NC A&T. It’s my opinion that he will continue to produce long range, but is there any perimeter help from the rest of the roster?

Sophomore Darryl Morsell shot just 12% last year and he’s up to 28% this year after three games. If he were to boost that number up to 33% it would be a major lift to the team. But I’m not so sure he has that in him right now.

Freshman guard, Serrel Smith Jr, has hit 1 of 10 three point shots while getting about 12 minutes of play per game. I’m not expecting him to be a rotation regular when the games are competitive, therefore his impact will be minimal. Another freshman, Eric Ayala, looks ready to fill a role as a quality ball handler and possibly the best distributer on the team, but his 0 for 5 start from the 3-point line is indicative of the lack of fluidity and confidence in his stroke.

The good news is that Ayala’s current 3-point percentage can’t get lower, so it’s only up from here. However, I don’t see him becoming an outside threat this year.

In all three games this year, Maryland has seen an unusual amount of zone defenses. Zones tend to produce more outside shots which, in turn, has emphasized the Terp deficiencies in that area. That being said, the 3-point shot has an ever increasing role in all levels of basketball and Maryland needs to follow suit.

Perimeter scoring is going to be a challenge this year, but perimeter defense won’t be.

The guard rotation of Cowan, Morsell, Wiggins, and Ayala provides Maryland with some defensive quickness, toughness, and size for guarding on the outside. Wiggins and Morsell are 6’6” and 6’5” respectively and both can play the “3”, or small forward spot, as well as handle guard duties as a “2”.

Ayala, like Morsell, is also 6’5” and has a solid physique. I expect him to see effective minutes as a point guard enabling Cowan to catch the much needed breathers that were not possible last season. As we saw last year, Cowan can defend at the point position and fresher legs will make him even more effective on both sides of the court for a much greater proportion of the long season.

Morsell made huge leaps defensively last year. Early on he frequently got lost and out of position. He was much more fundamentally sound towards the end of the season, but still has room for growth as a defender. That type of growth is the same progression I expect to see from Wiggins and Ayala. Both impress me as willing defenders, but need some in-game seasoning. They’ll improve as the season goes on, but expect some growing pains.

As raw and inexperienced as Wiggins and Ayala are, they're still a major defensive upgrade over 2017-2018’s defensively challenged twosome of Jarod Nickens and Dion Wiley. While expectations on the perimeter might be for a defensively acceptable but offensively challenged, unit, I anticipate the exact opposite to be true of the interior play.

Big man Bruno Fernando needs to stay out of foul trouble in Maryland's crucial Big 10 games this season.

Bruno Fernando returns as the top Terp “big” from last year’s squad. Early indications point towards a much more confident offensive player. His post-up game still lacks some polish, but he more than makes up for it with power and energy. His size, athleticism, and foul shooting ability (76% last year) will allow him to be consistent on the offensive end.

Last season, unfortunately, Bruno was pretty much alone as an inside threat. Ivan Bender doesn’t provide that and Michal Cekovsky was hit or miss. This year, that all changes dramatically with the addition of Terp freshman Jaylen “Stix” Smith. The ultra-slender 6’10” McDonalds All-American forward is very smooth with the ball. He has finesse to his offensive game both inside and away from the basket. It’s away from the basket that may provide him his biggest advantages.

“Stix” can put it on the floor, or nail the mid-range jumper. He has reached double digits in scoring in each of Maryland’s first three games while averaging just over 50% from the floor. Even when you factor in the lesser and smaller talent that he has faced so far, it’s fair to project him as an offensive impact player in his first year of Big Ten action. Defensively, I’m still on the fence about his, and the rest of the Terp front court’s ability to defend in the paint.

Last season, Fernando accumulated fouls at a rate of one every 7.7 minutes of court time. A continuance of that rate would put him in foul trouble every game. That needs to change, but will it?

This year, he has faced only one true post player, Delaware’s 6’9” Eric Carter. In that game Carter went 12-14 from the floor while posting 29 points. Fernando looked lost defensively, collected enough fouls to seriously limit his court time (just 19 minutes), and eventually fouling out of the game.

Smith also had little success defending the inside moves of Carter. Who knows? Maybe Carter is a potential NBA All Star that is just way better than expected (like NBA HOF’er Steve Nash when he roasted the Terps in round 1 of the 1996 NCAA tournament). But it’s more likely that the Maryland bigs need to tighten up their defensive play, and do so without fouling.

Both Smith and Fernando can protect the rim against penetrating guards, but their ability to defend against post players is really in doubt. Maryland can’t win without Bruno on the floor and I would expect opposing coaches to work him often. Guys like Happ (Wisconsin), Stevens (Penn State), and Ward (Michigan State) will put pressure on the Maryland front court in an attempt to not only score, but to get the Terps top offensive weapons into foul trouble and also help loosen up the outside a bit.

The Terps will rely on Fernando, Smith, Ivan Bender, and occasionally Joshua Tomaic to respond. As they go, so may go the Terps.

All is not gloom and doom in College Park.

This team will be interesting. Maryland will feature a dynamic front court duo of Smith and Fernando. Cowan, now a junior, provides seasoned leadership and is a solid point guard who can get to the rim or make a three. Morsell can defend and is a gritty, tough, player on both ends. Ayala can handle the ball and he sees the court very well. Wiggins can score from anywhere. But can this team make enough threes, and defend inside against strong teams? We don’t know that answer yet.

I’ll throw out one wild card, maybe a sleeper. Maryland’s last signee of this freshmen class is a 6’8” wing/forward named Ricky Lindo.

I paid special attention to how Lindo was moving throughout Maryland’s offensive sets. This kid gets it. He understands a lot about what is happening on the court and seems to have good instincts. It helps that he is real long and has good hops. Lindo will help this team immediately, probably more than most might expect. With him, Smith, and Fernando inside, I don’t see Maryland giving up as many offensive rebounds as they did last year. They especially won’t give up the kind where the opposing player just jumps over a Maryland back.

The Terps are a bit longer this year and that could go a long way in securing a tournament bid in March. An event in which I believe they finally return.

The Terps have home games against Hofstra, Mount St. Mary’s and Marshall before doing battle at the XFINITY Center with the Virginia Cavaliers in the ACC / BIG 10 Challenge on Wednesday, November 29 at 7:15pm.

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November 14
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issue 14
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chalk one up for the steelers

This definitely feels strange.

It won't make me feel nearly as queasy as if I had to applaud the Flyers, but complimenting the Steelers is really difficult to do in these parts.

But those guys in Pittsburgh deserve a pat on the back.

I'm sure you know the Le'Veon Bell story by now. He hasn't played in a game for the Steelers this season in a contract dispute and, after failing to appear at the team's facility before yesterday's 4 pm deadline, he's now unable to play for the rest of the 2018 season.

He could have made $14.5 million this year. Instead, he makes zero.

The Steelers have done just fine without him, you might have noticed. They're 6-2-1 and leading the AFC North. And the guy who has played in place of Bell, James Conner, is having a bang-up year and making less than $600,000.

Bell for $14.5 million. Conner for $587,000. Who got the better end of the deal in 2018? The Steelers.

And it's not that they "won", but more importantly, that they didn't cave in to Bell's stubborn stunt, didn't trade him, and didn't disrupt their potentially productive season by wooing him to town in mid-October.

Le'Veon Bell won't be leaping over anyone over the last seven games of the Steelers season after missing Tuesday's 4 pm deadline to sign his 2018 franchise tag contract.

The whole saga was poorly built on the notion that the Steelers were going to "run Bell into the ground" in 2018 and then walk away from him thereafter, leaving the star running back with decreased value on the open market. Maybe. But isn't that why football players get $14.5 million? To play? To work hard? To be put through the paces? If Bell was an average at best player, he wouldn't command $14.5 million in the first place.

I've never been staring $14.5 million in the face, mind you, but I can say without question the one thing I wouldn't do if I had the chance to earn it would be to complain about having to earn it. I'm from Glen Burnie, but I can still add up numbers. $14.5 million is a lot of money. It doesn't come free, though. You have to work to get it.

Such is the philosophy that runs rampant in today's world of entitled NFL players. It's so utterly stupid that someone -- anyone, in any line of work -- can turn away $14.5 million that it almost becomes a badge of honor to do so.

NFL players often lean on the Collective Bargaining Agreement when they need it to help their cause.

This time around, the Steelers did the leaning. They followed the rules, stuck with them, and basically beat Bell at his own game.

Now, granted, Bell didn't come out of this whole thing without a victory of sorts. He gets a year away from the game and avoided the bumps and bruises that go with being a NFL running back. While Conner will touch the ball roughly 350 times in 2018 -- which equates to 350 body-to-body collisions over a four month period -- Bell won't lose any tread on his tires in 2018.

But he might also find that teams are leery of him in the off-season when he's seeking that mega-deal he believes he deserves. A year away is still a year away. There's no magic pill to make you younger (keep your Barry Bonds jokes to yourself, please). And this lay-off hasn't helped his reputation, either. It's not "taking a knee" or anything that extreme, but Bell will wear the scarlet letter forever. He'll always have "Sat out the 2018 season due to a contract dispute" on the back of his bubblegum card.

Oh, and here's one other thing Bell might have done by sitting out. Call it "the nature of unintended consequences". He might have accidentally displayed for all the rest of the NFL teams that there's always a James Conner hanging around who can do the job of a $14.5 million running back for $587,000.

If you're a team in need of a running back next spring, wouldn't you at least consider the idea of grooming your own Le'Veon Bell via the draft -- Barkley, Elliott and yes, even Conner, come to mind -- instead of dishing out $50 million or more in guaranteed money for Bell himself?

Just a thought...

That said, my guess is someone will fork over a lot of money for his services next year. It's an offensive league, after all. And if there's a team -- like Houston, for example -- who feels they're really close to something special, they'll throw caution to the wind and overpay for a big name.

But Bell will never, ever get back that $14.5 million he squandered by playing chicken with the Steelers in 2018.

And he might not ever be on a championship-caliber team again, either. If he signs with the Colts, Jets or Texans, there's no guarantee at all that those teams will support his running style the way the Steelers did.

But winning apparently doesn't matter that all much to Bell. If it did, he would have joined his team in Pittsburgh at some point in September or October. After all, as Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Marshal Yanda and Terrell Suggs might very well find out themselves, you could only make one trip to the Super Bowl in your career.

I totally understand the "business" element of the situation. If he plays and tears his ACL or achilles, Le'Veon might squander the massive payday he's set to receive next season. That much is true. That's also a bad way to go about your business in the final year of your contract.

Just think if every player who was slapped with the franchise tag jaked it or just decided not to show up. The league wouldn't look the same and the level of play would definitely be impacted.

But Bell did what he did mainly to prove a point. "I'm not showing up unless I get everything I want in the exact way I want it..."

And he took that stance assuming the Steelers would cave in at some point. "Those guys need me," I'm sure Bell said to friends and confidants. "They'll come around at some point, watch and see."

Yeah...well...not so much.

Good for the Steelers. It sure does feel weird to say it. But good for them.

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elias set to join orioles as new gm

You probably don't know him, but that's OK. Everyone in baseball knows Mike Elias.

The Orioles have apparently filled their vacant general manager's position with the hiring of Mike Elias, the current assistant GM with the Houston Astros.

Nothing's been announced by the team yet, but industry sources on Tuesday night said Elias has agreed to the position.

The Orioles are set to add 35 year old Mike Elias as the team's new general manager.

And, no, Elias doesn't have to pass a team physical. You can save that joke for another time.

He's only been in baseball since 2007, starting his career as a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals. But he's well respected around the game, eventually becoming an integral part of the Astros front office that supervised one of baseball's most impressive rebuilding efforts.

Elias, 35, was responsible for the last six draft classes of the Astros, an area where they've been celebrated as one of the best in all of MLB. In Baltimore, of course, he'll be responsible in large part for the entire on-field product, but the O's don't expect to be signing many prominent free agents over the next three years or so while their own rebuilding project commences.

This is a good hire by the Orioles.

The proof will be in the pudding, naturally, but in Elias the Orioles get a young, well respected major league up-and-comer. For a rebuilding effort like the one they're about to undertake, the Orioles should have someone in the general manager's position who has been deeply involved in a previous rebuild. Elias fits that mold perfectly.

His first order of business will be to hire an on-field manager.

Former Oriole Mike Bordick is expected to be a front runner, but don't be surprised if the name "Carlos Beltran" surfaces in Baltimore. Beltran retired from a lengthy career after the Astros won the World Series in 2017 and he's expressed an interest in managing a major league team.

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celebrating greatness

One of my all-time favorite bands, the Canadian rock trio "Rush", will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1978 album Hemispheres by releasing a multi-disc set on Friday that showcases one of the best works in their entire recording catalog.

“Hemispheres was one of our most challenging and demanding records to make,” guitarist Alex Lifeson said in a press release. “From its inception in a Wales farmhouse where it was written over a four-week span to the very difficult mixing sessions in two London recording studios, it stands as a key transitional album in Rush’s long recording history.”

I thought you might like to listen to the album today, all 37 minutes of it.

If you're a Rush fan, you'll love hearing it start to finish again, like I've done a few times this week. I remember quite vividly listening to Hemispheres when I was in high school. It was a cassette everyone in my "circle" had in their car at all times.

If you're not a Rush fan, at least give the whole thing a listen. It's an acquired taste, admittedly. But if you've never heard Rush before and said to me, "Give me one album to hear that showcases their music", this is the one I'd play for you.


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November 13
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issue 13
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when did the ravens become the browns?


When, exactly, did it happen?

At what point did the Ravens morph into the twin brother of the Browns?

And no, I don't mean "on the field", although if Cleveland's kicker comes through at home vs. Pittsburgh or in New Orleans, the Browns are 5-5 instead of 3-6-1. That would equal the win total of the Ravens, with one more game played through week 10 of the NFL schedule.

I'm talking about "off the field".

When did the Ravens become the Browns in terms of apparent organizational bedlam, inner-leaked-secrets and quarterback controversies?

OK, yes, I'm exaggerating a little bit. It's not that bad. Not yet, anyway.

But it sure feels like the Ravens are starting to lose their grip on things, what with last week's Joe Flacco story that spun out of control and the Sunday rumor that head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are preparing to mutually part ways at season's end.

How much of the Ravens' current woes go to owner Steve Bisciotti first, and everyone else second?

That's the sort of mid-season junk we see and hear from the Browns, not the Ravens. Not our Ravens, right?

I think John Harbaugh did let one piece of gospel slip from his lips during Monday's press conference. I'd bet he's secretly quite happy that the Flacco-has-a-bad-hip story squeaked out of Owings Mills late last week. As he said on Monday, "that just gives the Bengals something else to think about this week".

Given his druthers, Harbaugh would have preferred the story not break until at least mid-week this week. That wouldn't have given the masses in Baltimore much time to overblow things -- a specialty of the Ravens' fan base -- and it also wouldn't have given Cincinnati nearly as much time to steady themselves for a rookie dose of Lamar Jackson.

But because this is 2018 and because everyone has a cell phone and, more importantly, because everyone -- even Joe Fan himself -- wants to "break the story", there was no way Flacco's injury was going to kept confidential once someone saw Flacco gimping out of the facility on crutches last Wednesday.

So much for keeping it secret.

Harbaugh and the organization then had a challenge on their hands over the weekend. Quell the story with a disclaimer that Flacco's injury is only considered to be a minor hip contusion, thereby tempering everyone's enthusiasm for the debut of Lamar Jackson this Sunday? Or say nothing and let the fans run wild with their theories, stories and promises of hope?

The Ravens are nothing if not media savvy. And I'm sure they came to a quick conclusion on this one. Let the story burn. Fan the flames by not offering any kind of public statement. Media coverage, media coverage, media coverage...the Ravens never shy away from it, particularly when it could also help confuse the opponent coming to town.

But the other story, the one about Harbaugh and the Ravens agreeing to break up. Now that one needs a little damage control.

Harbaugh quickly refuted the story on Monday by simply saying, "There are so many layers to (that story) that aren't true. I don't even know where to start."

The last thing the Ravens need right now is a mid-season coaching controversy. Is there a chance Harbaugh won't be back next season? Of course. If the Ravens don't make the playoffs, it's almost a certainty he won't return for the final year of his contract. But if they do get in, his chances for returning definitely increase. If they get in and somehow win a playoff game, he's virtually guaranteed to be in Baltimore in 2019.

Browns fans are used to turmoil, unrest and losing.

The notion that Harbaugh would buy in or entertain a "scenario" presented to him by Steve Bisciotti in early November that the two should look to part company in January is simply dumb.

It's like going to your longtime girlfriend in February and saying, "I'll take you to the prom in May, but you should know right now that I'm going to break up with you at the after party that night. You do still want to go with me though, right?"

Even though he dispelled the notion on Monday, Harbaugh is smart enough to know the twigs are in the fire pit and they've been lit. Traction or not, the story is going to linger, particularly if the Ravens somehow don't win the next two lay-up games against the Bengals and Raiders.

But this all seems so very Browns-like, doesn't it?

This is the kind of stupid stuff they encounter in Cleveland virtually every season.

Granted, some of it is media driven. The Harbaugh-Bisciotti story this past weekend, with whatever layers to "untruth" it had in it (according to Harbaugh), was clearly something engineered by the media. No team, not even dummies in Cleveland, would want that story out and percolating during the season.

But the Browns have mastered a lot of dumb stuff over the years.

A new quarterback.

A new coach.

Someone gets fired.

They draft a new quarterback, even though they have one already. Or two.

Another guy gets fired.

The owner says something stupid.

More losing. More firings. More chaos.

Like I wrote above, it's not quite that bad yet in Baltimore, but this last week or so has seen some very un-Ravens like stuff occurring.

And it all goes back to something I've said for a long, long time.

Nothing good ever comes from losing.

And this is what losing has brought to the Ravens. Not just this year, mind you. They've been losing half the games they play since 2013. When you lose every other weekend, it starts to feel a lot more like you're a loser than a winner.

The Browns, of course, are perennial losers. Habitual losers. Nearly-every-Sunday-losers, if you've been following along.

And that's one of the reasons why they've had so much chaos in Cleveland over the last three or four years. They can't stop losing. And nothing good ever comes from losing.

The Ravens are starting to find that out now, which is all the more reason for them to get their act together over there in Owings Mills and get their ship righted. The more losing they do, the more wacky it's going to get.

Just ask the folks in Cleveland. They've been living this nightmare for years and years. It's entertaining, if nothing else. But it's not nearly as much fun as winning.

