'Win now' approach is a sure loser

December 29, 1998|By John Eisenberg

Art Modell said yesterday that the Ravens were "going to win in 1999."

Swell. Former coach Ted Marchibroda's replacement isn't even here yet, and he's already under pressure to deliver a winner.

Why, the list of potential candidates isn't even drawn up, and nine wins are already a must.

That's bad news, folks. No other way to color it.

A coach under pressure to win usually makes short-term decisions that don't serve his team well in the long run. He sacrifices the future for the present. Patches instead of rebuilds. Gambles on aging legs.

If you're not sure what the result looks like, check out the Maryland Stadium Authority's other tenant at Camden Yards.

It's just what the Ravens don't need after three losing seasons.

They need long-range planning, not more "win now" panic. They need a new coach with a mandate to install a system, a foundation, a plan for developing a consistent contender.

They need someone to take their young talent, some of which is extraordinary, and put it into a sound and lasting framework. Even if it means losing in the short run.

But the chances of that happening just got a lot worse.

"I'm not going to stand here and say this is a rebuilding process," Modell said yesterday, "because it's not."

Oh, really? A team coming off consecutive six-win seasons just needs a little light buffing at the edges to become a winner?

A losing team without long-term solutions at quarterback, fullback, split end and several other key positions doesn't need to step back and retool?

Not when the owner is eternally convinced that his team is one big break away from the Super Bowl. That's Modell.

He thought the signing of Andre Rison would get the Browns to the Super Bowl in 1995. They went 5-11 in their last year in Cleveland.

He said the Ravens would have an elite team to play at Camden Yards in 1998, then later pledged "significant progress" at the very least. The Ravens went 6-10.

If you've spotted the trend, congratulations. You're right, Modell does continually overrate his teams.

It makes this gem from yesterday easier to fathom: "A good coach will get us to the playoffs."

Playoffs? When?

"In 1999," Modell said.

Ugh. Isn't this where we came in?

Expecting the Ravens to make the playoffs in 1999 is, well, ridiculous. There's no other way to say it. Maybe it will happen, but you certainly can't expect it. The Ravens aren't that good to begin with, as their record indicates. And they'll need time to adjust to their new coach and a new system. There's always a learning curve in such situations. That means stepping back before they go forward.

You can already hear Ray Lewis and the rest of the defense complaining about adjusting to a new scheme after three years under Marvin Lewis.

Alas, Modell isn't going to want to hear about it.

"We're going to win," Modell said. "W-i-n."

It isn't a bluff so much as it is the ad man in Modell just rising to the surface -- he was in the advertising business before buying the Browns -- and there's little doubt he also feels the need to remain optimistic after foisting three years of bad football on a city that built him a palace.

But that optimism is self-defeating in this situation. There's no doubt about it.

The new coach, whoever it is, needs time to establish his own operation. He needs the latitude to make mistakes without suffering for them.

He needs that mandate, the one all new coaches deserve.

But he's not going to get it with Modell expecting him to win immediately.

He'll experience no honeymoon with Modell expecting him to take a flawed team to the playoffs immediately.

True, all coaches are under pressure to win, later if not sooner, and tacitly if not explicitly. Modell didn't have to say a word for the new coach to know he'll get fired if he doesn't win in three seasons.

But Modell doesn't want to wait that long.

"I didn't come from Cleveland to Baltimore to lose, I can guarantee you that," he said.

But if he wanted to guarantee success, or at least give his team a better chance, he'd stop issuing these empty win now #F demands that put the whole operation on alert and contribute to knee-jerk coaching decisions.

He'd stop perpetuating the Ravens' losing cycle with this nonsense of expecting huge things every year.

He'd give his new coach the time that all new coaches deserve. No strings attached. No great expectations implied.

Basically, he'd just butt out, let the coach go to work and stop drawing all these silly lines in the sand. Win now, win later, elite team, blah, blah, blah. It serves no positive purpose and does no one an ounce of good. Enough already.

Marchibroda years

!

Baltimore Colts

Year ..... Record .. Pct. .. Fin.

1975* .... 10-4 .... .714 ... 1st

1976* .... 11-3 .... .786 ... 1st

1977* .... 10-4 .... .714 ... 1st

1978 ..... 5-11 .... .313 ... T4th

1979 ..... 5-11 .... .313 ... 5th

Totals .. 41-33 .... .544

Indianapolis Colts

1992 ..... 9-7 ..... .563 ... 3rd

1993 ..... 4-12 .... .250 ... 5th

1994 ..... 8-8 ..... .500 ... 3rd

1995* .... 9-7 ..... .563 ... T2nd

Totals .. 30-34 .... .469

Ravens

1996 ..... 4-12 .... .250 .... 5th

1997 ..... 6-9-1 ... .406 .... 5th

1998 ..... 6-10 .... .375 .... 4th

Totals .. 16-31-1 .. .344

Career .. 87-98-1 .. .470

*-Made playoffs

Playoffs

Year Team .......... Record

1975 Baltimore Colts 0-1

1976 Baltimore Colts 0-1

1977 Baltimore Colts 0-1

1995 Indianapolis Colts 2-1

Totals ................ 2-4

Modell's hires

0

Art Modell's last six head coaching hires:

Year Coach Previous position

1996 Ted Marchibroda Head coach, Colts

1991 Bill Belichick Defensive coordinator, Giants

1990 Jim Shofner* Offensive coordinator, Browns

1989 Bud Carson Defensive coordinator, Jets

1984 Marty Schottenheimer** Defensive coordinator, Browns

1978 Sam Rutigliano Offensive coordinator, Saints

*-Hired nine games into 1990; **-hired eight games into 1984.

Pub Date: 12/29/98

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