Pro football fans on either side of the Baltimore Washington Parkway are reluctant to embrace the similarity of their place in the NFL hierarchy. The Ravens have given their fans more recent championship success but fans in Washington still hold on to the halcyon days when the burgundy and gold were a staple in the playoffs.
The two cities now find themselves bound together in an era of mediocrity. Franchises that were once amongst the League’s elite have drafted poorly, fiscal mismanagement, and incredible streaks of bad luck send them to the loser’s bracket for the last 36 months and counting.
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Brandon Bell (52) tackles Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (12) during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Passions run deep when drawing the inevitable regional comparison between the two teams. The genuine dislike amongst the Baltimore and Washington fan bases is even more pronounced that other regions with teams that share proximity. The hate is personal and runs deep.
Player and coaches are reluctant to embrace superstitions or karma which have gone against both teams for the last five years. These high profile franchises have underachieved after seeming to make good football decisions that defy conventional wisdom.
The gray clouds of winter that have been hovering over the region since the dawn of the new year signal how bleak pro football is in the area. Washington’s glory days are a quarter of a century behind them. Their last championship was in 1991 and they haven’t been a playoff team since 2015. Ironically it was Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata who derailed the Robert Griffin III era with a shot to the knee that changed the trajectory of the franchise in the glorious 2012 season where the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
This year it appeared Washington was ready to step back into contention with the best teams in the league but after a tumultuous offseason everything that could go wrong did. They are paying retail for quarterback Kirk Cousins when they could have signed him to a shorter, money saving long term wholesale deal three years but didn’t want to negotiate. They hired a championship building personnel executive Scot McCloughan – who drafted players for the Super Bowl teams in San Francisco and Seattle – but right now looks as if he missed on 2015 first and second round picks Josh Doctson and Su’a Cravens.
The team botched McCloughan’s dismissal by posting an embarrassing video regarding the personal issues that led to his termination. That miscue has remains in litigation and the team lost 17 players to injured reserve this season causing them to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Meanwhile, the Ravens haven’t been the same franchise since they turned their back on Ray Rice. They mishandled the courtship of Colin Kaepernick and chose to rely on Ryan Mallett while Joe Flacco was recovering from a back injury to start training camp. That cost them at least two games early in the season.
Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP, hasn’t been the same since cashing in on his 2012 success without Rice in the backfield. The team hasn’t been able to surround him with the championship caliber receivers and he hasn’t been able to deliver. They’ve drafted poorly and weakened their coaching staff with John Harbaugh’s friends from Philadelphia.
The Ravens storied defense delivered another collapse against the Cincinnati Bengals ending the year with a blown coverage giving up a touchdown that kept them from the playoffs in the most gut wrenching fashion.
There are similar questions for the Ravens and in Washington moving forward. The clock is ticking everywhere from the front offices to the sidelines as both try to rise above the clouds of mediocrity.