And if the Ravens don't start winning again -- soon -- they're going to look similar to those guys in Cleveland.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

Something that most of us strongly suspected became all but official this week: 2018 is going to be John Harbaugh's last season as head coach of the Ravens.

It's not quite that simple, of course. The Ravens could put a big run of wins together, charge into the playoffs and notch an upset win on the road in the Wild Card round, at which point Harbaugh would likely retain his position. But frankly, that's probably not happening.

Right now the Ravens are looking up at Los Angeles, Miami, Cincinnati, and Tennessee in the wild card race. They have the same record as Indianapolis. And in addition to this week's big showdown with the Bengals, they have road games left against the Chiefs, Chargers, and Falcons. It would take a monumental turnaround to get this team to the playoffs under such circumstances.

So in all likelihood, the Ravens will have a new head coach next season for the first time in over a decade, and only the third time in team history if you don't count Ted Marchibroda, who was 65 years old when he was made head coach in what was clearly a quasi-figurehead role.

This isn't the first time Harbaugh has seemed to be in a "win or you're gone" situation, and in past years I've defended Harbaugh at these junctures. I still don't think Harbaugh is a bad coach, and if another NFL team picks him up I expect that they're going to get pretty good results pretty quickly. Harbaugh is a good administrator and gameplanner, and he always keeps his players ready and eager to go out and play for him week in and week out.

#DMD's Brien Jackson believes John Harbaugh would be a great fit for a major college program in 2019.

Of all of the problems that ail the Ravens at the moment, the vast majority of little or nothing to do with the job Harbaugh is doing.

That said, it's definitely time for Harbaugh to go, and there's no question in my mind that he is definitely NOT the right guy to lead the next era of Ravens' football.

As I said, I'm a Harbaugh backer for the most part but if there's one thing that even Harbaugh's biggest fans should concede it's that the guy has a horrible record when it comes to picking assistant coaches.

There's a reason that the coordinators have gotten so much criticism in town for the entire duration of Harbaugh's tenure, and to a large extent that's been warranted. Harbaugh found a few good ones in Gary Kubiak and Chuck Pagano, but both of those guys lasted only one year. In Kubiak's case that's because he was such a broadly respected coach who had done well enough in Houston that he got a head coaching offer immediately. Pagano fit basically the same bill, albeit with less success, and in his case we don't even know how well he would have done coordinating beyond the 2011 year that featured a very talented unit.

I'll also give Harbaugh credit for Greg Mattison, who put out some very good defenses that were mostly maligned because they weren't up to the standards Baltimore fans had come to expect, and no one quite realized the way that the balance between offense and defense in the game was changing at that time.

Beyond that, it's been pretty bad. And most notably Harbaugh's offensive coordinators/coaching staffs have been really bad for his entire tenure, minus the one year with Kubiak. This year hasn't been any different: Marty Mornhinweg had a fantastic night in Pittsburgh and a very good game in Week One against Buffalo, but outside of that this season has been an avalanche of poorly called, and poorly designed plays.

Ironically, the Joe Flacco era may come to an end because of just one of those plays, a playaction pass where center Matt Skura was tasked with a comeback block on Cameron Hayward playing wide on the D-line, a nearly impossible block for a center to make. Indeed Skura whiffed, and Heyward planted Flacco on the play and injured the Ravens' starting quarterback.

But worse than Harbaugh's instincts at picking his OC's is the loyalty he typically shows to his staff in these circumstances.

The example that will most annoy Ravens fans for years to come is Cam Cameron, who was allowed to drag down some extremely talented teams for 4.75 years before he was finally canned, at which point the Ravens' offense took off in a big way and finally got over the hill to win a Super Bowl. God only knows how the 2010 and 2011 seasons might have gone if Harbaugh hadn't been the only person in the entire city who didn't realize that Cameron desperately needed to be replaced. And now, nearly 6 years after finally giving Cameron the boot, Harbaugh is making the same mistake by retaining Mornhinweg.

By this point everyone knows Mornhinweg can't hack it at this level of responsibility....everyone except for Harbaugh that is. The fact that Harbaugh didn't take advantage of the bye week to replace Marty with Greg Roman or James Urban is justification enough to part ways with the Super Bowl winning coach at the end of the year.

I'm sure he doesn't see it this way, but it's pretty clear that loyalty to guys he's worked with previously is a very high priority of Harbaugh's, and that that often got in the way of winning.

Still here, still putting together puzzling game plans. Marty Mornhinweg (left) continues to serve as the Ravens' offensive coordinator despite less than impressive results.

Additionally, Harbaugh's Ravens have hardly been a hotbed for up and coming young coaches, with the only coach who rose to prominence after being hired in Harbaugh's tenure in Baltimore being Teryl Austin.

And as the Ravens transition from the Joe Flacco Era to the Lamar Jackson Era, that's just not going to be acceptable. At some point, whether it's 2019 or 2020, the Ravens' fortunes are going to rise and fall with the performance of Lamar Jackson, and maximizing his abilities is going to require a high degree of flexibility and creativity from the coaching staff. To make the most of Jackson's unique talents, an offensive coordinator is going to design an offense to accentuate those strengths, and exploit the ways that Jackson can put pressure on a defense.

We've already seen that Mornhinweg can't do that, in ways that have often been embarrassingly bad. Marty Mornhinweg simply won't be good enough to manage an offense built around Lamar Jackson, so by extension the head coach who has chosen to stick with Mornhinweg won't be good enough to lead a team built around Lamar Jackson.

And I suspect everyone knows it's time for a change. Like Drew, I don't really know what reports of a "mutual" parting are supposed to mean, but one explanation is that what the source of the reports really meant was an amicable parting. That would make sense: to the Ravens Harbaugh will always be a Super Bowl winning coach who presided over a period where they were one of the premier franchises in the league.

And on the other side, Harbaugh has to know that missing the playoffs 5 times in 6 years just about requires a change at the top. And I do suspect that both sides will come to some sort of terms that leave everyone about as happy as can be.

I certainly think that Steve Bisciotti is going to avoid standing in the way of Harbaugh finding a landing spot for next season that he finds to his liking. I know Drew disagrees, but I think it would be very much like Bisciotti to allow Harbaugh's agent to talk to future employers next month, especially in the college ranks. December is the meat of the college coaching carousel after all, and there are at least half a dozen major programs that would likely be interested in paying Harbaugh A LOT of money to be their head coach.

If that's something Harbaugh is interested in, that may well have something to do with what exactly a "mutual parting" means. However it goes, I fully expect Harbaugh to have a head coaching job somewhere next year if he wants one, and I think he's going to do well wherever he lands.

As for the Ravens, there's no escaping that their future is entwined with Jackson's, and the future of their coaching staff should reflect that. Jackson has his strengths and weaknesses, though his weaknesses are quite often overstated.

While he's often tagged as a running quarterback, the truth is that Jackson played in a pro system under Bobby Petrino at Louisville, and did so in a pass first system where most of his runs were scrambles rather than designed plays like you see in systems like Urban Meyer's. No, he's not the most accurate passer on a play to play basis, but it's not as though he can't hit the broad side of a barn either. His college tape is full of fantastic, and accurate, downfield throws and we've already seen him make a beautiful throw to defenders on his touchdown thrown to Hayden Hurst in Carolina.

The throwing ability is there, but he's still bound to fail if you ask him to be a pure pocket passer or operate in a West Coast concept. What you need is something like Norv Turner is running in Carolina blending in those "college" concepts that suit Jackson's unique athleticism and weaponize them withing the broader offensive concept.

John Harbaugh just isn't capable of doing that, and after 11 years it's clear he's not capable of hiring someone who can do that either. That makes him the wrong guy for the Ravens' future, and also makes the Ravens' the wrong team for Harbaugh's future as well.

The eventual parting of the two may or may not be mutually agreed upon, but it will be in the mutual interests of both sides.

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"the wise guy" says...

I know his real name but he'd rather me not use it. Instead, he'd rather be known as "The Wise Guy".

We're going to see just how "wise" he really is over the next seven weeks.

"I guarantee the Ravens are going to make the playoffs," he said to me last week. "I'll reach out on Monday and give you the blow-by-blow on how it happens. I want to see how the Sunday (11/11) games go first."

I gave him the chance to back out after the news surfaced about Flacco's injury. But he didn't blink.

"I don't think Flacco is going to miss any time," The Wise Guy said on Monday. "But even if he does, I'll stick with what I said to you last week. The Ravens are making the playoffs."

From his lips to God's ears, right?

So, almost right on cue, The Wise Guy's e-mail came in just after 5 pm on Monday. He must have a lot of time on his hands. He broke down the games of the AFC teams he believes the Ravens are competing against for a playoff spot.

And, as you'll see, he has the Ravens -- no surprise here -- making the playoffs.

Bengals - Currently 5-4. Will finish 8-8. Wins over Cleveland, Denver and Oakland. Losses to Baltimore, Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Titans -- Currently 5-4. Will finish 9-7. Wins over NY Jets, NY Giants, Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Losses to Indianapolis, Houston and Washington.

Colts -- Currently 4-5. Will finish 8-8. Wins over Miami, Tennessee, NY Giants and Dallas. Losses to Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee.

Chargers -- Currently 7-2. Will finish 11-5. Wins over Denver (twice), Arizona and Cincinnati. Losses to Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kansas City.

And here's how he sees the Ravens finishing up:

Win over Cincinnati on 11/18 gets them to 5-5.

Win over Oakland on 11/25 gets them to 6-5.

Loss at Atlanta on 12/2 drops them to 6-6.

Loss at Kansas City on 12/9 drops them to 6-7.

Win over Tampa Bay on 12/16 gets them to 7-7.

Win over Los Angeles Chargers on 12/22 gets to them 8-7.

Win over Cleveland on 12/30 gets them to 9-7.

Ravens earn the second wild card berth and the #6 seed by virtue of their tiebreaker win over the Titans on October 14.

"You can book your playoff airfare to New England," The Wise Guy says. "That's where we'll be going for the first playoff game."

He's very optimistic, folks.

Let's hope he's right.

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November 12
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issue 12
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harbaugh faces biggest week of baltimore tenure

I'm sure John Harbaugh saw the score of yesterday's game in Cincinnati -- a 51-14 win for New Orleans -- and thought to himself, "That's just what I need."

Amid swirling controversy about his 11-year starting quarterback and, now, his own employment future in Baltimore, Harbaugh must get his football team ready to play a depleted Bengals squad that just got squashed by 37 points at home.

Buckle up Harbs. It's going to be an interesting week around here.

The good news for the Ravens? They should easily dispose of Cincinnati on Sunday.

The bad news for the Ravens? If there's one team that's had both Harbaugh's and Flacco's number over the years it's the Bengals.

I won't go as far as conceding Sunday's game is an automatic win for the Ravens, but I can't see them falling to a Cincinnati team that comes to town without A.J. Green. Then again, it's the NFL, and as I say all the time, "market correction" plays a key role with each passing weekend.

In their biggest game of the season coming up on Sunday, John Harbaugh might be without the guy who has been with him since his Baltimore tenure started in 2008.

One thing for certain: Harbaugh and the Ravens have to win on Sunday. A loss and a 4-6 record would all but eliminate them from the post-season. They wouldn't have that "z" next to their name in the standings ("z - eliminated from playoffs") but they might as well. If they can't beat Cincy with their season on the line, they're not going to beat Oakland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Cleveland to finish the season at 10-6.

We'll know by mid-week what Joe Flacco's status is for Sunday. The big story over the weekend was Flacco's hip injury that, depending on what story you believe, could be minor, problematic or season-ending. If Flacco doesn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, that's major reason for concern. If he doesn't practice by Friday, it's highly unlikely he'll play on Sunday.

If Flacco doesn't start, that leaves the job open for either Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III. Either way, Harbaugh knows he'll be facing an uphill battle.

Given the team's game-day decision to dress Jackson and deactive RGIII in all nine games thus far, it stands to reason Jackson would be handed the reins for Sunday's key showdown if Flacco can't go. The good news there is that the Bengals have no professional game tape on Jackson to study. The bad news -- Jackson's never started a game in the NFL and will be going in under the most extreme circumstances possible.

I'm sure Harbaugh isn't thrilled about it, but that's life in the NFL.

The coach himself was part of the Sunday game-day news cycle and he wasn't even coaching yesterday. A story broke late morning that suggested the Ravens and Harbaugh were "headed to a mutual parting of the ways". If they were giving out an award for "worst headline ever written", that one would win in a landslide.

"Headed to a mutual parting of the ways". What on earth does that mean? "Headed" that way if the Ravens don't make the playoffs? Well, of course. But what if the Ravens make the playoffs, beat the Patriots in Foxborough in round one, then fall to the Chiefs in overtime in the second round? Are they still "mutually parting ways" at that point?

Dumb headline, for sure. Really dumb.

Harbaugh has a contract in Baltimore next year that pays him in excess of $5 million. He wants to coach the Ravens. And there's zero chance -- none, nada, zilch -- that Steve Bisciotti went to Harbaugh in the middle of this season and suggested to him they both start considering an exit strategy for the end of December. Harbaugh would never, ever buy into something as stupid or unprofessional as that.

"Hey John, look. I'm thinking about firing you at the end of the season. And you know that. So why don't you start looking for work now...and if you find it, we'll just "mutually part ways" at the end of December and you can save yourself the embarrassment of getting fired."

There's dumb. And then there's that.

But even though that story didn't make sense, it still rachets up the heat on Harbaugh heading into this Sunday's home game with the Bengals. The last thing he needs is a distraction. Voila! He has two of them, actually. His own job future and his starting quarterback possibly missing time with a hip injury.

And while we're at it, let's also quickly -- again -- dismiss this completely asinine story that continues to circulate around town that Flacco's hip injury is a story contrived by the Ravens to allow them to play Jackson and not "embarrass" Flacco by replacing him with a rookie.

As I wrote on Saturday, if you really believe that's what happening, you should go see a doctor for a complete mental evaluation. You've lost your mind.

There would be ZERO benefit at all to Flacco to have the team create a fake injury and have him hop around on crutches for two weeks. First off, and most importantly, Flacco would never sign off on something so stupid. He and his agent both know Flacco might possibly be looking for work next March. The last thing they need to do is try and get a job in the NFL with a pesky "hip injury" lingering from the 2018 regular season.

None of this is part of the narrative Harbaugh wants to have swirling around his team this week. Any NFL coach will tell you the thing they despise the most -- other than losing -- are distractions.

Well, Harbaugh has two of them now. Three, perhaps, when you also throw in a "nearly must win situation" on Sunday when the Bengals come to town. It won't be "over" if they lose on Sunday, but the Ravens would have O-V-E in a game of horse.

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George McDowell

George McDowell is #DMD's foreign correspondent. His international reports are filed from a hardened outpost just across the U.S. / North Carolina border. He writes on sports topics that interest him that he feels might also interest some segment of the wildly esoteric #DMD readership. George has been a big fan of DF and his various enterprises since the last century, and for several seasons appeared as a weekly guest on his Monday evening radio show, Maryland Golf Live, delivering commentary as The Eccentric Starter. George also donates his time and talents to the less fortunate, and currently volunteers as secretary of the Rickie Fowler Fan Club.

an alternative to taking a knee

One hundred years ago yesterday – at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month – the guns across Europe went silent. The Great War fought to end all wars had finally come to a negotiated cease-fire after four mind-numbingly brutal years of slaughter.

A VFW Post in North Carolina commemorates the anniversary, now celebrated in conjunction with Veterans Day, by conducting a flag-retirement ceremony that begins at precisely 11:00 am. Flags are retired in accord with the Flag Code (4 U.S.C. §1 et seq), which provides: "(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

A similar ceremony conducted at the Post last spring is shown in the video below. Residents of an assisted-living facility wanted to retire a flag that had flown over their building. That flag was placed on the fire by an Army veteran who served in World War II. Others were placed by the widow of a Navy veteran of the same war and by a first-generation American who fought as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and now serves in the state senate.

The bird, a red-shouldered hawk, observes from her high perch at a distance, then flies off. She has graced the last three ceremonies with her presence. The background music is the English hymn, "I Vow to Thee, My Country."

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

"every week was a bye week” edition


Dan Marino

To say that my brother liked Dan Marino would be underselling the relationship.

He was such a fan of Marino that, when the Dolphins were available on local television back in the 80s and early 90s, he would stand up out of his seat and give the Dolphins’ quarterback a standing ovation the first time Miami’s offense ran onto the field.

Marino’s glory years coincided with the empty NFL years in Baltimore, beginning with that 1984 season that saw the Pittsburgh native make his only Super Bowl appearance.

By the time the Browns moved to Baltimore, my brother was solidly in the Miami camp. A “Dolfan,” as they still call themselves. For several years after the Ravens played their first game, he’d go to a local sports bar to watch the Dolphins.

And pretty much entirely because of Marino.

It’s not necessary to describe Marino in too much detail, since most of you saw him play. My opinion is that he is the greatest pure passer to have played the position. Someone else who thinks that? How about Peyton Manning, who famously broke Marino’s record for touchdown passes in a season in 2004.

When fans in Baltimore talk about Joe Flacco’s seemingly dispassionate approach to the game, they may not be thinking of Marino in particular. There were (and are) others who take a more vocal approach to leading a team.

That’s who they’re talking about, however, whether they know it or not. Combine that with talent, and it was a good reason to become a Dolfan.



The Canadian Football League has been around in one form or another since the 1870s, well before the NFL. In case you were wondering, the CFL playoffs began yesterday, and the Grey Cup is in two weeks.

It hasn’t always been easy for the CFL, which always seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy. That’s why, somewhat ridiculously, Baltimore became part of league history in 1994 and 1995. Back then, the league saw expansion into United States markets as a way of saving itself.

Now, in hindsight, the only thing that expansion to the United States really accomplished was reminding a certain NFL owner from Cleveland that Baltimore might be a good spot to move his team.

I would never take away the accomplishments of the CFL team here in Baltimore, the one that eventually became the “Stallions” for one season. They won the Grey Cup in 1995 after reaching the game and losing the year earlier.

I’ll always feel bad for the players on that 1995 team, the ones who came back from the Grey Cup to find that people cared even less about them than before; the Browns were headed into town.

Still, I remember sitting in the stands at Memorial Stadium when Doug Flutie and the Calgary Stampeders came into Baltimore. It was strange, and almost embarrassing in a way.

