With Ravens winners (again), plan is to keep them that way

January 22, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Before the 2008 season started, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told coach John Harbaugh, "If we win six games and we've got our quarterback and coach of the future, I'll be happy."

But after the first-year success of Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco, the expectations will be higher. Bisciotti envisions the Ravens as a constant playoff contender like the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

"It is virtually the only thing that you can look at and say that's the constant," Bisciotti said at yesterday's season-ending news conference. "They've got a long-term coach and a long-term quarterback, and that's why they have a chance to get to the playoffs every year. So, yeah, I think that's the position we're going to be in."

Consistent success has been a problem for the Ravens in recent years.

The Ravens went from six regular-season wins in 2005 to 13 in 2006. Then, their win total dropped to five in 2007 before jumping back up to 11 this season.

It has been a trend of being in the playoffs one season and out the next.

"We want to be an elite team, and hopefully this is the beginning of that," Bisciotti said. "I don't think many teams experienced [what the Ravens experienced] the last four years. So, we've got to smooth that out, and hopefully this guy [Harbaugh] is going to help us do that."

A look at the issues addressed by the Ravens:

* The Ravens expect to name a new defensive coordinator next week: Rex Ryan, who guided the defense the past four seasons, was introduced yesterday as New York Jets head coach. Harbaugh said he would promote someone from a candidate pool of linebackers coach Greg Mattison, special assistant Vic Fangio, secondary coach Chuck Pagano and defensive line coach Clarence Brooks.

Harbaugh said the loss of Ryan won't change the defense's style because five of their seven defensive coaches are returning. But he expects an evolution in the system.

"The fact that you talk about guys who have been in the system, that system moves forward," Harbaugh said.

* The Ravens are expected to part ways with cornerback Chris McAlister, but neither Bisciotti nor Harbaugh would commit to that: "If he fits into our plans, he will [be back]," Bisciotti said. "But with the salary cap, that's what you're looking at constantly."

Said Harbaugh: "If he wants to be a Raven, we'll see how it shakes out over the new few months."

* Bisciotti doesn't share fans' hatred for the Pittsburgh Steelers: "It is the kind of team that we want to be," he said. "With three contests ending in their favor, I would say they are a notch above us now. Our sights are focused on beating Pittsburgh. If you start there and climb that mountain, then we're probably going to be pretty good."

* The Ravens seem open to bringing back veteran kicker Matt Stover, who becomes a free agent in late February: "He's still a really good kicker," Harbaugh said. "We're not interested in weakening ourselves if we don't have to. But that remains to be determined. If we can bring him back, we will."

* Harbaugh acknowledged that quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, who has been instrumental in Flacco's progress, could leave to become an offensive coordinator: "Hue is one of the best offensive coaches in the league," Harbaugh said. "He's going to have a lot of opportunities to move up. Whether he chooses to do that this year or next year or sometime down the road, we just have to see. Hue Jackson is a shining star."

* Bisciotti, who took over as majority owner in 2004, said "he is playing for pride" and one other goal: "To make the fans happy and unified, it's very fulfilling to me," he said. "I know it goes with winning. The ultimate is to hand the fans a trophy, and I'm not satisfied until we hand the fans a trophy."

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