Practice not making perfect, so take the week off, guys

November 02, 1998|By John Eisenberg

Maybe the Ravens should ban their players from practice this week.

Banning the media last week didn't work too well, as you may have noticed during the Ravens' 45-19 loss to the Jaguars yesterday.

It turned out that the team with a 12-27-1 record since moving to Baltimore is more of a problem than anyone asking questions about the team with a 12-27-1 record since moving to Baltimore.

So it's time to try another tack. Put some yellow "crime scene" tape around the practice field. Tell the guys they aren't welcome. Then tee it up against the Raiders next Sunday and see what happens.

It sounds crazy, but it couldn't work any worse than the media ban, could it?

Maybe getting banned from practice will help the players attain that "focus" that Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda tried to produce with his media ban.

The practices aren't doing them any good anyway, if yesterday's performance is any indication.

The Ravens were able to "focus" all right, but mostly on the backs of Jacksonville players steaming toward the end zone.

In a game Marchibroda described as a make-or-breaker, the Ravens had five turnovers, committed nine penalties, had a punt blocked for a touchdown, let Jacksonville's receivers run wild and found themselves down by 35 points after 27 minutes.

So much for moving those 4,000 unsold permanent seat licenses.

And so much for any corporation paying top-dollar for the naming rights to the new stadium.

At this rate, you'll be able to write Art Modell a check for $200 and name the stadium after your cat.

Yes, things were that bad yesterday.

So bad that the few fans who stayed to the end cheered the announcement of the two-minute warning.

So bad that Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said, "I've never felt this bad after any game in my nine years in the league."

How many days until pitchers and catchers report?

Even in a bad year when they waste $69 million, the Orioles are easier to watch than this.

It was the kind of dismal loss that could lead to Marchibroda losing his job, but it's unfair to blame this disaster on coaching.

Blame this on the players, not the coaches.

Both are at fault when a team plays this poorly, but when players make this many physical, boneheaded mistakes, it's their loss.

Blame this on a defense that was completely outmatched, an offense that couldn't stop dropping the ball and a punting unit that contributed its weekly catastrophe.

"It's not about the coach, it's about the players," Siragusa said.

It wouldn't have mattered if Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis had devised a dozen clever ways to stop Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell. Lewis' defensive backs just weren't good enough to cover the Jaguars' receivers.

Nor would it have mattered if Vince Lombardi and/or Bill Walsh had prepared the offense. Eric Green fumbled twice after catches. Roosevelt Potts fumbled once.

"I put [the blame for] this game on myself," Green said.

Marchibroda's overhauled offense actually moved the ball effectively behind quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who played hard and well and made it clear that he could have helped in recent weeks had he been healthy.

Using a new scheme that split Priest Holmes as a receiver and created mismatches inside, the Ravens looked alive on offense for the first time in weeks.

Harbaugh drove the offense 73 yards to a touchdown that tied the Jags at 7-7 late in the first quarter, but the good vibes generated by the team's first meaningful touchdown drive in a month didn't last long. The Jaguars scored 35 points in the next 13 minutes.

"We had a real good game plan, Harbaugh said. "I feel like [the game plan] put us in position to win. We let our coaches down, our fans down and ourselves down. I've never been in a game like this. I'm pretty speechless about it. I can't even come up with an excuse. It's just embarrassing."

Give the Ravens credit for standing at their lockers and taking the heat every week. They don't point fingers, at least not in public. They take the blame, individually and collectively. They don't hide.

But at this point, who cares? The Ravens are 2-6 and out of playoff contention with eight games to go. They're fortunate to have sold so many tickets before yesterday. They need to do something drastic.

How about cutting a few players, for instance? Marchibroda said yesterday that "a majority" was still giving a good effort. What about the minority that isn't? Isn't it time to send the message that 45-19 isn't good enough?

Fixing holes in the on-field product will accomplish more than any knee-jerk quick-fix of the coaching staff.

Not that Marchibroda has a chance of lasting beyond this season, barring a wild turnaround.

Ah, well. This much we know: Banning the media from practice is a bad idea. It has an 0-1 record now. It didn't accomplish a thing.

Banning the players is the next step, after yesterday's stinker. How about it, Ted? Send 'em to the mall for the week. Maybe they'll come back mad.

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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