Sitting in M&T Bank Stadium these days, with the NFL having been back for a generation, it’s almost hard to believe that we had to stretch our fandom those two years.


San Francisco

If my brother was a Miami fan because of one Hall of Fame player, I was more of a team frontrunner myself. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit now, but I guess I was one of those fans who liked a team just because it was good.

Joe Montana went 4-0 in his four Super Bowl appearances with the 49'ers.

That team was the 49ers. The coach was the late Bill Walsh. The quarterback was Joe Montana, throwing to the incomparable Jerry Rice. Ronnie Lott ruled the secondary. Eventually the quarterback was Steve Young, and the coach was George Seifert, but my fandom had lessened by that time.

I’m talking about the Montana-Rice 49ers, from 1979-1992.

When Marino blossomed for Miami, Don Shula often let him go. The Dolphins were usually good with Marino, but they might have been better if they’d strived for more offensive balance.

The 49ers weren’t like that at all. They were much more clinical. Walsh, of course, was the coach who perfected the “West Coast offense,” filled with short passes and horizontal routes. The 49ers offense flipped the script on history; instead of running to set up the pass, San Francisco passed to set up the run.

In certain ways, both scheme-wise and off the field, those San Francisco teams were the model for every team in the modern NFL.

During that time, no matter what the fans in Dallas might say, it was the 49ers who became “America’s Team.” They occupied the East Coast late afternoon national television spot almost every Sunday, becoming a ubiquitous presence in every part of the country. They even reeled me in.


23 years

Imagine you were a 21-year-old guy on Christmas Eve 1977, and you walked out of Memorial Stadium disappointed after the Raiders beat the Colts in double overtime in an AFC divisional playoff game.

Would you have ever thought that the next time you could go to a playoff football game in Charm City would be on New Year’s Eve 2000, when you were 44 years old?

It took 23 years for NFL playoff football to return to Baltimore after “The Ghost to the Post.” Children became parents, parents became grandparents, and so many grandparents weren’t around to see the game, against the Broncos.

I suppose it’s possible that, if the Colts had stayed in Baltimore, they might have gone on a long streak without making a playoff appearance. In real life, the franchise didn’t return to the playoffs until 1987, when Eric Dickerson came at midseason and led Indianapolis to the AFC East title.

It’s understandable that we talk about the emptiness of NFL Sundays in Baltimore for 12 seasons. That’s a lot of Sundays, a time made even longer by the disappointment of missing out on an expansion team in 1993.

In some ways, however, it was even more thrilling to finally make a playoff appearance after so many years. For many reasons, the biggest of which was its Super Bowl championship, that 2000 team was an historic group. One of its forgotten accomplishments was making people remember what being a playoff team meant.



You can opine all you want about the relationships of professional sports teams to civic pride. Personally, I think that the connection is somewhat overrated. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Baltimore that make no connection between the Ravens or Orioles and their daily lives.

That’s today, of course. In 1984, when NFL Sundays were taken away from Baltimore, it really was a huge jolt to civic pride.

Some of that was negative, of course. But looking back, a lot of it was positive too.

It’s easy to forget all these years later that the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards was more than tangentially related to the Colts bolting town eight years earlier. The Orioles were the only game in town, and enough people that mattered were convinced that we needed them to stay here.

They couldn’t have known just how much Camden Yards would change the perception of the downtown area, both locally and nationally. That didn’t last forever, unfortunately, but while it was happening the city changed for the better.

One team left for a place they thought was better. The old place, only a few years later, proved it never deserved to be left behind in the first place.

It’s easy to describe the years 1984-1995 as a “lost” era for Baltimore, but in reality that time proved to be critical for the city’s ability to get back in the game. The city, its leaders and its fans responded to a challenge in the best possible ways.

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November 11
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issue 11
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"a long, long time ago"

Are you already humming the Don McLean tune, American Pie, when you read those words? "A long, long time ago...". Me too.

I write this piece once a season now.

Once every NFL season, that is.

I take the opportunity on the weekend of the Ravens bye week to remind everyone what it was like in these parts -- a long, long time ago.

For all the anger and venom for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that exists out there, we, in 2018, should consider ourselves very fortunate. Sure, the Ravens haven't made the playoffs in three years and we could be on the verge of a fourth straight football-less January. A group of Baltimore players took a knee last September in London and created a stir unlike anything the organization had ever seen here in Charm City.

But all of that -- the winning, losing, bickering, finger pointing, etc. -- is still better than what we had in Baltimore from 1984 through 1995. Today, remember, is exactly what it was like back then on any given NFL Sunday. Everyone else around the country played. And we watched.

Some of you reading this might not have been overly impacted by the Colts moving to Indianapolis. You quickly found something else to do on Sunday from September through December.

Many a Baltimorean made great memories in this place.

Others, like my parents, were devastated by the team packing up and moving west. My entire Sunday growing up was dedicated to the Colts. If on the rare occasion my Dad and I didn't go to the home game at Memorial Stadium, we got up as a family and planned our entire Sunday around the game.

When the Colts moved, oddly enough, I was knee-deep in my career working for the Blast. Our season started in October, so my weekends were jam packed with work, as the team played a majority of its games, home and away, on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

So I found "something else to do" when the Colts were gone, but it was by accident. I was working.

Others, though, felt the void of having no football in town in a way I never did. We no longer had a football team. And to make it worse, our team actually did still exist, but someone else had them. I still contend to this day that had Indianapolis simply renamed the Colts -- example here, the "Rangers" -- and played in green and white, I'm not sure we would have been crushed as much in Baltimore. Seeing "our team" play in "our colors" and "our helmets" in another city was just not fathomable.

For 12 years, our Sunday calendar was empty here.

When you're out and about today, remember that. Feel it. Understand it. We wandered around on Sunday like the folks do in Birmingham, Louisville, Salt Lake City and Portland. Sure, there was football played on the television and you could have adopted a team if you wanted to, but we didn't have a team here for those 12 years. Sundays were empty.

I understand the emotion attached to sports. I've spent nearly all of my adult life some associated with sports, first working for a professional team for 17 years, then immersed in the media aspect for another 17 or so. I get it. Sports are very important in our society.

But we definitely let it get the best of us at times.

We argue and bicker about the teams, the coaches, the players and the decisions.

We say things we shouldn't.

We do things we shouldn't.

All in the name of sports or our favorite team.

And while the leagues and teams have capitalized on that passion, we should take a minute today to remember, quietly, that the greatest gift of all is to simply have a team that has your city's name across its chest or on its helmet.

Do you know what's worse than having your football team miss the playoffs four years in a row?

Not having a team.

Do you know what's worse than having your baseball team go 47-115 and become the laughingstock of the league?

Not having a team.

While you're out in the yard today or on the golf course, try this trick. Go to your phone and check the Sunday scores. Scan carefully. Keep looking. You won't see "Baltimore" in those scores.

That's what it was like from 1984-1995.

Everyone else played and we watched.

It was awful.

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"show me the money" might be better than the saints

Another winning Sunday last week. Make that nine straight non-losing Sundays for me this season. Eight winning efforts and a tie, in case you're counting.

Look, I know I'm going 1-4 at some point. I call it "market correction" in the NFL. Well, there's "market correction" in this industry, too. I know a cold spell is coming.

But maybe not...

Maybe this is the year I torch through the season and make you so much money you buy that long-awaited beach house down on 138th street in Ocean City. If so, how about a 50% off week for me and my family every summer? It's the least you can do.

I'm currently 28-15-2 after last Sunday's 3-2 mark.

Just think, if you would have wagered (legally, of course) two thousand dollars a game, you'd be roughly $25,000 to the good right now. Sounds like a beach house down payment to me.

Alright, let's get to today's action.

Let me say this first. I do not like today's schedule. Not at all. I don't see many games that stand out to me, and the lines are so favorite-heavy that I'm just not "feeling it" today. But I'll forge ahead.

JAGUARS AT COLTS (-3) -- Seems kind of ironic that after authoring the piece above about the Colts leaving for Indianapolis that I'd be writing about a Sunday wager involving the Colts. I don't know what's happened to Jacksonville, but they have obviously taken quite a downtown in 2018. The Colts got off to a sluggish start, but they seem to be making some progress now. I don't know how the Jaguars are going to score enough to win, so let's go with the Colts to win and cover in a close one, 20-16. (Note: This is also our "Best Bet" game today)

Can Matt Ryan and the Falcons make it two straight road wins today in Cleveland?

FALCONS AT BROWNS (+6) -- OK, here's how the NFL works. Atlanta stinks on the road, especially in outdoor buildings. They went to Washington last Sunday and, of course, clobbered the Redskins, who were playing well heading into the game. Typical NFL "reverse lock" garbage that we see all the time. So, today, the Falcons should just steam into Cleveland, win 34-17, and head back to Atlanta, right? Wrong. They might win, but they're not blowing Cleveland out. We'll take the Browns to cover the six points in a 26-23 Atlanta victory.

SAINTS AT BENGALS (+5.5) -- If the Bengals had A.J. Green today, I'd give them a puncher's chance of winning this one. As it stands, the key element of the game is whether New Orleans will experience a letdown after last Sunday's exciting win over the Rams. I see this game looking a lot like the Ravens-Saints game, minus the kicker missing a chip shot to tie the game at the end of regulation. We'll go with the Bengals to hang tough and cover, but New Orleans pulls out a late 31-27 win.

PATRIOTS AT TITANS (+6.5) -- Which Tennessee team shows up today? The one that beat the Eagles back in September? The one that got shut out at home by the Ravens in October? Or the one that just went on the road and clamped down on Dallas on Monday night? That's the question. And can New England, minus Gronkowski, steal another road win? I say they can, and will, but we're going with the Titans to keep it close and cover in a 24-20 New England victory.

SEAHAWKS AT RAMS (-9.0) -- The last time these two teams met, the Rams pulled out a late win on a crazy 4th down and 1 gamble by Sean McVay with a minute left in the game. Nine points is a lot to give in a divisional game, and the Seahawks don't lose by double digits very often. I've liked the underdogs in three straight picks above, but not in this one. Stinging after their first loss of the season last Sunday in New Orleans, the Rams react accordingly today and clobber the Seahawks, 37-21.




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November 10
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"flacco might not ever play again..."

Well, so much for a boring Ravens bye week, huh?

Just when everyone thought they could step away from their computer for the weekend and get back to the real world, along came Friday's news that Joe Flacco is battling a hip injury and his status for the November 18 home game vs. Cincinnati is up in the air.

Those appear to be the facts of the case.

Oh, and here's the deal: Right now, they might be the only facts we really know about the situation.

As for the headline above, that was one of the "dumb takes" I saw from some goof yesterday on Twitter. And, yes, he was serious. "I'm hearing this could be a career ending, Bo Jackson injury," he wrote.

So for those of you who actually come here for reasoning, let's play "Fact or Fiction".

FACT -- Joe Flacco is hurting. He took a hit in the first quarter of Sunday's game vs. the Steelers that left him shaken up. He was briefly attended to on the sideline, chatted with a team medical staffer, and clearly looked as if he was "walking it off". While I didn't personally see this myself (the recorded game didn't show it, but those in the press box say they witnessed it), Flacco apparently didn't sit on the bench for the remainder of the game, opting instead to continue walking around and/or standing while the defense was on the field.

FICTION -- Flacco did not "lie" about the injury after the game. He was asked about it at the post-game press conference and said, "I'm OK". For starters, with the adrenaline and rush of the game still swirling, he might not have realized the severity of the injury. And, two, players are under strict order to never discuss an injury with the media. This is standard procedure with every team, but even more so with the Ravens. And the media, naturally, knows this, but they ask anyway. It's an easy "gotcha" moment if an injury turns out worse than first thought.

FACT -- This is not an injury "created" by the team to effectively bench Flacco. That's an Orioles trick. They typically create fake injuries because of their 25-man roster constraints. If the Ravens wanted Lamar Jackson to play quarterback, they'd insert him as the starting quarterback and that would be it. In fact, Flacco would be more prone to flipping out if the Ravens came to him with a bush-league "fake injury" story than if he simply lost his starting job. This is the dumbest take of all, in my opinion. And I saw and heard it a lot on Friday. "They've benched Joe and this is their way of not embarrassing him." Please. If you really believe this, in your heart, you should go to a hospital right now, walk up to the registration desk and say, "I'm here because I'm stupid. Do you all have a treatment for that?"

At some point, the guy on the left is going to replace the guy on the right. But how it happens is what seems to be important these days.

FICTION -- This was a "Friday news dump" by the Ravens. They waited until Friday to announce the news so it wouldn't have as much impact. Wrong. The Ravens still haven't officially said anything at all about Flacco's injury. It wasn't leaked by the team. Flacco was apparently at the team facility on Wednesday receiving treatment. A group of people from a corporate sponsor were at the team's headquarters and someone spotted Joe leaving through a side door on crutches. A phone call came into the FM sports station in town from someone claiming to have seen Joe on crutches. From there, the story started to have legs until reporters were finally able to confirm it on Friday.

FACT -- The Ravens don't have to produce an injury report on their bye week, so they are under no league-wide mandate to file anything this week. They won't have to file an official injury report until next Wednesday. At that point, barring something major (like surgery) occurring between now and next Wednesday, I'm sure Flacco will be listed as "questionable" for the November 18 game. But remember this, please. The Ravens are under no obligation to distribute injury information this week and next week, when they have to do so, they'll be as coy about it as they can be under the guidelines of the league. Why tell the Bengals on Wednesday (or yesterday?) that Lamar Jackson is playing against them? This isn't the CYO. This is the NFL, where not much has to be "fair".

FICTION -- Lamar Jackson is starting the November 18 game. This was everyone's immediate take on Friday when the Flacco injury was confirmed. Sure, Jackson might be starting against the Bengals. But "might" is underlined for a reason. Flacco might also start. He might get treatment this weekend and all next week, get a shot in his injured hip on Sunday morning, and play against Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon. Robert Griffin III could also start. He's on the team as well. Logic says -- since RGIII hasn't dressed for a game and is clearly #3 on the depth chart -- that Lamar Jackson will start if Flacco can't play. But at this point, today, Lamar Jackson isn't the starting quarterback on November 18.

FACT -- The Ravens are in dire straits at 4-5 and with Pittsburgh (6-2-1), Los Angeles (6-2), Cincinnati (5-3) and Miami (5-3) all ahead of them right now.

FICTION -- I saw/heard this one several times on Friday: "John Harbaugh's benching Flacco so he can play Lamar and be able to save his job. If Jackson doesn't get the team in the playoffs, he can say to Bisciotti, 'I used a rookie quarterback for the last half of the season' and if Lamar leads the team to the playoffs, Harbaugh keeps his job.'" That's about the second dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life (other than, "Here Joe, walk around on crutches so it looks like you're hurt and then we can bench you".) Here's what people don't understand: Harbaugh already has a job next season. In Baltimore. In other words, he has a guaranteed contract that pays him well over $5 million in 2019. If he gets fired, he still gets paid. Does he want to get fired? Of course not. But if you think Harbaugh is trying to create some sort of dipsy-doo scenario where he back doors his way into staying employed next year -- win or lose -- you need to go to that same hospital I referenced above and ask for the "stupid check".

So there you have it. That's about all I can say on the Flacco-injury-story.

And remember, this has nothing at all to do with the whole idea of Flacco eventually being replaced by Jackson as the team's starting quarterback. Make no bones about it, that will happen in Baltimore at some point. The Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft so that he someday will be the team's starting quarterback. Whether that happens this season or next (or, who knows, maybe not until 2020?) remains to be seen.

But the Ravens have not given up on Joe Flacco and created an injury in order to seamlessly slide Jackson into the starting role now and help reduce the embarrassment heaped on Flacco for his (insert your descripitive word here) recent play.

That's a fact.

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early season caps woes are normal

The Caps dropped a 2-1 home decision to Columbus on Friday night.

I saw some mild overreacting on Twitter after the game.

I seem to remember Columbus winning two games in D.C. last April, the world falling apart, and seven weeks later, the Caps were hoisting the Stanley Cup.

In other words, people -- relax.

Braden Holtby and the Caps are off to a sluggish start after winning the Stanley Cup title in 2017-2018.

This Caps team will be fine.

Are they going to repeat as Stanley Cup champs? Well, that would be a tall order. It took them 40-plus years to win of those things, it stands to reason they won't win twice in two years.

But they'll be a force to be reckoned with come spring, as long as the main pieces (well, Ovechkin, really) are healthy throughout the season and into the playoffs. As they showed last year, they can win games without Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Burakovsky. I think we all know they can't win games (plural) that matter in April and May without Ovechkin.

I saw someone note on Twitter recently that the team's lack of off-season additions means this exact same team has to duplicate what they did last year, minus Jay Beagle, who headed off to Vancouver and Philipp Grubauer, who was traded to Colorado.

I guess that was meant to indicate that without bringing in any new veteran blood, the Caps are a year older and the tread on their tires is a tad thinner.

That's a fair point.

And they've changed coaches, too, don't forget. That's more important than people think, I'd say. For all the talk and bluster about Barry Trotz and the job he did or didn't do, the reality is he coached the team that won the Stanley Cup last season. His departure is probably far more critical than having Beagle skate off to the Canucks.

Don't forget this as well. On 41 occasions this season, the Caps will skate into the other team's building as the defending champions. They're everyone's Super Bowl. Honestly, it's been that way for a while because of Ovechkin's star status, but this time around it's definitely different. The Caps have a bulls-eye on their back they've never before worn.

The Eastern Conference has a handful of really good teams, Ovechkin and Company included. Pittsburgh's going to be good, obviously, and Toronto looks to be even better than a year ago with the addition of John Tavares. Tampa Bay is very good -- maybe the best team, frankly -- and Columbus might even be a pain in everyone's side come April.

But when the dust settles at the end of the regular season, the Capitals are going to be right there in the thick of it. And this time around, they'll actually have the experience of winning the title working for them instead of against them.

I realize people thought they might go 60-18-4 this year but that's not happening. Rest easy, though. The Caps are still really good.

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November 9
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issue 9
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a good idea spoiled

Back in February, a trio of Washington D.C. sports reporters launched a subscription based website that they hoped would be able to service the DMV's swelling metropolis.

Last week, it closed down.

Fortunately, skipping ahead to the final chapter real quick, they each had new employment before they shut the doors on their 8-month venture.

But it's still a sad ending to what could have been a great story.

The Sports Capitol provided in-depth coverage of the Redskins, Nationals, Capitals, Wizards, Terps and anything else that took place in the D.C. area.

