Time, Coach.

It's hard to argue with much that Ravens coach Brian Billick says or does. His halftime quote, "We have to stop beating ourselves with penalties, both real and imaginary", was a classic. You could see the sense of victory from his all-familiar smirk as he walked away from CBS' Beasley Reese.

One could argue that his reputation as an offensive guru is a mirage.  The counter is the records from 1998 in Minnesota are real.  The 1999 Ravens, Billick's first head coaching job, finished 8-8 while searching for a quarterback through the season's first half.  The 2000 version barely needed to exist with the greatest defense in league history on it's side.  The 2001 Ravens lost Jamal Lewis in camp and the quarterback played so poorly he quit the game.  2002 brought us a new version of Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer and a slew of unproven players.

 

Obviously, the Ravens will look for a play-making wideout and some help for right side of the line (Hey, Ethan, its on two, buddy).  Any other additions would almost certainly be for depth.  Billick seems to be close to having the pieces he needs to make another run in the post-season.  Of course, quarterback play is always the X-factor.

 

One could argue that the Ravens head coach made a poor decision having Jeff Blake throw into the endzone while trusted Matt Stover readied himself to send the game into overtime this week.

 

The counter is Blake was hot.  He had hit three straight passes to move the Ravens from their own 19 to the Steeler 31.  A few plays later, a roughing the passer call on Joey Porter, which should draw a fine from the league, had the Ravens poised to strike.  A cop out field goal would only add fuel to fire that Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh fizzle inside the twenty. 

 

The team had already been tossed from the post-season mix when Atlanta's Dan Reeves decided Warrick Dunn could power in (twice) from the one versus Cleveland.  Did anyone think they were watching the Florida State version of Dunn when he tried to submarine the Virginia defense in 1996 only to be stopped there, ending FSU's conference winning streak?  Note to Reeves, doesn't Mike Vick play on your team?  At any rate, Baltimore's post-season dream was dead.  An overtime loss would have had the natives blasting the Ravens' lack of killer instinct.

 

One could argue that Billick has trouble managing the clock in the manic closing minutes of the game.  The counter is...

 

Well there is no counter here.  But truth be told, Billick is not alone.  Anyone with "NFL Ticket" can list the time management blunders made each week by head coaches.

 

Sunday, the Ravens took control at their own 20 with three timeouts and 2:29 to go.  The Ravens run on first down and lose a yard.  Knowing a run was called, the offense should have been prepared to run another play before the two minute warning.  The Ravens wonder aimlessly, clock ticking, ticking, ticking, all the way to 2:00.  What?  To add insult to injury, the Ravens "waste" a timeout coming out of the break.  Waste might be a harsh word here.  If, in fact, Blake was not confident in the play, he was correct in calling the timeout.  But why weren't the Ravens at the line of scrimmage with ample time on the play clock to audible?

 

After that fiasco, with 1:26 left, facing 2nd and 5 from the Pitt 26, Chester Taylor carries for 4 yards.  Thirty-six seconds pass before the Ravens snap the ball for a two yard plunge and a first down by Jamal Lewis.  Remember, the Titans took 13 seconds to line up after a play at the end of last season's Monday Night thriller in Tennessee.

 

If that's not bad enough, the clock ticks from 0:50 to 0:27 before the Ravens realize that it might be a good idea to stop clock here.  Uh, fellas, isn't it called the hurry up offense?  If you're counting, twenty-three seconds here, say 16 seconds on the previous play since the Ravens weren't in the dire straits that the Titans were.  Add another possible 6 seconds for the botched two minute timeout.  That's 45 seconds.  Baltimore could have had 1:03 left with a first down at the Steeler 11 instead of 0:18.  Billick would have had his entire offense at his disposal at that point.

 

But the head coach deals with everything in the closing minutes.  Plays, personnel, crazed players, coaches and owners' sons on the sidelines. 

 

Solution:  hire a clock management specialist.  Maybe he's a guy who you knew in college or former assistant.  Couldn't play a lick.  Couldn't coach a lick.  But he understands the final minutes of a game and the importance of timeouts and two-minute warnings.  He knows when to attack the middle of the field or shorter throws to the sidelines. 

 

Most importantly, the coach trusts him completely.  When he says "Time Out, Coach!"  Billick responds accordingly.  "Spike It!" results in a time efficient spiking of the ball.  He shadows the Head Coach through the hectic closing moments.  The pressure of time management falls off the head coach so he can focus on that final drive.

 

Is money a factor?  Please!  The way the NFL throws money around?  Hell, they could pay a shmoe like me 50 grand.  I watch countless games to craft my skill and show up on Sunday.  One game winning decision and the investment pays for itself.  Of course, one boneheaded decision and its "hello, hot seat." 

 

The point is, the deficiencies shown week in and week out in the closing minutes call for this kind of specialist.  And isn't the NFL a league of specialists anyway?  This is a position who's time has come.


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