They charged $5 a month to the folks who sought their outstanding work.

They either didn't get enough $5 subscribers or the offer they each received from NBCSports Washington was too good to pass up.

My guess? It was probably a little of both.

These are wildly interesting times in the sports "media" business. I put "media" in quotes because there's no real definition for what constitutes the media any longer.

In 2018, the internet is the media. I mean, there's still TV, radio, newspaper and magazines, but the internet and all of its available portals dwarf everything else that you can read, see or hear.

Eight months's gone.

The landscape has shifted significantly over the last decade, particularly in sports, where teams now stock their staff with former members of the media who contribute to team websites and both audio and visual entities owned and developed by the organizations themselves.

20 years ago, teams used the media to get their message out. They needn't do that in 2018. Now, they just send their own message out, in whatever form they want, and you consume it all at your leisure and with whatever degree of passion and interest you choose.

There's no longer a true need for a media member to be at the game, in the locker room and at the press conference. In the old days, those three elements were critical to being accepted and trusted by everyone; the people consuming your information, the team you were reporting on and even other media members.

The various leagues have removed the importance of actually being on site at the game. Every sporting event is on TV now -- or at least on the internet, which is just as good as TV. Why hustle out to Towson University or UMBC this winter to report on the basketball game when you can sit home, log in to the website, and stream it on your computer?

Oh, and if you want to know what the coach thought about the game, just wait about 30 minutes and the school's website will have quotes up for you to use. Sure, they're "stock" in nature and they aren't questions you get to ask yourself, but let's be honest...if you ask a question after a tough loss that the coach doesn't want to answer, he/she just won't answer it.

How does this all relate to the three guys in D.C. who packed in their sports website enterprise last week and went back to a "media" gig?

It just serves as a reminder that the margin for trial and error is thinner than ever before.

If teams had it their way, they'd gobble up every writer, social media poster and Twitter account holder and put them all on the payroll. That's impossible, of course, but the organizations would love to figure out a way to make it a reality.

But they'd do that more to just diminish the competition than to improve the quality of their own departments. The fewer websites and internet experts who are out there scrounging for subscribers and advertisers, the more of those things the team's P.R. department can potentially scoop up.

Everywhere you turn, there's someone in town who fancies themselves an "expert" on the Ravens. Go to Twitter and see for yourself. Blogs, podcasts, websites, journals...all dedicated to providing the "best" coverage of the Ravens. And 90% of those people have never stepped foot in the team's locker room, practice facility or stadium press box.

It must drive sports teams crazy to see countless amateurs "expertly" analyzing their every move.

And it must thrill them to no end when a start-up like The Sports Capitol goes belly-up less than a year into their existence. I can just hear the folks with the Redskins, Capitals and Terps now. "Another one bites the dust..."

I obviously have a soft spot for The Sports Capitol and their business approach. While I've vowed to never make this website a subscription-based entity, I understand why those guys in D.C. chose that route and I definitely get the concept of paying for content in the same way we subscribed to The Sporting News and Baseball Digest back in the 1970's.

It's $5.00, after all. Once a month, rather than buying a coffee and scone at the local bakery, send that money in and support the business of good sports journalism.


Not really...

It's an idea that seems simple enough, but it just hasn't been met with nearly enough enthusiasm to make it a viable business for more than a scarce few who caught lightning in a bottle.

The Athletic is a year old, bustling subscription based enterprise that has built a solid following in a relatively short amount of time. But they're losing money by the barrel full in the early stages of their existence, kept alive by a mammoth venture capital drive that helped lure some of the country's best writers and media members to their stable. Not surprisingly, the amount of subscription money coming in is not equaling their expenses at this point.

It's no one's fault in particular. The teams no longer need the media, the media itself hasn't yet figured out to what degree they need the teams and the "internet world" is basically the wild, wild west, with sources, opinions and stories that rival information you'd see from the "real" media.

While this piece wasn't intended to glorify or promote what we do here, it's worth noting we've tried to do things "our own way" since this venture began on August 25, 2014.

We've been extraordinarily fortunate to have a group of dedicated marketing partners who have helped #DMD grow and prosper over the last 52 months. Together with you, the readers who visit the site every day, we have a unique product.

I've had plenty of people over the years tell me I was smart, dumb, archaic, ahead of my time, logical, illogical and so on. For every "they'll never take you alive" I've heard, someone else quickly chimes in and says, "you'll never make it."

What we've tried to do here at #DMD is provide "insight and opinion". That's been the mantra since day one. We try to do that with a level of quality you might not find elsewhere. We're like a baseball player in that regard, I assume. We hit some singles, some doubles, some triples and an occasional home run. Sometimes we strike out, too.

But what we always are, I think, is "original". That's not to say you have to agree with everything you read here. I'm sure you don't.

The charm of a place like this is that you can come back tomorrow and find a new story or new article or new opinion and go through the whole process again.

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steelers shine while ravens sputter

That almost felt like another Ravens loss last night, watching Pittsburgh demolish Carolina, 52-21.

You remember the Panthers, right? They blasted the Ravens down in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, 36-21. And then the Steelers came to town last Sunday and whipped John Harbaugh's team, 23-16.

Fortunately, the Ravens are still 4-5. The only change to the AFC North standings on Thursday was Pittsburgh improving to 6-2-1.

I was wrong about Pittsburgh. There, I said it.

After seeing them labor to tie the Browns in week one and then get run out of the gym (their own, no less) by the Chiefs in week two, I thought this was finally the year we saw Pittsburgh's overrated defense finally catch up to them. After the Ravens went to Heinz Field on September 30 and beat them, I was sure of it.

Antonio Brown had 96 yards receiving and a TD catch in last night's Pittsburgh win over Carolina.

Well, the Steelers haven't lost since that Sunday night defeat to Joe Flacco and Company.

And by the looks of things, they're going to be a tough out come January, just like New England and Kansas City.

But how?

They're still going to be a title contender even without Le'Veon Bell? And with a patchwork secondary? Apparently so. Very much, in fact.

I guess it's kind of easy to figure out, actually.

They have a Hall of Fame quarterback who still gets the job done. They have a trio of pass catching threats, each of whom has his own unique style. I commented on Twitter last night that I haven't seen a Ravens receiver get separation in the same way Antonio Brown does -- ever. Maybe that's because Brown is really fast and runs great routes, but whatever the reason(s), he always seems to be open.

And they can still run the football, even without Bell in their lineup. James Conner has been more than an adequate fill-in for Bell. In some ways, he's been just as good in 2018 as Bell was in 2017.

That Pittsburgh pass rush is menacing. Or, at the very least, it was last night against Carolina. They had a field day in Baltimore last Sunday, but that was more about the Ravens' depleted offensive line than anything else. But maybe not. Is their scheme that much different than the one employed by the Ravens? After an 11-sack effort against Tennessee back in mid-October, the Baltimore pass rush has completely petered out.

Is it coaching? Here's a funny -- or not -- note about the Steelers. Because we all tend to follow them more closely than other teams, I've always known their coordinators by name. Bruce Arians a decade ago, Dick LeBeau forever, Todd Haley for a couple of years. I have no idea who their offensive coordinator is in 2018. I don't care, either. I guess I was just pointing out that the names change, but Pittsburgh's offense keeps chugging along.

Ultimately, the key in Pittsburgh is Roethlisberger, right?

The pieces change in that Steelers' offense but they somehow keep on winning. The one constant over the last 15 years has been Roethlisberger.

I watch them last night and can't help but think they'd be crazy to bring Bell back for the rest of the season. Why do that now and risk unsettling what they've built? I mean, I guess they have to welcome him back if he shows up, but would they just throw him back in the lineup with the snap of a finger? Boy...I don't know.

My hope, like most of you reading this, is that we don't have to watch them in Atlanta in early February. I don't particularly care for seeing New England there either -- again -- but I'm definitely a fan of the ABTSC.

That's Anyone-But-The-Steelers-Club.

I'm afraid, though. I watch them over the last four or five weeks and I see a team building momentum and getting stronger with each passing game.

I'm jealous, too.

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you're watching the terps and caps

Our Thursday reader's poll asked you to tell us what you'll be following over the winter months.

We gave you five options.

Two of them apparently don't interest many of you.

Maryland basketball was the big winner in our #DMD reader's poll on Thursday.

The Wizards received 3% of the vote. I can see why. The team doesn't appear to be very good, for starters, and here in Baltimore, at least, the organization does no marketing at all to try and attract fans to their games.

The Blast received 4% of your vote. They'll start their second season at SECU Arena in December. Having spent 17 years in that organization, I have a soft spot for them. And I still go to the games. But I get it. It's indoor soccer. It's always been a niche sport.

Local college basketball received 18% of the vote in our poll. I wish the local teams had more of a following. As a guy who has been to every venue in town, numerous times, I can tell you Baltimore has some great value when it comes to entertainment and quality basketball. It will be interesting to see if UMBC capitalizes on their dramatic NCAA tournament accomplishment from last April. They're in a brand new building over in Catonsville and while their team won't be as good as the 2017-2018 edition, they're still worth supporting.

The Capitals received 31% of your vote. There are lots of hockey fans in the Baltimore area, and that was the case long before the Caps claimed the Stanley Cup last June. I'm still of the belief that minor league hockey would work in a big way in Baltimore, but surprisingly no league has seen fit to move a team here in almost two decades now.

The Caps have done a good job of marketing themselves here in Charm City, although I still believe they can -- and should -- do more. One of these days, when Ovechkin is gone and the team takes a step back, they'll need to fill those seats again. Maybe then they'll come back to Baltimore in with marketing enthusiasm and make everyone here feel important.

But the clear winner in our poll, not surprisingly, was Terps basketball. They received a whopping 44% of the vote. While Maryland football has almost no following whatsoever, Maryland hoops almost feels like a "Baltimore team" in the way they're supported in these parts. Mark Turgeon could have himself a pretty decent squad, too. If Maryland stays healthy, look for them to return to the NCAA tournament next March.

By the way, you'll find extensive Maryland hoops coverage here at #DMD once the Terps reach Big Ten play in January. We have one of the best analysts around in Dale Williams. He'll take you through each conference came and the tournament with in-depth "insight and opinion".

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November 8
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issue 8
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"they've heard 'no' a lot"

I had a conversation on Wednesday with a friend of mine who is associated with the Orioles. They're always good for some useful, timely information.

The obvious question: "What's taking them so long?"

The Orioles are without any formal front office structure at this point, with -- we assume -- Brady Anderson filling some kind of upper management role along with the two Angelos boys, Lou and John. But what anyone is actually doing in those roles is another story.

"What's taking them so long to hire people?", I asked.

"They're hearing 'no' a lot," the team associate replied.

The Birds are trying to fill several roles, including, perhaps, a newly created role of team president. If the organization follows a normal major league structure, the president would then hire the general manager (or "vice president of baseball operations") and he/she could then start the process of interviewing and hiring a field manager.

"They're hearing 'no' a lot," doesn't sound real promising.

Longtime baseball executive Kim Ng was on the original list of candidates for one of the front office openings in Baltimore.

Not that I'm surprised, mind you. The Orioles are in unique situation, one that might have as much to do with their surroundings as it does anything else. Sure, there are only 30 team president positions in baseball, but anyone signing up for the gig in Baltimore does so knowing they're coming in on the ground floor of a start-up company, basically. They have a lot of work to do to get the product ready for consumption and, even then, there's no telling how well it go.

These other two teams called the Red Sox and Yankees have a pretty good thing going, in case you haven't noticed.

The Orioles' reputation probably isn't helping much, either. The front office has been, let's say, "interesting" over the last few years.

"What's probably hurting them more than anything is the unknown," the associate explains. "No one really knows much about the future. What happens when Peter doesn't own the club any longer? What happens to the franchise? How much control will the new person have on a daily basis? That's always a question."

Apparently, as the Orioles have contacted potential president and general manager candidates, they've gone to great lengths to promise full control of the baseball operations department. "Full control" and "Orioles" don't often collide together in the same sentence.

But even the promise of "full control" hasn't been enough to get anyone to say "yes" yet.

"I think it's happening soon," the associate says. "They need to get someone on board. And someone will eventually take the job. It's just a question of finding the right person with the right vision."

With the San Francisco Giants hiring Farhan Zaidi on Wednesday, the O's now have the only upper-management positions open in baseball. An industry report surfaced earlier this week that indicated the Birds had zeroed in on Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias, but he has yet to accept the new role in Baltimore.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

Did the Ravens draft Lamar Jackson in the belief that he’d be the next Joe Flacco?

Not in style of play, obviously; rather, in the sense that the front office believes he’s a player who can be the starting quarterback in Baltimore for many years.

The assumption is yes. Otherwise, why would the team have traded back into the first round to get him, after twice trading down with first-round picks, in the process giving up a second-round pick not only in 2018 but also next year?

Ozzie Newsome and company didn’t do the exact same thing for Flacco, but the essence of it was the same, right? They thought he was a guy they wanted, and they tried to figure out the best spot in the draft to get him. The gambit worked.

So what, you say?

What if the Ravens never thought that about Lamar Jackson? What if they still don’t think that about Lamar Jackson?

What if Jackson, as a veteran NFL beat writer told me after talking to many front office types, is a great kid who everybody likes but doesn’t get that he can’t be what he used to be and be a successful NFL quarterback?

Sure, I understand the push to see the truth about Jackson, and I understand why it’s coming out now. I’ll understand it even more later in the year when and if the playoffs are totally out of reach.

I even appreciate the hope that Jackson is such a unique talent than he CAN be what he used to be and become a successful NFL player…or, to flip it around on his coaches, that they might better understand how to create an offensive scheme based on those unique talents.

Some things to remember about Lamar Jackson. All of them come with the caveat, of course, that the NFL draft is an inexact science, and that the greatest quarterback of all-time was chosen in the sixth round.

Jackson was projected pre-draft as a mid-first round pick. If the Ravens had not chosen him at No. 32, he could easily have been chosen midway through the second round.

He was the fifth quarterback chosen in the draft. There were four chosen in the top 10 picks, and after Jackson not another one chosen until the 76th pick. It’s an in-between spot, because people weren’t sure if he’s closer to Sam Darnold or closer to Kyle Lauletta.

Through nine games, when he enters the game while Flacco is playing, he’s in there to run the ball. As Dan Fouts kept saying on Sunday’s broadcast, in the NFL you can’t do a run-pass option if the pass isn’t really an option.

So what, you say?

Maybe the Ravens didn’t take Lamar Jackson with five or eight or 10 years in mind.

Maybe they thought he’d be an interesting option or a change of pace guy. Maybe they wanted to put some doubt in Joe Flacco’s mind. Maybe they noticed that people didn’t seem to care about the team as much and decided an exciting former Heisman Trophy winner would help in that regard.

It’s quite possible that the Ravens aren’t prepared to give the team to Lamar Jackson. They literally have no interest in doing so.

Now, maybe I shouldn’t be so literal. Jackson is the active backup quarterback every week in 2018, so he’s always one play away from being handed the offense for the rest of the game. I suppose he also might be one play away from being handed the offense for the rest of the season, though we can’t be 100 percent sure that Robert Griffin wouldn’t be the starter in that situation.

Besides the “package” we’ve seen for Jackson so far, I assume that the staff has a plan for the offense if he’s on the field every down. If Jackson were named the starter early in the week, for whatever reason, the staff would develop a game plan that would probably have a few different wrinkles.

What happens on New Year’s Eve, though, the day after the Ravens finish the season against Cleveland at home?

If the Ravens finish the year with six or seven wins, a losing record, that’ll most likely mean the door for the head coach. If the team finishes the year with eight or nine wins, a similar season to the last three, that’ll still most likely mean the door for him.

It won’t be decided on New Year’s Eve, but time might be up for the current quarterback. There are a few reasons, both performance-related and otherwise, why moving on from him isn’t a bad idea. Will one of those reasons be that it’s time to for the organization to see if its 2018 first-round quarterback can lead the team back to the playoffs?

Maybe. But right now, we have no idea.

We don’t know how the people that matter really feel about Lamar Jackson. We don’t know how a new coach would enter into that decision either.

I’m not even sure that if Lamar Jackson played every minute of the team’s remaining games in 2018, no matter the results, the Ravens would be ready to put him out there on top of the depth chart in 2019.

Here’s what we know...

Right now, the Ravens are committed to using Jackson in specific and simple ways.

As far as I can tell, the coaching staff isn’t asking for outside advice on the subject. John Harbaugh says that he wants to see Jackson play even more, though my guess is that he means he’d like more plays for his rookie quarterback within those specific and simple parameters.

Right now, Jackson is nowhere close to grabbing the team’s starting quarterback job through his own merits.

If that does happen in 2018, besides injury, it will either be because the team is eliminated from the playoffs or because the play of the starting quarterback is lacking.

Right now, the Ravens are on a three-game losing streak, and each of those games featured something a little different than the others.

Drew Brees or not, the defense let a late lead slip away at home against the Saints and fate finally intervened for Justin Tucker. The Carolina game was an all-around team effort, in a bad way. Against the Steelers, the Ravens scored field goals and Pittsburgh scored touchdowns.

Lamar Jackson might have scored a touchdown against Pittsburgh, if only the quarterback looked his way. Still, like every win or loss in the NFL, these were team losses. Making them a referendum on Lamar Jackson, or even the starting quarterback, doesn’t make much sense.

Right now, a lot about the Ravens seems up in the air. The same can be said for many NFL teams every year.

Lamar Jackson? He has something to do with that, I guess, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll ever take on a bigger role in the fortune of the Baltimore Ravens. At this point, there are plenty of other topics to discuss.

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who are you following these days?

With all of the major winter sports now in action, it got me to thinking last night. What's everyone going to be watching over the next few months?

We still have football, of course.

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals are off to a good start in defense of last spring's Stanley Cup title.

As long as the Ravens have a shot at the playoffs, everyone around here figures to stay locked in.

There was a pretty good early season hockey game on last night, won by the Capitals, 2-1, over the Penguins. You might remember the Caps. They won the Stanley Cup last spring.

The Wizards haven't been very good thus far and look to be on a downturn of sorts, but if the NBA is your thing, they're on TV two or three times a week.

College basketball kicked off this week. Maryland didn't look all that great on Tuesday night when they saw a 22-point second half lead get narrowed to just three points late in the game, but they held on to beat Delaware, 73-67. A lot of people think the Terps are going to be really good this year.

There are other local hoops teams as well, of course, on both the men's and women's side.

The Blast will kick off another season of indoor soccer in December.

How will you handle your sports "fandom" this winter? What team will you follow the most, NOT including the Ravens?

Please participate in the poll below.

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November 7
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issue 7
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the people have made their decision

OK, now. No whining.

No looking back a year from now and saying, "This isn't going the way I thought it would."

This is what you wanted.

You asked for got it.

In our #DMD reader's poll from Tuesday, we asked how many of you actually trust the politicians you voted for. Your answer was 0%.

That's a joke, friends. Some Wednesday morning humor for you. Relax. (Even though it's probably true...)

In our Tuesday reader's poll, we asked what you think the Ravens should do during the bye week on the heels of the 23-16 home loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday and the team's current 4-5 record.

We gave you five options.

#DMD readers cast their vote on Tuesday and said they want seven more weeks of these two guys.

In a surprising outcome (to me, at least), 46% of you said the Ravens should "stay the course" and make no moves with their front office or on-field product.

That was a landslide victory for those who believe everything is just fine in purple-land. Nothing that a little good luck won't change in the final two months, I suppose.

25% of the responders believe "firing Marty Mornhinweg" is the logical move at this point. It wouldn't be the first time Harbaugh and the Ravens have dismissed an offensive coordinator in-season.

17% of you thought inserting "Lamar Jackson as the team's starting quarterback and benching Joe Flacco" was the move to make at this point.

And only 12% of those who voted thought "firing John Harbaugh" was the right thing to do on November 6.

The option of "firing Wink Martindale" didn't receive one single vote. Wink and his family thank you.

So there you have it.

Almost half of you out there think the best course of action for the Ravens is no course of action.

By the way, in case you care, that's the vote I cast, but not because I think everything's hunky-dory in Owings Mills. They have quite a mess on their hands over there.

I still think the team should consider using Lamar Jackson as its starting quarterback, but that's mainly because I think, at 4-5, the team's chances for a playoff spot are dwindling with each passing week. But I get it. While there's still hope, you have to go with Flacco.

Firing Harbaugh right now isn't the answer. It might satisfy his detractors (which, frankly, is probably one reason why Bisciotti doesn't do it -- ever), but bringing in another coach right now, with seven games left, isn't going to suddenly remedy what ails the Ravens.

I think there's a lot of merit to finding a new offensive coordinator, by the way. I could have been bought off (there's some more political humor for you) to pull the "fire Mornhinweg" lever, actually. I don't see much value in having him around, honestly, but I don't know if giving Greg Roman the play-calling duties (that's who would get the gig in the interim) is going to change things for the Baltimore offense.

In short, here's the summary of things: The Ravens are going to sink or swim with what they have.

I think it's pretty clear what Harbaugh is leaning on at this juncture. Health. That's it. Health. He sees his team's fortunes changing if he can get some ailing players back on November 18 when the Bengals come to town. And who knows...he might be right.

Every team gets injuries. We all know that. Pittsburgh just came to town and trucked the Ravens without one of their best offensive players (Bell) and minus a key member of their offensive line (Gilbert).

But the Ravens were hurting last Sunday too, missing Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst. Without those two to protect Joe Flacco, the Steelers defensive line had a field day.

So, maybe Harbaugh is right. Maybe just staying the course and getting players back in the lineup will help over the final two months.

I don't think that's going to work, but I'll concede it might be the best course of action at this point. It might be the only thing the Ravens can lean on over the final seven games of the season.

If nothing else, it's quite clear Harbaugh and his staff are working in desperate times. You can hear it in John's voice, actually. He knows these last seven games will define the next few years of his coaching career. If it goes well, he has a job. If it doesn't go well, he might have a job, but it won't be in Baltimore.

Whatever happens, remember this: It's still better than watching the Orioles go 47-115.

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mid-season nfl review

Everyone's played eight or more games in the NFL, so I figured it would be a good idea to quickly go through the NFL and give my quick synposis of how things are going.

I'll also look back at my pre-season predictions on division winners and such to see how I'm faring thus far.

In the AFC, it's clearly Kansas City and New England. I guess Pittsburgh fans can claim they're in the running too, and maybe they are, but they had their crack at Kansas City in week two and got run out of the gym. At home, no less.

Still, it would appear the Steelers are going to win the AFC North, particularly with A.J. Green bothered by a foot injury that will likely ail him for the remainder of the season. He's going to miss a couple of games at least...and even then, when he returns, probably won't be 100%.

Can Pat Mahomes lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl in his first full season as a NFL starter?

Cincinnati has some work to do to make the post-season but at 5-3 right now, they're on track to do it.

The Chargers (6-2) have a good record and still have three more layup games to come (Raiders away, Broncos at home, Cardinals at home), but things get much tougher after that. They'll play the Steelers, Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens and Broncos to finish out the season. My guess is they snag 10 wins and earn a playoff spot.

Somehow -- probably because 65% of the AFC stinks -- the Dolphins are 5-3. But their remaining schedule includes the likes of the Vikings and Packers away and Patriots at home. If they win eight games, it's a complete fluke.

Someone has to win the AFC South. At this point, it would seem Houston is the team best built to do that if they stay healthy. I can't see them being a thorn in anyone's side come January, but as a division winner they'll host a playoff game, so walking into Houston and winning in January won't be like going to Buffalo and winning in October.

Kansas City and New England are the front runners to meet in the AFC title game, most likely in K.C., although you never know what rabbit Belichick and Brady will pull out of their hat in the final week or two to somehow corral the championship game in Foxborough.

There's no telling what's going to happen in the NFC, but this much is for certain: New Orleans and the Rams are really freakin' good.

No other team seems even close to those two, although you never count out Aaron Rodgers because, well, he's Aaron Rodgers. The NFC East winner will be gone, quickly, so there's no worry there. And while the two wild card teams might be worthy opponents, I suspect none of them can beat New Orleans or the Rams -- on the road, no less.

I still think Minnesota has the tools to be a threat come January. But they have to win their division first, or somehow sneak in as a wild card. Winning the division will give them a home game, which is critical for their post-season hopes.

Back on September 5, I made my predictions for the season.

My division winners were: Philadelphia, Minnesota, Saints and Rams in the NFC. Ravens, Patriots, Jaguars and Chargers in the AFC.

Actually, all of those could still happen. None of those eight teams are so off track they couldn't win their respective divisions.

But I'll concede the Ravens and Jaguars were "misses" on my part.

I had the Vikings beating the Saints in the NFC title game and the Chargers beating the Patriots in the AFC title game.

Those two outcomes could surely still happen, albeit unlikely.

I had the Vikings beating the Chargers in the Super Bowl, 30-24.

Unless the Saints and Rams get decimated with injuries, I don't see the Vikings having enough firepower to get past the Rams and/or Saints in January.

We've come up with several Super Bowl variations below. Which one do you think most likely happens?

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November 6
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issue 6
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the morning after the morning after

This is a lot to put on one game, but occasionally one of those moments come along where you define the moment or the moment defines you.

I think that was a line from the movie Tin Cup, if I'm not mistaken.

Sunday was a defining moment for the Ravens.

It was a defining moment for Joe Flacco. And John Harbaugh. And Marty Mornhinweg. And, yes, even Wink Martindale, even though he's kind of new to these Ravens-Steelers wars as the man directly in charge of the Baltimore defense.

Everyone was in the spotlight.

And, as it turned out, the moment defined the Ravens.

Like I said, it's a lot to put on one game. Pittsburgh's pretty decent, you know, and that guy at quarterback...well, he'll be in the Hall of Fame someday.

But on a day when the Ravens needed to play well, they got blasted.

36 hours later, it makes a little more sense.

Three or four years of bad draft picks, aging players, poor performances and suspect coaching have all caught up to the Ravens. They might still figure out a way to squeak a 9-win season out of this mess, but that's more about the rest of the league being mediocre than it will be John Harbaugh's team rising to the occasion.

This team, as it currently stands, is going nowhere fast.

On the field, it all starts with the quarterback. People can bellyache about his salary and contract all they want, but none of that is Joe Flacco's fault. If your boss wanted to pay you five times more than you deserve or are worth, would you turn it down? Right. Neither would anyone else.

But his salary and cap hit aside, Flacco does have an obligation to play to the best of his abilities. What he makes doesn't matter on Sunday. What he makes matters in the off-season when the team tries to cobble together a roster within the salary cap.

Once a darling of the city, Joe Flacco's play in Baltimore has wiped the smiles off a lot of faces over the last few years.

These days, Flacco's play on Sunday just isn't good enough. It's not about the money. It's about winning and losing. He isn't playing well enough for the team to win consistently.

You can argue all you want about who played better, but the reality is when Flacco has gone up against a good quarterback this season, the Ravens are 1-3, with a win over Ben in Pittsburgh coupled with Sunday's loss to him, plus losses to Dalton, Brees and Newton.

You can also put some of that on the Baltimore defense, for sure. The Ravens feasted on stiffs from Buffalo, Denver and Tennessee, but couldn't get off the field when they faced Dalton, Newton, Brees and Roethlisberger.

And speaking of the defense, where are all the objections and critics for the play of Brandon Williams, he of the inflated 2017 contract that has also somewhat crippled the team's ability to add depth on that side of that ball?

Every week we see and hear people cry about Flacco and his albatross deal but we rarely encounter that same level of angst for Williams.

Part of what's happened with the Ravens is the inevitable intervention of Father Time. And part is about being forced to plug new players into places where others were expected to contribute. Eric Weddle is one of those examples. Had Matt Elam worked out to be a competent NFL player, Weddle likely wouldn't have ever been called to Charm City. That money, for example, could have been spent on a wide receiver a couple of years ago.

We could spend plenty of time dissecting failed draft picks. You're already thinking about two or three of them just as you read this. Breshad Perriman couldn't make it, so the Ravens had to go out and spend money on other halfway-decent guys like Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead.

In some ways, Flacco's recent downturn was probably a reason why the team used a first round pick on Lamar Jackson. True, his age might have also been a concern for the Ravens' brass, but if Flacco was still humming along, a la Matt Ryan (2008 pick) or Matt Stafford (2009), they wouldn't have felt the need to chase after Jackson.

Time will tell if the Ravens were right to pick Jackson -- or give up on Flacco after "only" ten seasons in the league -- but there's definitely an argument that this team, this year, would have been much better with some combination of Derwin James, Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore. Think of it as a chinese restaurant combination plate and pick two of those. Would those two help the Ravens more than Hayden Hurst and Lamar Jackson? I say yes. You might agree. Or you might not.

But this is all not on Flacco. Not by a longshot. And anyone who thinks the team's woes are all stamped on Flacco's back doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

The wide receivers are just guys, basically. They're piano movers, not piano players. The running backs are the same. They're just fast guys who can occasionally shift and shuffle their way to 80 or 90 yard games. But that's all they are.

Mark Andrews looks like he might be the best draft pick the team has made in three or four years, Marlon Humphrey notwithstanding.

But where are the rest of the promising young players? Kenny Young looks like he might be a keeper. Orlando Brown Jr. has some technique issues to iron out but on size and strength alone, he has the chance to be pretty decent.

I'm struggling to identify any other really exciting players under the age of 25.

Lamar Jackson could be one of those. Or he could be a flop. That's sort of the nature of today's college quarterback. There's generally no in between with them. They either turn out to be rock stars or they lose their voice in three years.

But that's the thing that has crushed the Ravens over the last five years. Too many potential rock stars lost their voice. Even C.J. Mosley, who has grown as a player and developed into a fairly reliable contributor, is no longer a "must keep" on the roster. If he goes elsewhere next season, the Ravens won't be crushed by his absence.

In an odd kind of way, that's what's really hurting the Ravens the most these days. They don't have a player (or two) who would completely derail them if he left the team or retired.

The Ravens need more draft picks like Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews.

If Tom Brady gets hurt next week in New England, their season is over.

If Roethlisberger gets hurt, the Steelers are done.

The same goes for Jared Goff in Los Angeles. Or Brees in New Orleans.

There are also other players that would fit that same category. Alvin Kamara might have that sort of impact with the Saints. I'm not sure the Steelers could win long term without Antonio Brown. The Vikings would be a 3-13 doormat without Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen.

Players, players, players. You either have really good ones....or you're the Buffalo Bills.

Coaching also matters. And this is where the Ravens also have hit a rough patch. It's not a "right now" kind of thing, either. These same guys have been in Baltimore for multiple years now. Before he was named the defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale worked under Dean Pees. Marty Mornhinweg worked as the QB coach when Marc Trestman was the offensive coordinator. And the guy who hired them all and retained them is, of course, John Harbaugh.

With so many games in the NFL decided by one score or one possession, game management and use of timeouts is just as critical as having a veteran quarterback who knows what he's doing.

Three times this season -- in three of their FIVE losses, you might realize -- the coaching staff has boggled a seemingly easy aspect of game control.

Back in week two, trailing by 11 points in the game's final two minutes, the Ravens needed three scores (a touchdown and a two point conversion, and a field goal) to tie the game. It did not matter in what order those two scoring plays came, mind you. The Ravens had the ball on the Bengals 37 yard line with 1:08 left in the game. That moment was when Justin Tucker should have been called out to kick the field goal and trim the lead to eight points.

Instead, the Ravens bumbled and stumbled their way into Cincinnati territory, chewed up the clock, and eventually lost by the same 11 points they trailed by when they got the ball with two minutes left in the game.

In Baltimore on October 28, Harbaugh challenged two plays on New Orleans' first drive of the game. One challenge was upheld. The other wasn't. And that was the end of the team's challenges for the final 53 minutes of the game.

This past Sunday, the Ravens had all three of their timeouts when Pittsburgh got the ball back with 5:23 left in the game. The Steelers led 23-16.

With 3:22 remaining, James Connor ran for two yards. It was at that point that it was obvious: Pittsburgh was content to run the ball, kill the clock, and challenge the Ravens to use their time-outs to extend the game.

And here's what's crazy: That's precisely what the Ravens should have done!

Their first time-out should have been taken right then. Instead, the Ravens allowed the Steelers to run another play. This time, it went for four yards. And with that, the clock reached the two minute warning.

Had the Ravens called a time-out after that first run AND second run, there would have been roughly three minutes remaining when the Steelers faced 3rd and 4.

Just by doing relatively simple math and assuming the Steelers weren't either going to run out of bounds, throw an incomplete pass or call their own time-out, the Ravens knew they weren't getting the ball back with anything less than 1:45 remaining in the game -- unless they used time-outs to stop the clock.

Back to the situation that started with 3:22 left in the game.

Obviously giving up first downs after you've used time-outs is a recipe for disaster. The whole reason you're calling time-outs in the first place is to have an adequate amount of time to play offense if, in fact, you can force the other team to give you the ball.

If Pittsburgh doesn't get a first down on that series, the Ravens could have then used their final time-out and left themselves with roughly 2:30 to go in the game once they fielded the punt.

The Ravens would have been out of time outs, yes, but they could have used the two-minute warning and, remember, you can actually stop the clock in a variety of ways when you're on offense. You can only stop the clock on defense by using your time-outs.

It never ceases to amaze me how professional football people can't get the clock management thing right.

It's not just a Ravens thing, by the way. This malady lingers throughout the NFL.

So when you say the Ravens aren't very good because Flacco stinks or Jimmy Smith is washed up or the running backs can't any good, you're only getting part of it right.

The play of the players definitely matters.

They are far more important than the coaches, in fact.

If Tom Brady gets the bird flu and can't play for four weeks, New England's in trouble. If Bill Belichick gets the bird flu and can't coach for four weeks, I think the Patriots will figure out a way to survive until he returns.

I thought this team would finish 11-5. Despite having "just OK" talent at wide receiver and running back, plus a less-than-stellar defensive line, I assumed they'd do enough to win 11 of 16 games. There aren't all that many good teams around the league, you might have noticed, and you're gifted two wins each year by playing the Browns. Well, so much for that one...

I assumed they'd scratch their way to 11 wins, 10 at the very least.

And here's the "but" game that so many teams in the NFL can play every year.

Right now, the Ravens are 4-5.

But they might very well be 5-4 if Crabtree hauls in that pass in Cleveland.

But they could also be 6-3 if Tucker hits the extra point against New Orleans and the Ravens go on to win in overtime.

Even with Flacco's subpar play...and Williams not earning his big money...and Collins and Allen essentially being worked out of the offensive scheme by Mornhinweg. And with Smith out for four games and Humphrey missing two due to injury.

Even then, two plays might have changed the Ravens' fortunes. From 4-5 and chaos to 6-3 and "the playoffs are well within our grasp."

It's a crazy league...

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reasons why you fire harbaugh...and reasons why you don't

It would appear John Harbaugh dodged the termination bullet in the wake of Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Steelers.

He reported to work on Monday, held his usual 4:00 pm press conference, and all was seemingly "normal" at 1 Winning Drive.

It stands to reason that if Steve Bisciotti was going to fire the head coach, he would have done so either late Sunday evening or early sometime on Monday.

So, Harbaugh stays. And has, most of us suspect, seven games left to get the Ravens into the post-season or risk losing his job after 11 successful seasons in Baltimore.

Another former darling of the Baltimore fan base, John Harbaugh's popularity has eroded since the Ravens won Super Bowl 47 in 2013.

The reasons are plenty for both firing and not firing Harbaugh this week.

Let's break them down accordingly.

Probably the biggest reason why firing Harbaugh makes no sense is the most obvious one: Who is going to step in right now and do the job? Marty Mornhinweg? No thanks. Greg Roman? No thanks. Jerry Rosburg? No thanks. There are ex-NFL head coaches out of work, of course, but asking one of those guys to come in mid-season and turn things around is almost an impossible request.

But the biggest reason in favor of firing Harbaugh right now is also quite clear: The team, under his guidance, has under performed for going on four years now. The Ravens are routinely competitive and successful against the lesser teams and generally unable to handle their business against the better teams. At some point, that trend has to turn around. Waiting until the end of the season to try and turn it around for the 2019 campaign just allows for the mediocrity to continue for another couple of months. And if you're one of those in town who put a lot of the blame on Mornhinweg and Martindale, it's important to remember who hired them. John Harbaugh, that's who.

Another reason for not firing Harbaugh is this one: At some point, players have to make plays that win games for you and your team. And in the NFL, one win here or there can turn your entire season around. Or be the difference in making the playoffs...or not. Last season came down, essentially, to one 4th and 12 play. If the Ravens make the play, they're in, if they don't, they're out. If the Ravens miss the playoffs this year by a game, that Michael Crabtree dropped pass in the end zone in the final minute of the Cleveland game could be the difference between playing January football or watching the playoffs at home. Sure, there are lots of losses along the way that add up to a 9-7 or 8-8 record but when one play within a game basically decides the outcome, the coach is on the hook for a lot of stuff that's not necessarily in his control.

The Ravens need a lot of things. One of those "things" is a fresh, new start with a new face and new voice. John's been here for 11 years. He was an exciting hire in 2008. The fan base and football community had grown tired of Brian Billick. Ironically, that same malaise has now centered over Harbaugh's head after a decade in town. This is not an indictment at all on John's character which, frankly, is nearly impeccable. Harbaugh will go on to coach somewhere else after this and I'd be willing to bet he's a successful hire at the next stop. But at this point, not firing him is just delaying the inevitable, it seems.

On the flip side, Harbaugh has done enough here to warrant being terminated "the right way". Dismissing him in mid-season, with a 4-5 record and a legitimate (mathematical, at least) shot at making the playoffs, is not something that proud, reputable organizations do very often. The elite, highly regarded franchises in the NFL are few and far between. Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New England, Seattle and Kansas City are probably the five "best" organizations in the NFL, along with Baltimore. Those organizations just wouldn't up and fire their coach in mid-season and usher in the turmoil and circus-like environment that comes with it.

And last but not least, just a point in general about coaches, new and old. In this modern NFL world, where so much is tied into the team's quarterback, it seems only fair to hand a new coach in Baltimore a new quarterback to start his journey alongside. The Ravens might have taken a quarterback a year too early to perfectly fit that mold, but Jackson will still essentially be a new quarterback in 2019 when its expected he'll be playing a regular role. If Steve Bisciotti is going to bring in a new coach at season's end, he at least has that carrot to dangle out there this off-season. "Hey, look, you can come and coach in one of the league's premier organizations AND I have a shiny new first-round quarterback for you as well."

Most coaches -- or the ones worth their salt, anyway -- would much prefer to have their tenure begin with a new quarterback rather than a tired, aging retread.

The next coach in Baltimore will get a new one, albeit one with a questionable future in the NFL.

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what's the one thing?

OK, put on your general manager's hat for a second.

It's the bye week in Baltimore. The team is 4-5. There's turmoil.

You can make one strategic move right now to hopefully change the course of the season. Just one.

What would YOU do?

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November 5
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issue 5
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quite a mess they have in owings mills

I spent the first half of yesterday's Ravens-Steelers game following the action on my cell phone at a golf course in South Carolina.

I watched the final 30 minutes of it on a television in the bar.

Either way, it was pretty obvious what ails the Ravens these days.

Their quarterback play is sub-par.

Their offensive coordinator has completely lost his way.

The roster, littered with injuries, isn't nearly good enough top to bottom.

And the coaching staff can't even figure out how to use their time outs properly at the end of the game in a one-score contest where they all but know for sure they're getting the ball back one final time.

That all adds up to 4-5.

And it spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e for John Harbaugh and the Ravens.

I wrote here last Tuesday at #DMD that I thought the Ravens should turn the team over to Lamar Jackson for the final seven games of the season if they were to lose to the Steelers yesterday.

They did...and I'm still here, saying they should do just that.

Is there a chance we see Steve Bisciotti at a podium this week explaining a coaching change in Baltimore?

Barring a miracle, the Ravens are missing out on the playoffs again this season. And with two weeks before Cincinnati's visit to Baltimore on November 18, what better time than now to give Jackson the team and see what can be expected of him in 2019?

This is not a Flacco "benching", although there's no doubt everyone and his brother will believe it to be. Jackson isn't going to fare any better than Flacco over the final seven games. In fact, my bet would be he would be worse. But he was picked in the first round last April because the Ravens feel he'll someday be the team's starting quarterback. Might as well find out now what you can get out of him next season.

There's plenty more to discuss, though, and we'll do that a lot over the next few days.

As you'll see below, Brien Jackson does a lot of our heavy-lifting today as far as the Ravens are concerned. I'll have commentary all week as well. These are, indeed, troubling times.

The biggest question circulating these parts is this: "Will John Harbaugh be fired this week?"

My easy answer: "I wouldn't bet on it one way or the other."

It's certainly not in Steve Bisciotti's make-up or history to cut Harbaugh loose midway through the season. It would be an unprecedented move, without a doubt.

Does Harbaugh deserve to be fired?

That's another tough question.

"Deserve" is a pretty strong word. It hints at a certain level of negligence from Harbaugh that got the Ravens to where they are right now. I don't think negligence has much to do with the injuries to Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst. It wasn't Harbaugh's fault, for example, that Marlon Humphrey missed two games with an injury and Jimmy Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season.

The Ravens' roster being what it is, they can't really afford much challenge to their depth chart.

Their current 4-5 record is more about personnel than coaching, I believe. But......and this is the truth......coaching does matter. And I'm not sure the Ravens are getting enough good coaching to offset their deficiencies in both the roster and the game-day active list that has recently been shortened by key players missing time.

Nothing much is going right for the Ravens these days. And Bisciotti could look at this opportunity to wipe the slate clean and spend at least the next seven games in a sort of "live trial and error period" where he can see what he has for 2019 and beyond.

If John Harbaugh gets fired today, I wouldn't be shocked. And I most certainly won't be surprised if the owner issues a brief statement confirming his confidence in John and stressing that no mid-season changes will be made, despite the three straight losses.

As I wrote above, I wouldn't bet it either way.

Will John Harbaugh be back at work today or could his tenure have ended yesterday with the home loss to Pittsburgh?

But one thing is clear right now. Unless there's some sort of wild turnaround and late-season faltering from the Bengals, Chargers and Dolphins, even, the tenure of John Harbaugh is likely coming to an end in Baltimore. A keen observer would point out we saw and thought the same thing last season and it didn't happen, but I think we all know this time around is different.

And with Harbaugh's departure -- whenever that might be -- comes the end of Joe Flacco's run in Baltimore as well.

The biggest issue centering on the possibility of firing Harbaugh right now is the easy one: Who is going to take his place?

You can say, "Just get anyone..." but I'm not sure that's the best way to go about it. If you're going to terminate the coach -- at any time, mid-season, after season, etc. -- you better have a new name to bring in that you think can do better.

Right now, I'm not exactly sure who that would be. There's certainly not anyone within the organization that fits that bill.

Hang tight, though. Today could be a memorable one in Ravens' history. A 4-5 mark at the bye week, particularly after a 3-1 start, is the kind of thing that frays an owner's nerves.

I suspect things will be pretty tense in Owings Mills this week.

A note from Drew: We are still experiencing an issue with the comment section below. Our computer wizards are on it, trying to figure out the issue and a remedy. We hope to have it back up and running today at some point. We apologize for the problem.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

There's a lot of things you can say about the Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. There's a whole bunch of conclusions that you can draw from their third consecutive loss and fourth in five games since they whomped the Steelers in Pittsburgh and stood at an impressive 3-1 on the season.

But here's one word I will absolutely not use to describe the Ravens' play on Sunday, or in any other game: Uninspired.

I also won't call them unmotivated, flat, unprepared, or any other synonym you can think of.

A lot of people will, of course, but these are words that we mostly need to remove from our lexicon when we talk about sports.

All they amount to are mealy mouthed words we use to craft nonsense narratives and psychological/moral dramas out of sporting events. They're words and framing that allow us to make the game all about our team, and their virtues and failings. When we think of things this way, we reduce the opponent to someone who is there, but doesn't actually have any agency over the outcome. Everything comes down to how well, or how poorly, the heroes in the story performed, and that's all that matters in the end.

More mediocrity from Joe Flacco has the Ravens at 4-5 as the team hits their bye week.

Either the Ravens won or the Ravens lost, because the Ravens either triumphed or failed. There's no room for how well the other guy did at all.

And here in Baltimore there's another reason that we need to stop thinking of games in this frame: Because we're using it as a crutch to avoid facing up to the fact that the Ravens just aren't a very good team, and haven't been one since the final whistle blew on Super Bowl 47. We'll call the defense "soft" or "flat" when we ought to be calling them slow and outdated.

We pretend like the Ravens have stars-in-waiting that the rest of the world just haven't gotten a chance to recognize yet, when in fact the Matt Judons and Zadarius Smiths are just nice players, not budding stars, guys like Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle have long since left their best days behind them, and a steady string of second and third round defensive draft picks just aren't making any impact at all.

And as for Joe Flacco well....the Great Pumpkin didn't come this year either, did he?

That is what happened on Sunday in a nutshell.

The Ravens are a mediocre team. It's that simple. They've looked very good against bad teams, and they mostly haven't looked dreadful in losing to good teams either. They knocked off a good Steelers team on the road when they weren't playing very well, but offset that by losing to the Browns. They're 4-5 now and, based on the remaining schedule, they'll likely end up winning 8 games on the year. Maybe 9 if they can knock off the Bengals after the bye.

The word "mediocre" gets a bad wrap, after all it's a lot worse than being bad, and the Ravens certainly aren't a bad team. They're just not a particularly good one either, and they haven't been for several years now. If nothing else, it sure looks like plans are in the works to make an honest effort at changing that in the near future. On to the particulars:

-I've not been one for criticizing the team's coaching too much, especially compared to the way others in this town do it incessantly. For the most part, I've regarded those criticisms as people wearing purple colored glasses kidding themselves about how good the team's roster is and refusing to acknowledge that there's a systemic lack of talent here, especially on defense. I think that's still true to a large degree, again specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

All of that said, it has been and remains completely clear that Marty Mornhinweg is not doing a good job as the team's offensive coordinator, and isn't going to change that anytime soon.

There have been a handful of good games this year, but really only the Steelers game came against a good team, and their defense was playing dreadfully at the time. His gameplans are bizarre, his playcalling lacks any real rhyme, reason, or continuity, and his main bugaboo continues to be figuring out how to use Lamar Jackson....which really ought to be the simplest part of his job! And Marty got sooooo close to getting it on Sunday. With the Steelers totally unable to stop the read option play, Marty managed to not do their work for them and actually kept dialing it up!

I was particularly amazed when, after a big run on 2nd and 10, Mornhinweg had the good sense to leave Jackson in and run it again on 3rd down. Except that, with you, mean, and everyone in black and gold knowing exactly what was coming, Mornhinweg didn't see fit to call a play that so much as leaked a tight end off the line as a safety valve, and Jackson found himself devoured by an over-committing Pittsburgh run defense.

There's really nothing hard about this. Let Mark Andrews so much as fall off the end of the line and either a) the Steelers have to honor him, giving Jackson some more room to find the first down marker or b) Andrews is as open as anyone will ever get, and should have a gimme touchdown if the Steelers go all out on the running quarterback.

But that's not what they did, because Marty just isn't very good at this job. And at one point before that the Ravens went back to an empty backfield look with Jackson and ran a straight quarterback sweep, which is similarly just plain stupid as a playcall.

To be blunt, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why Mornhinweg shouldn't be out of a job on Tuesday, and Greg Roman shouldn't get the advantage of a bye week to take over the reigns of the offense. I certainly don't expect that to happen by any means, but it should, and if it doesn't there really should be an ultimatum put to John Harbaugh that he is 100% "ride or die" with the performance of Mornhinweg and the offense over the last seven games.

-And now let's just give the cult fanboys and the haters what they came for and what they've been waiting for: Joe Flacco isn't any good either. Oh he's not terrible, I guess. He's certainly not embarrassing himself out there.

Flacco is....mediocre. Just like the Ravens as a whole. Which is most definitely not surprising because, in one of the biggest mistakes in sports history, the Ravens decided to give him one of the game's biggest contracts on the back of a fluke play where Rahim Moore made one of the all-time great defensive blunders on a ball that was underthrown.

That's really the long and short of it: If Moore so much as just plays to drag Jones to the ground, the game's over, the Ravens lose, and the front office holds the line on an $80 million contract offer for Flacco.

Instead, for reasons that Moore probably doesn't even know, he tried to undercut Jones to make a play on the ball, mistimed his jump, and Flacco ends up being one of the highest paid players in NFL history and the Ravens are stuck spending half a decade building a roster around the premise that Joe Flacco is one of the 5 or 6 best quarterbacks in the league. He's not, of course. He's mediocre, and the Ravens represent the same kind of mediocrity as the quarterback they pegged their franchise to.

Sunday was a really good illustration of this dynamic. Again, Flacco didn't humiliate himself out there. He certainly wasn't the only reason the team lost, which I know to some of you absolves him of any blame for the loss because you just can't wait to make excuses for the Messiah of Meh. But Flacco certainly was a reason they lost, and wasn't good by any stretch of the imagination.

He underthrew or threw behind no fewer than 9 passes on the afternoon, and as many as 13 if you don't want to give him the benefit of the doubt. He missed a wide open Lamar Jackson for an early touchdown at the goal line, and then after the game he laughably tried to shrug it off as being because Jackson was his "5th read."

Newsflash: Professional quarterbacks who are actually good adjust their read progressions when they notice that the defense has entirely vacated one area of the field! But then, we've known for a long time that Flacco isn't very good at reading defenses, so no sense in expecting that to change now.

Oh yeah, before that play he also very nearly threw a pick trying to get the ball to Mark Andrews in the endzone...despite the fact that Michael Crabtree was wide open just underneath of him. Sensing a pattern yet?

Anyway, I don't want this to get overstated. Like I said earlier, being mediocre is a heckuva lot better than being bad, and teams can and do win a lot of games with mediocre quarterbacks. The Ravens did just that in Flacco's first five years!

The problem isn't that Flacco is mediocre per se, it's that he's a mediocre quarterback being paid like a premier talent, and that by definition hitches the entire team to his performance. You just can't devote enough money to building a premier team around him like they could in 2010 or 2011.

By virtue of his cap number, the Ravens go as Joe Flacco goes. That means they're mediocre, and that's not going to change until the financial situation at quarterback does. Sorry, that's just the truth, and no amount of time spent on the internet angrily telling the rest of the world that Flacco is secretly awesome is going to change that. The Great Pumpkin is a fake.

-Likewise, the Ravens defense was more of the same. The Steelers abused them in the middle of the field because a) Their linebackers are bad in coverage, particularly supposed cornerstone C.J. Mosley, b) their safeties are alright, but nowhere near impact playmakers who can hang with the likes of Antonio Brown and Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, c) they don't have any real talent in the pass rush who can win battles and get quick pressure in base sets.

Same story, different week.

This is the predictable result of a lot of choices made by the front office in prioritizing roles and picking certain players (looking at you Brandon Williams) and just like with Flacco and the offense it's going to remain that way until that philosophy changes. I know I say the same thing pretty much all the time, but that's basically where we are now.

-For play of the year, I nominate Michael Crabtree dropping a slightly underthrown pass from Flacco in the endzone. Find me another one that better represents this team.

-As for where the Ravens go from here well....I honestly don't know. To be clear, their season is almost certainly over. Even if we assume they sweep the rest of their home games, that will put them at merely 8 wins and they'll need to beat two of Kansas City, Atlanta, and the Chargers on the road to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

And depending on how well the Chargers (6-2), Dolphins (5-4), and Bengals (5-3) finish out, 10 wins might not even do the job.

I do think yesterday's game sealed John Harbaugh's fate, although I'll believe reports that he's going to be fired midseason when I see it. And if he is, then what? Typically interim head coaching jobs go to assistants with previous head coaching experience, and the only such guy on this staff is Mornhinweg. Whoopie!

Is it time for the Ravens to give Lamar Jackson a shot?

The defense needs a philosophical change, and given the team's cap situation it will probably take at least 2 or 3 seasons to really transition from a focus on big defensive tackles and run stuffing linebackers playmaking safeties and guys in the front seven who can get after the passer by simply beating blockers. If Eric DeCosta even realizes that such a change is necessary!

And then there's the quarterback situation. Much as with Mornhinweg, there's really no reason to stick with Flacco at this point. You've hitched your wagon to for five and a half years now, and what you are is a .500 team over that span. There's been one playoff appearance in the five previous seasons, and that probably isn't going to change this year.

Right now you're a 4-5 team. You know what you're getting with Joe Flacco at quarterback: Mediocrity.

Is Lamar Jackson likely to be better? I don't know, but can he be that much worse in the grand scheme of things? Oh, he's an inaccurate passer? Have you actually watched Joe Flacco play? He's good for half a dozen badly missed throws a game, and will even go for long stretches of that like he did in that penultimate drive against the Saints.

And for all of the talk about what a good deep ball thrower Joe is, all that really means is that he can throw it a long way. He can't actually put the ball where he wants it to end up when it gets down there with anything approaching consistency. And more often than not he's just chucking the ball out there and praying his guy catches it anyway.

If nothing else, I watched Jackson throw a touchdown at the end of the Carolina game that was a better throw than anything Flacco has managed in the past two games!

But just like with Mornhinweg, I don't see it happening right now. Maybe it will happen once the Ravens are officially out of it, but maybe not. I see a lot of people taking it as a given that Jackson will be the guy next year, but I'm not so sure of that.

There's a lot of rumbling that Jackson was taken as much because this coming year's quarterback class is dreadful as anything else, and that 2020 is the real target year for him taking over. There's logic to that too: The team can get some cap savings from cutting Flacco after this year, but they'll still take a big dead money hit, and they'll come out a lot better if they wait until after 2019 to do it.

Honestly, there's a good argument to be made that gritting out one more year of Flacco is the best thing to do if you're going to "rebuild" the roster.

But I go back to that one undeniable fact: All you're getting with Flacco is mediocrity. Maybe you get better from Jackson....or maybe you don't. And if you don't, at least you'll know that sooner rather than later. There's really no reason not to try it out at this point because the alternative is, not to sound like a broken record, mediocrity.

But hey, the Ravens have been content with being mediocre for half a decade now, and there's clearly a sizeable chunk of the fanbase that is perfectly content to continue on being mediocre so long as Flacco gets to keep being the quarterback.

At this point I almost think they like the weekly routine of crafting new excuses and howlers about how Flacco is actually awesome and just being let down by everyone else more than they like actually seeing the Ravens win games. That's clearly true of the contingent who complains every time Jackson comes in to hand the ball off for a 4+ yard gain or a first down run to be sure. And at the very least, it gives me something to feed the trolls every week in the fall.

So whatever, roll on how you will. It doesn't make much of a difference in the short term anyway. And reading the anguished lamentations of the Flacco cult has become genuinely more entertaining than actual football games at this point, so honestly I'm good either way.

Besides, I called all of this back in August when I said the Ravens would finish the season 8-8 with a loss to the Browns didn't I?

Not that that took any special kind of genius: You'll never go broke betting on Joe Flacco, and the team paying him premium money, being mediocre.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

turn the clocks back edition


Zion Williamson

When I was a kid, the college basketball season usually started around Thanksgiving. These days, the college basketball season now begins less than 72 hours after we turn the clocks back.

In 2018 that means the debut of Duke’s Zion Williamson, who along with his teammates will face Kentucky on Tuesday night at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

Duke's newest 5-star recruit figures to be heard from a lot in the 2018-2019 campaign.

Here are some words that have used to describe Williamson, listed at 6-foot-7 and 285 lbs. Unfair. Ridiculous. Insane.

Back in August, Duke went on a Canada tour. One of the Blue Devils’ opponents was Ryerson University, whose coach told his team to take a charge anytime Williamson drove into the lane. Then the coach actually saw Williamson warming up on the court pregame.

“If you’re trying to step in and take a charge on Zion Williamson, it could be detrimental to your health,” he said.

Williamson is left-handed. He looks a bit overweight, but that doesn’t seem to affect his athleticism at all. According to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, he’s by far the best leaper he’s ever coached, even among NBA players on the Olympic team.

He’s not a great shooter, though he won’t have to be at Duke. Two of his classmates at Duke. R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish, may actually have skills that translate better to long NBA careers. Starting Tuesday, he won’t be playing against Canadian college teams, of course.

I think it would be great if he turned out be some kind of dud, but it’s not likely.


Undefeated seasons

The Los Angeles Rams, try as they might after falling behind by 21 points in the first half, couldn’t quite ace their toughest test of the year in New Orleans. In falling to 8-1, the Rams are the latest team that couldn’t turn back the clock to the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

In any event, Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka and the rest are popping those champagne corks for yet another year, their 46th consecutive such celebration. Oh by the way, former Dolphins and Colts coach Don Shula will turn 89 years old on January 4.

Time flies; it’s now been 11 years since the 2007 Patriots became the only 16-0 (and 17-0, and 18-0, and 18-1) team in league history. Frankly, the Ravens should have stopped that streak at 11, but the refs weren’t cooperating.

In 2006, Peyton Manning and the Colts began the year with nine wins before losing at Dallas. Those Colts are the last team to win the Super Bowl that also won the most consecutive games at the beginning of that same season.

Since then, only four of those teams have made it to the Super Bowl: the 2007 Patriots, the 2009 Colts, the 2010 Steelers and the 2015 Panthers. Both the Colts and Panthers won their first 14 games in those seasons.

Of course, there isn’t always some kind of great start in every NFL season. In the last two years prior to this one, no team won more than its first five games.



When the Raiders organization rehired Jon Gruden as head coach, owner Mark Davis was hoping Gruden might be able to turn back the clock to the early 2000s, when his Raiders made consecutive playoff appearances.

At 1-7 after a blowout loss against the 49ers on Thursday, a game in which San Francisco started quarterback Nick Mullens, who had been on the practice squad, things aren’t going so well in Oakland.

Lost in Gruden’s football broadcasting career, and his “Chucky” face, and his commercials, and his quarterback camp, is that Gruden had a lot of middling seasons as a head coach before he was fired by the Buccaneers after the 2008 season.

There were three losing seasons in Tampa for Gruden. He won a Super Bowl in his first year there, but his overall record with the Bucs was 57-55.

He was hardly a candidate to be some sort of savior for the Raiders franchise, which will be playing in Las Vegas possibly early as next season. But he didn’t help matters when he decided to trade Khalil Mack, his team’s best player, before the season began.

With the trade of Amari Cooper to Dallas, and the Mack trade, the Raiders now have three first-round picks in 2019 and two in 2020. Gruden also insists that free agents are excited to come play for the Raiders, despite lots of information to the contrary.

Right now, Gruden and the Raiders have a commitment to tanking the season. Whether excellence returns soon is another story.



Everything old is new again. In the NBA, so far this season, they’re turning the clock back to the days of Alex English and the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets.

Those were the days before the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons slogged their way through 87-84 thrillers every night. That Nuggets team 37 years ago averaged more than 126 points per game, the most in NBA history.

As for this year, through 10 games, the incredible Golden State Warriors are averaging more than 124 points per game. That includes two games in which they’ve scored more than 140 points, against the Wizards and the Bulls. In the Chicago game, the Warriors led 92-50 at halftime.

Klay Thompson made an NBA-record 14 three-pointers against the Bulls. In the Washington game, Steph Curry had 11 three-pointers.

That, of course, is the difference between scoring a lot of points in 1982 and doing the same in 2018. The 1981-82 Nuggets made a grand total of 40 three-pointers. For the season! English scored more than 2,000 points that year without making one three-pointer.

Here’s something that’s the same, though. That Denver team shot 52 percent from the field, taking a total of 149 three-point shots in 82 games. The 2018-19 Warriors have already taken 321 three-point shots in 10 games, but are also shooting 52 percent from the field.

Could Steph Curry have even made an NBA roster in the early 1980s? Probably so, considering his ballhandling abilities are almost as good as his shooting prowess.


It’s dark and cold

A personal aside: I hate when we turn back the clocks. It has a lot to do with golf, actually.

It won't be long before we have this scene in Maryland.

I prefer to play golf in the morning, and one thing that turning the clocks back represents is that it’s really too cold in the morning to enjoy playing golf. Starting today, November 5, the average low temperature in the morning dips into the 30s, and it won’t climb above 40 until April 5.

Yes, there are some years in Baltimore in which you can comfortably play golf at least some of the time in every month. But not in the morning.

The other disappointment comes from the lack of light on weekday afternoons. Since I have a job, I tend to practice after work. It’s difficult to practice at 5:00 when it’s dark at 5:00, even during those warm spells we’re bound to have.

In the winter, I prefer when it snows and the courses are closed. At least then nobody can play golf, so I’m not missing out on anything.

I’m sure some commenters will suggest that I move to South Florida, where these issues may be of concern one day per year. I’m not there yet, and I actually like four seasons. Life isn’t just about being able to play golf 365 days a year.

I see that yesterday morning in Miami, the temperature dropped to a chilly 76 degrees with 93 percent humidity. Come to think of it, who wants to play golf in that kind of swamp?

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another winning week...

It took the Patriots covering in the Sunday night game, but I was able to piece together another winning week in "Show Me The Money." That's eight winning weeks and a tied week thus far in the 2018 NFL season. Let's just say I'm having a tad more success than Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

I went 3-2 yesterday, with these winners: Kansas City (-8), Minnesota (-5) and New England (-5.5). My two losers were Washington (-2) and Tampa Bay (+6.5).

That puts me at 28-15-2 on the season. Just think...if you would have wagered $2,000 on each of my 45 games to date, you'd be up roughly $26,000 on the season.

But we do this just for fun, of course. We're just poking the bear out there in Vegas, that's all.

Week 9

Sunday — November 4, 2018
Volume LII — Issue 4

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

1:05 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, MD

Spread: Ravens -3

season changer today in baltimore

One way or the other today, the Ravens season takes a turn.

A win and they're right back in the thick of the AFC North race, with an even 2-2 mark in the division and a 5-4 record overall.

But a loss..........yikes.

With a defeat today, the Ravens will be in that familiar "backs against the wall" territory they've experienced countless times over the last few years. They won't be eliminated from the playoffs by any means, but a loss today would almost require a miracle to win the AFC North.

Pittsburgh comes to town without Le'Veon Bell, but a three-game winning streak accompanies them to Charm City. They haven't lost since the Ravens put a hurtin' on them back on September 30, 26-14.

Can the Ravens go 2-0 against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in 2018?

The Ravens are on a downturn, having dropped three of their last four, including a stinker in Charlotte last weekend and a home loss to the Saints two weeks ago.

The tide feels like it's swinging in the direction of the Steelers, particularly given the Baltimore injury report, but by now we all know nothing's guaranteed when it comes to a meeting between these two teams.

This one today will likely come down to three basic components of the game:

1. Will either defense be able to pressure the opposing quarterback enough to create turnovers?

It stands to reason the Steelers might have a slight edge in this department with both Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst out for the Ravens, but if there's any game where the Baltimore defense gets the bit between their teeth and puts together a surprise performance, it's this one. The goal for both defenses will be to rattle the cage of the opposing QB and force him into making mistakes. The turnover battle today is critical.

2. Big plays on offense

Both offenses feature the ability to go downfield and pick up yards in a hurry. Any play over 25 yards is particulary damaging. How many of those can each offense generate? The running game of each team can help, too. This one seems to be slightly favoring the Steelers, but the recent addition of Ty Montgomery could benefit the Ravens today.

3. Red zone efficiency

This is likely where the game gets decided today. How many trips will each offense have in the red zone and what's the cumulative point total of those visits? It's really that simple. Red zone efficiency on offense and defense will be the critical piece for both teams.

A note from Drew: We are experiencing an issue with the comment section below. Our computer wizards are on it, trying to figure out the issue and a remedy. We hope to have it back up and running by Monday at the latest. We apologize for the problem.

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how drew sees today's game

As I hinted on Friday, I like the way this one feels for the Ravens. I'm a believer in market correction. The Steelers are due for a down performance and the Ravens are due for a solid one.

That said, I think this one is tight the whole way.

The Ravens jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a Flacco to Mark Andrews TD throw, but Roethlisberger comes right back with a long throw to Antonio Brown to tie the game at 7-7.

Flacco hits the Ravens' Brown -- John -- for a TD pass late in the second quarter to put Baltimore up at the half, 14-7.

The Ravens extend the lead to 17-7 in the third quarter on a Tucker field goal, but the Steelers rebound on next drive to make it 17-14 on a short Roethlisberger run.

Early in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh unsettles the home crowd with another TD strike to Antonio Brown and it's 21-17 in favor of the Steelers.

After two punts, the Ravens take over on their own 23 yard line with 3:04 left in the game.

Flacco guides the team carefully down the field, converting on several third down situations, and Baltimore gets the big score with 45 seconds left in the game on a short TD plunge by newcomer Ty Montgomery.

Pittsburgh gets the ball down to the Ravens 47 yard line before the final whistle blows, as the Ravens hang on for a 24-21 win.

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show me the money

Eight straight weeks without a losing record. Market correction has to take over at some point, right?

Let's hope not.

After last weekend's 3-2 record, I'm now 25-13-2 on the season (against the spread).

No time to waste. Let's pick five games and keep on building on that runaway winning season I'm producing.

CHIEFS AT BROWNS (+8.0) -- Turmoil in Cleveland, new coach, AFC's top team coming to town. Smells like a blowout, right? You bet. Kansas City will pour it on in this one and the Browns will be humiliated at home. We'll take Kansas City and lay the eight points, as the Chiefs race out to a 24-6 halftime lead and cruise from there, 37-20.

Can Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs beat up on the lowly Browns today in Cleveland?

FALCONS AT REDSKINS (-2.0) -- Is Washington legit? They're 5-2, which "seems" like they're real, but it also feels like they're due to lay an egg sometime soon. Atlanta's injury riddled team hangs tough in this one, but the Redskins connect on a late field goal to win and cover, 26-23.

BUCCANEERS AT PANTHERS (-6.5) -- With Ryan Fitzpatrick apparently back at the helm for the Bucs, you can expect lots of scoring and a tight game. Carolina just produced a solid offensive performance last Sunday against the Ravens and we suspect they'll do the same today against a vulnerable Tampa Bay defense. But we think Fitzpatrick and Tampa Bay keep it close in the 4th quarter, so we'll take the Bucs and the 6.5 points as Carolina wins a shootout 35-30.

LIONS AT VIKINGS (-5.0) -- Minnesota seems to be "up" one week and "down" the next, but the Lions are likely the perfect tonic for Minnesota's inconsistency. We'll take the Vikings here in a bit of a romp, as they win and cover, 31-20.

PACKERS AT PATRIOTS (-5.5) -- This one could go down to "who has the ball last", but Green Bay's defense won't be able to contain Tom Brady and Company. New England's defense isn't all that great, but they do play "up" at home, it seems. We like the Patriots win and cover here, as New England pulls away late to win 34-26.

BEST BET OF THE DAY: We'll go with Washington at home giving Atlanta two points as our "Best Bet" pick.




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November 3
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mid-season ravens report card

OK, it's time for some grades to get handed out.

With a 4-4 record at the halfway point, you probably expect to see a lot of B's and C's, right? Not so much.

After starting 3-1, the Ravens have dropped three of their last four. That has skewed the grading scale, unfortunately.

We're just going to grade the "key" players today.

Let's start with Joe Flacco. He hasn't been terrible any means. But he hasn't been great, either. Of particular concern are two epic stinkers. One in Cleveland and the other in Charlotte. Flacco gets a "C+".

Alex Collins and Buck Allen have been under utilized thus far, but that's not really their fault. Still, both have been hot and cold when they do get the ball in their hands. Collins gets a "C-" based on his fumbling issues. Allen checks in with a "C".

John Brown has been the team's best wide receiver through eight games. Through four games, he would have been an "A" for sure. But over the last four games, he's cooled off just a bit. Still, Brown gets an "A".

Rookie tight end Mark Andrews receives a high grade for his play through the first half of the season.

Willie Snead was a good off-season signing, like Brown. While he doesn't have the stats of Brown thus far, he's become a reliable target for Joe Flacco. Snead receives a "B-" for his first-half work.

Michael Crabtree is one of the reasons why the Ravens are 4-4 instead of 5-3. If he makes that catch in the end zone in Cleveland in the final minute back on October 7, John Harbaugh's team is in much better position today. Drops and a lack of consistency have crushed Crabtree thus far. Crabtree gets a "D".

Mark Andrews has arguably been the team's best offensive performer through eight games this season. He, not Hayden Hurst, looks like the first round pick. Andrews has great hands, is one of few pass catchers who actually gets any separation, and runs hard after the catch as well. Andrews receives an "A" for his superior play in the first eight games.

C.J. Mosley is in the final year of his rookie contract, so this season stands to be a critical one for the former first-round pick. Sadly, he isn't playing like a man who will command a huge deal in the off-season. Mosley is still suspect on short yardage pass defense and doesn't seem to be involved in as many turnovers as in previous years. Mosley's first-half grade is a "C-".

Brandon Williams gets the big bucks from the Ravens, but his play over the last couple of years hasn't supported that significant deal the Ravens gave him. While the Baltimore defense has been better-than-good for most of the eight games, Williams himself hasn't really made much of an impact. Williams gets a "C-" for the first half.

Terrell Suggs has been relatively quiet most of the season. Like most of his defensive partners, Suggs enjoyed a nice day in Nashville back on October 14, but other than that it's been more cold than hot. "Sizzle" gets a "C-" for his play thus far.

Marlon Humphrey has been sorely missed the last two weeks, but was a standout in the first six games of the campaign when the Ravens went 4-2. He's been the team's best defensive player thus far. Humphrey earns a "B+" for his excellent work in the first half of the season.

Eric Weddle is a "professional" contributor, but can't be counted on for anything more than middle-of-the-road play from week to week. He gets a "C".

Tony Jefferson had a poor outing in Charlotte to end the first half and wasn't very good throughout most of the other seven games, either. He's constantly a step or two off his man in pass coverage situations. Jefferson's first half grade is a "D".

John Harbaugh is clearly on the hot seat at the halfway stage of the 2018 campaign. If the Ravens don't make the playoffs, Harbaugh figures to be looking for a new job. He bungled the final 68 seconds of the loss at Cincinnati and made a pair of puzzling challenges early in the first quarter of the loss to New Orleans on October 21. The team continues to play hard for Harbs, but the team's 4-4 record says it all. Harbaugh receives a "C" for the first half of the season.

A note from Drew: We are experiencing an issue with the comment section below. Our computer wizards are on it, trying to figure out the issue and a remedy. We hope to have it back up and running by Monday at the latest. We apologize for the problem.

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lots of candidates remain for o's managerial gig

The Texas Rangers hired their new manager on Friday and it wasn't someone on the O's short list, I'm sure. Former Dodgers 3rd base coach Chris Woodward will join the Rangers as their new skipper.

Chris who? Is that what you're asking? I was as well.

A couple of weeks ago the Reds hired David Bell to his first big-league managing gig. No one really knew him, either.

Ten days ago, after parting ways with a guy we all are familiar with -- Paul Molitor -- the Minnesota Twins hired Rocco Baldelli as their manager for 2019. Baldelli was a once-Tampa-Bay-phenom who quietly exited the game back in 2010 after a disappointing career.

Seeing a trend here?

Former O's shortstop Mike Bordick figures to still be a leading candidate for the team's managerial spot.

No one knows who these guys are...

Expect the Orioles to follow suit, somehow.

That might fit perfectly with their rumored desire to hire MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick. I mean, we know Bordick, but someone, say, in Lincoln, Nebraska will have no clue about him.

It also might mean Kevin Boles is a logical candidate. Boles was a successful manager in the Red Sox farm system before surprising quitting this past September.

Orioles fans will definitely say, "Kevin who?" if Boles gets the gig.

A report circulating on Friday might bode well for Boles in Baltimore. Several national baseball writers are reporting the O's have been in contact with Blue Jays VP Ben Cherington about the team's vacant general manager position. Cherington knows Boles well from their days together in the Red Sox organization.

Joe Girardi is still available. #DMD reported a few weeks back that Girardi was in Baltimore and played golf with Brady Anderson at a local private club. That doesn't mean he was being interviewed for the job, specifically, but why else would Girardi come to town in mid-October?

The only thing about Girardi is that he doesn't fit the "never heard of him" narrative that we're seeing around baseball this off-season.

One other name you're also familiar with surfaced late this week. An associate with the O's told #DMD the team has an interest in finding a spot for Carlos Beltran in the organization, including, perhaps, the managerial opening at Norfolk which was created last week when Ron Johnson departed.

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November 2
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this one feels like a ravens win

I might not be the best source for this week's Ravens game, but I do have a good feeling, nonetheless.

Like most smart people, I expected the Ravens to beat the Browns. They lost.

I figured they'd play hard but fall short at Tennessee the following week. Instead, they shut out Titans in a cakewalk-of-an-effort in Nashville.

I thought they'd beat the Saints in Baltimore and they didn't.

Seeing a trend?

And last week, I felt pretty good about a turn-around in Charlotte. I liked the way John Harbaugh's team matched up with the Panthers. And...the Ravens got run out of the gym.

Will Mike Tomlin and the Steelers put a serious dagger in the Ravens' playoff hopes this Sunday in Baltimore?

So, while my "Show Me The Money" record is borderline spectacular -- for an amateur who supposedly has no idea what he's doing -- at 25-13-2, I'm on a cold streak when it comes to picking the outcome of the Ravens game.

You might want to skip the next part, in that case.

I like -- make that, really like the Ravens chances this Sunday at home against Pittsburgh.

I realize the Steelers have a weird habit of playing poorly on the road except against AFC North teams. I don't know that I have an explanation for it, but Pittsburgh can stink it up on the road five times a year but somehow craft together three decent road performances against the Browns, Bengals and Ravens.

They beat up on the Ravens last year in Baltimore, remember. And they've won seven straight trips to Cincinnati, including a playoff game. And, other than this year's fluky tie in Cleveland, like everyone else, they've dominated the Browns in their stadium.

Roethlisberger has evolved into a hot-and-cold quarterback when it comes to his play. Still really good at home and occasionally good -- and bad -- on the road. Kind of like another quarterback we know, right?

But his play against AFC North teams on the road is still worthy of respect.

That said, I believe more in the general theme of "market correction" and the Ravens, I believe, have that going for them on Sunday. For starters, they're about to go on their bye week after facing Mike Tomlin's team. This is a curvy road the Ravens are on right now. A win that gets them to 5-4 allows Harbaugh and his staff the chance to breathe a little easier and probably makes it much easier for the head coach to give the team a week off before returning to the facility the week of November 12.

But a loss on Sunday that drops the Ravens to 4-5 would be punishing in several ways. They'd be three games behind Pittsburgh in the loss column, with seven games left to play. A loss would drop the Ravens to 1-3 in the division with two AFC North games remaining. And how does the head coach give the team a week off after they've just lost three straight games and face a tough division foe in two weeks?

The Ravens really need this game on Sunday.

The Steelers just "need it", minus the "really".

And if you believe in market correction like I do, you have to suspect that the Ravens aren't going to lay three eggs in a row.

I'll save my final prediction and score for Sunday's edition of #DMD, but I'm feeling good about Sunday's encounter with Big Ben and Company.

I don't see Roethlisberger coming to Baltimore and beating the Ravens this Sunday.

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why should the orioles be in a rush?

I'm seeing some growing discontent on social media and the internet with regard to the pace of the Orioles' off-season search for several high ranking administrative positions.

What's the rush?

Here's the truth. This sounds harsh, but it's not meant that way. If they hire someone today or tomorrow, that's not going to enhance their chances of winning in 2019. Or 2020. Or 2021, even.

Former Red Sox minor league manager Kevin Boles could be a candidate for the vacant O's managerial position.

The Orioles should be completely focused on hiring the right people, plain and simple.

They needn't be in a rush to do it, no matter what outside pressures they face.

It doesn't matter who they hire to manage the team. I think the manager position is important in baseball. But managing the Orioles next season? Not all that important.

I think the GM position is important, for sure. But getting the right GM, if that takes another two weeks, is far more important than just hiring someone to hire someone tomorrow.

Here's what I'd like to see, personally. Ben Cherington as the GM and Kevin Boles as the manager. Cherington, currently in Toronto, might bring some of that winning touch with him from his days Boston and Boles was very successful in his stint as the skipper with the Red Sox farm team in Pawtucket.

What's that old phrase? If you can't beat 'em...join 'em.

I'm not really suggesting the Orioles just hire Cherington and Boles because of their Boston ties. But both of them make logical choices for the Orioles given their interest in analytics and baseball's "new way". And the Red Sox connection can't hurt, right?

I'd be fine if the O's hire Mike Bordick. I'd be OK if they hire Joe Girardi, too, although I can't imagine he'd want to come to Baltimore and lose 200 games over the next two years.

Honestly, I doubt I'll be that worked up about any of the hirings. Just don't rush the process, that's all.

And, yes, it's OK to be worried about the Orioles organization getting this one right. The two people in charge, John and Lou Angelos, aren't experienced veterans at this hiring thing. But this one, this time around, is almost impossible to foul up unless you're trying to do so on purpose.

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has your opinion changed?

This seems like a dumb-question-of-the-day candidate, but since we so rarely have a chance to chatter about Maryland football, let's go ahead and ask it.

Given what happened this week down at College Park, has your opinion of Maryland and/or Maryland football changed?

Even yesterday, news broke about an altercation after Tuesday's practice. The story has several layers and has now become a he-said-he-said kind of deal, but Maryland's punter was seriously injured in a post-practice fight that might have been retaliation for his role in the investigation into the "toxic culture" at College Park.

Has this whole mess changed your opinion of Maryland athletics?

I think you know my answer. I was never much of a Maryland football fan to start with, so my affection for the program hasn't been impacted by this week's fiasco down there.

But you might be an ardent Maryland fan. Your world might have been turned upside down by the death of Jordan McNair and the mess that followed in August and October.

If so, I'm wondering what it all means when it comes to your support of Maryland sports and the football team?

Use the comments section below, please, and describe your feelings towards Maryland athletics based on what we've seen over the last three months.

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November 1
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now we can all go back to forgetting about maryland football

Well, that didn't take long.

Maryland football was a topic of conversation in these parts for oh, I don't know, about 30 hours.

With last night's news that DJ Durkin had been fired by President Wallace Loh, the spotlight can now shine elsewhere down in College Park.

And we can go back to doing what we were doing before all of this stuff transpired -- ignoring Maryland football.

Look, Maryland was right to dismiss Durkin yesterday. There's little doubt about that. That they didn't do it on Tuesday was particularly distressing, if for no other reason than it really made the school look completely out of touch with reality.

But better late than never, even if it was all done with the touch of a blacksmith.

So Durkin gets canned, President Loh puts himself in the unemployment crosshairs, and the Maryland Board of Regents look like a bunch of bumbling fools.

The whole thing was such a fustercluck that the Governor of the state of Maryland had to stick his nose in and get involved. As if Larry Hogan doesn't have better things to do than worry about who is coaching the football team at the state school, right?

One day after Maryland's Board of Regents reinstated DJ Durkin, Wallace Loh fired the coach without cause, handing him $5.1 million to go away.

It took Hogan getting nasty and a student group threatening a massive protest to wake everyone up down there on Route 1. To be fair to Wallace Loh, he was the one smart guy out of the group who wasn't on board with reinstating Durkin in the first place. He knew what the rest of us knew. Durkin couldn't coach this team again and he couldn't recruit future teams, either.

When a guy can't coach OR recruit, what value does he have?

Sadly, Durkin brought nearly all of this on himself. From his first hire -- Rick Court -- to his gentle approval of the bullying and targeting tactics of Court and others on his staff, Durkin was eagerly trying to run the wild, wild west in College Park, hoping the armadillo skin he was creating for his players would translate into wins.

Instead, a deceased football player and a horribly orchestrated "investigation" led Maryland down the path of embarrassment this week. And not just embarrassment as in "boy we look foolish", but embarrassment as in, "those people have no idea how to run a school".

The Durkin firing on Wednesday at least gives Maryland the opportunity for a fresh start.

They need much, much more than that, of course. But the slate is essentially wiped clean now. The people who wanted blood, got it, and the folks who wanted to see someone held accountable are now satisfied as well.

Loh himself might get fired over yesterday's decision, but I can't imagine he cares all that much about his fate at this point. Who really wants to work for those goofs down there anyway?

It turned out to be an epic soap opera, one that eventually would center on the importance of one word: toxic. A million-dollar investigation (two of them, actually) was launched to ascertain what exactly happened with DJ Durkin's football program and when the dust settled, their decision was to admit there was a dysfunctional element to Maryland football, but it wasn't a "toxic" culture.

As if that's supposed to change anything, right? Dysfunctional meets toxic at a frat party and they hug and say, "What's up, brother?" When we spend days and money arguing over the differences between dysfunctional and toxic, we're just doing that to kill time.

Maryland football doesn't have many ardent, dyed-in-the-wool fans, but years from now -- at least five, maybe more -- this Durkin saga will be a distant memory for those folks. If Maryland can someday beat the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, all will be forgiven.

But for those of us who don't really pay attention to the football program at College Park, this whole fiasco gives us just one more reason to ignore what goes on down there from September through December.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

about football coaches...

With the NFL season halfway gone and the college season heading into its final regular-season month, we’ve sort of forgotten about the 2018 MIAA “A” Conference football champion St. Frances Panthers (so honored because none of their conference brethren would play them) and their coach/benefactor Biff Poggi.

It’s not easy to follow Poggi and the Panthers. The school’s website still lists the team’s 2017 schedule and Poggi assistant/consigliere Henry Russell as head coach. Budget concerns, I suppose.

Anyway, the Panthers are 6-0. They have outscored a collection of schools from outside Maryland, including two Canadian teams, by a count of 300-18.

I say “teams” because the Canadian opponents, something called Clarkson Football North and something called Canada Prep Academy, aren’t really schools at all. They are essentially fronts, designed entirely to collect football players and travel to the United States to play games.

According to the SFA schedule, the Panthers will play another school-in-disguise, Ohio’s COF Academy, in two weeks. Back in September, the Ohio high school athletic federation declared that COF “is no longer considered a school.”

Oh yes, this weekend’s game for SFA is against Silver Oak Academy from Keymar, in northern Carroll County. Silver Oak is sorta/kinda a school but is mostly a residential program for at-risk boys.

I’m not going to debate Poggi’s largesse, nor do I think what he’s doing at St. Frances is “wrong.” He’s using the SFA setting as a laboratory, he says, with football as a large part of the experiment.

Just read everything he’s said about it.

I just wonder though…is he really enjoying this?

Once at Gilman, now at St. Frances, Biff Poggi's team continues to throttle opponents all over the country.

A few years ago, Poggi was coaching in great games against Calvert Hall. To prove that his Gilman team was the real deal, he scheduled outstanding matchups with Good Counsel and DeMatha. At the end of every season came the rivalry game against McDonogh which, I can tell you as someone who saw it on both campuses, is one of the coolest atmospheres surrounding a game you’ll ever experience.

And now this. Nothing but a football factory, forced to compete against other football factories that don’t have the resources he does. As a football coach, what is he getting out of the experience? What are his players getting out of the experience?

He could still be coaching against Calvert Hall and McDonogh, you say, if only those schools would rethink their decisions? Certainly, but it wouldn’t be even close to the same. The football factory that Biff Poggi created at Gilman is not the football factory he’s created at St. Frances. Not even close. There wouldn’t be any great rivalries, or even any close games.

I suppose that Poggi has no agita about his decision. Like I said, just read and listen to everything he’s said. He’s saving lives and giving opportunities to kids who had the misfortune of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He is a charitable man, whether you like him or not. What he’s doing for high school football, however, is hardly worth celebrating.

Here’s a great passage from the recently-released report into the football “culture” under head coach D.J. Durkin and his staff down in College Park.

“Multiple players complained that the coaching staff would subject the team during meal time to disturbing videos. This included videos of serial killers, drills entering eyeballs and bloody scenes of animals eating animals. Durkin maintains that horror movies were sometimes shown at breakfast to motivate and entertain players.”

One question: How did Maryland, even for one day this week, give this psycho his job back?

Ok, more questions. What kind of a person thinks that footage of serial killers is a good way to motivate college athletes? Oh, and exactly how do drills entering eyeballs help guys get better at football?

Final question. Will anyone ever allow this guy back on the sidelines of a college game?

Durkin was 37 years old when he was hired at Maryland. Besides one game as interim coach at Florida, this is his first head coaching gig. And it’s become eminently clear that he wasn’t ready for it. The way he describes the horror movie stuff, he sounds like somebody less than half his age.

Before you accuse me of making a mountain out of molehill (sorry for the cliché), I understand that coaches in big-time football can be hard on players, both mentally and physically. Players expect most of that, even if they don’t like it. They want to be coached; they want to get better.

There are coaches, and staffs, who operate more on negative reinforcement than the other way around. There are coaches who curse a lot, probably even more than they realize. On the other side, there are young men who let things go in one ear and out the other, and there are others who respond differently to those same words.

Even with all of that, however, it’s pretty hard to expect maturity out of 18-year-old college kids when the adults are showing no maturity themselves.

The recently-fired strength coach, Rick Court, acted like a 12-year-old placed in a position of adult responsibility. He “got physical” with players, which is not in any coach’s job description, even the strength coach. He threw objects at players, which brings to mind Rip Torn in “Dodgeball,” but that was a comedy, ya know? He made an injured player do a tug-of-war, alone, against the entire defensive back unit. Again, that’s something from the movies, not real life.

Remember what the Washington Post reported? The first call that Durkin made in December 2015 when he was hired by Kevin Anderson at Maryland? It was to Court.

That’s what Durkin wanted more than anything — more than good schemes or good recruiters. He wanted to intimidate guys, to ridicule them, to create a culture of fear, and he wanted somebody else to do it for him while he tacitly approved it.

It wasn’t a surprise at all, then, to hear that Durkin felt like some good old animal-on-animal fighting video would do wonders for his squad while they were eating their eggs.

John Harbaugh has been here before, but he also hasn’t been here before.

This, as we know, is the third straight year that the Ravens have started the season 4-4.

Would another non-playoff season mark the end of John Harbaugh's successful run in Baltimore? He has eight games left to find out...or not.

In that way, the mentality in 2018 shouldn’t be any different than it was in 2017 or 2016. It’s worth noting that, in each of the last two seasons, Harbaugh’s team has gone on to win three of its next four games after the halfway point.

In other ways, the mentality is a little different. In Year One, you take mediocrity in stride. In Year Two, you begin to question. In Year Three, it’s a full-blown habit. Maybe Harbaugh and his staff are nervous about what their boss thinks about that, and it remains to be seen how they respond to that pressure.

What else makes this year’s ninth game a little different? The Steelers, of course. Considering the situation, and the opponent, this may be a game that determines the coach’s future in Baltimore.

If the Ravens lose a third division game, the likelihood of Harbaugh’s team making the playoffs is a lot lower. Even if that loss doesn’t come against the Steelers, it can come against the Bengals two weeks later at M&T Bank Stadium.

There is good news, however, or at least good news when it comes to legitimate possibilities. It takes a little long-term perspective.

Odds are that only one team will make the playoffs from both the AFC East and AFC South. That means the two Wild Card teams will come from the West and/or North. The best chance for the two Wild Card teams to come from the same division is certainly the North.

Could the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens all make the playoffs, like they did in 2014 and in 2011? The answer is a resounding yes.

The Chargers, standing at 5-2 after a bye on Sunday, will play all three of those teams in their last nine games, in addition to games at Kansas City and Seattle. The Ravens go on the road to face Philip Rivers, but these days that’s a 25,000-seat stadium with little fan support.

As for other middling teams, the Ravens already have wins against Tennessee and Denver, though I’m not sure the Broncos will matter much.

The point is…at 4-4 midway through the season, the Ravens are like any other .500 team. Their possibilities and opportunities aren’t necessarily the same as the perception of them as a team.

We all know that this season’s final eight games will be different than those in 2017. Harbaugh and his team won’t be facing the backup quarterbacks from the Packers, Texans and Colts. Instead, in addition to a couple long-time division nemeses, the Ravens will be facing two possible Hall of Famers and the probable 2018 NFL MVP.

If the Ravens make the playoffs, they will have played well to do so. If they don’t make the playoffs, all those good opponents may mean the end of the Harbaugh era.

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"tell that guy george to leave me alone"

I was at the Primary Residential Mortgage Halloween party yesterday when in walked Rickie Fowler.

I thought he was tied to that "other" national mortgage company. I mean, I've seen the ads on TV so much it makes me sick.

But there he was, with his orange "P" hat and orange pants, making a guest appearance at the annual Primary Residential Mortgage bash.

It gave me a chance to strike up a conversation with him. How often do you get any one-on-one time with a superstar, right?

Drew: "What brings you to town?"

Rickie: "I came up here to track down someone."

Drew: "Wow, sounds serious. Is everything OK?"

Rickie: "Yeah, I suppose. I have this guy who has been stalking me for a couple of years now and I hired a private investigator to do some research on the dude and it turns out he lived in Baltimore for a few years."

The man, the myth and the legend, Rickie Fowler, showed up at the Primary Residential Mortgage Halloween party yesterday.

Drew: "I...ummmm...well..."

Rickie: "What's wrong with you, bro? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Drew: "Ummmm...I....ummmm...never mind. I swallowed a bug."

Editor's Note: "I swallowed a bug" was a famous line from the movie Good Will Hunting. It turns out to be a great way to deflect the conversation when you say something you didn't intend to say in the first place.

Rickie: "You're hiding something from me, aren't you?"

Drew: "Not at all. Let's talk about that Ryder Cup in France."

--- silence ---

Drew: "Actually, let's not."

Rickie: "Good idea."

Drew: "Let's talk about Brooks Koepka winning three of the last six majors."

Rickie: "I'd rather talk about the Red Sox winning the world series than Koepka."

Drew: "No thanks. Let's talk about George Gankas and his Oklahoma State prodigy Matt Wolff. I saw you guys on the Golf Channel doing the buddy-buddy thing last spring."

Rickie: "No, Drew. Let's actually talk about something we both know. Let's talk about your buddy George."

Drew: "Huh?"

Rickie: "Yeah, huh nothing. You think I'm sitting in this place by accident today? We know you know George. We followed you over to Calvert Hall earlier today and then when you showed up here, I popped in for a little surprise visit."

Drew: "George who?"

Rickie: "Listen here, pal. You tell George to leave me alone. No more postcards with a picture of Patrick Reed in his green jacket. No more clippings from a newspaper with my name in yellow highlighter when I miss the cut."

Drew: "He does that?"

Rickie: "Yeah, he does. Last month he sent me a scorecard of a course up here in Baltimore called Mount Pleasant. There was a yellow sticky note attached that read, "I have a thousand bucks that says you can't shoot 64 at this course."

Drew: "Dude, you totally could."

Rickie: "I know. I was 11 under through 14 holes there yesterday and two kids popped out of the woods when I was on 15 tee and stole my clubs."

Drew: "George is actually a really, really good guy. He's just...ummm. Passionate about his golf, let's say."

Rickie: "Well, please tell him to stop sending me notes and cards."

Drew: "I will."

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