OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — In the wake of a perplexing 8-8 season that left him frustrated and disappointed, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti remains adamant in his support of coach John Harbaugh, general manager Ozzie Newsome and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Bisciotti did, however, acknowledge Tuesday that all three of the team’s principle figures must improve if Baltimore is to reclaim its position among the NFL elite.
“I want my fans to know that I think John can coach better, I think Ozzie can draft better, I think Joe can play better,” Bisciotti said. “If all of them do it — and I think they’re capable and determined to be better — then I think next year we’re a playoff caliber team. I really believe that.”
And if the Ravens sputter again?
“The pitchforks are out,” Bisciotti said, referring to the inevitable negative reaction from the fan base.
The Ravens have provided the 56-year-old Bisciotti with two Super Bowl rings. He was a minority owner under Art Modell in 2000 and full owner in 2012, when Baltimore beat San Francisco 34-31 behind Harbaugh, Newsome and Flacco.
Since then, however, the Ravens have gone 31-33. After finishing 5-11 in 2015, Baltimore was in playoff contention this year before stumbling to the finish.
Asked to use one word to describe this season, Bisciotti said, “Bewilderment. I thought our offense started playing better and then our defense collapsed in the last four weeks.”
Surrounded by Harbaugh, Newsome and club president Dick Cass, Bisciotti received the majority of the questions during the 70-minute session. The gist of his message was that he believes the team’s best chance to return to glory is by sticking with those who got it there in the first place.
“People think it’s the owner’s job to start whacking people to show that he cares,” Bisciotti said. “I guarantee you, if I fired John and Ozzie a lot of people would be happy — except me and Ozzie and Dick. I have to trust my instincts.”
Soon after the Ravens lost to Pittsburgh in late December to fall out of contention, many of the team’s fans started clamoring for change. Bisciotti heard the outcry, but did not adhere to it.
“The only negative things I hear about me is I care more about continuity than winning,” Bisciotti said. “I can’t change that opinion. I can’t tell them that firing people is my way of showing disappointment with results. It’s just not the way that I’m built.”
That doesn’t mean this season sat well with him. The Ravens endured a winless October, lost half-a-dozen game by eight points or fewer and yielded 115 points over the final four weeks.
Bisciotti still hadn’t gotten over it by Monday, when he pondered what to talk about during his annual meeting with the local media.
“I thought about 8-8 and the disappointment and how many close calls we had and how we were this close to getting there,” Bisciotti said. “When you’re that close, it’s really, really disappointing.”
Flacco was MVP of Baltimore’s second Super Bowl win and has been the team’s starting quarterback since his rookie season in 2008, Harbaugh’s first year as the team’s coach. He missed the last six weeks of the 2015 season with a knee injury and was erratic this year in his return.
Although Flacco set career highs in attempts, completions and yards passing, his 15 interceptions were the second-most of his career.
“We were better this year with Joe Flacco in the lineup,” Bisciotti said, “but I certainly don’t think we saw the Joe Flacco that he’s capable of being. We’ve seen a better Joe Flacco in the past. We need to get more out of Joe. Hopefully that can go from five to eight to 11.”
If the Ravens are to win 11 games next year, they’ll need Flacco to be sharp and he will need more support from a running game that struggled all season.
“There is no doubt in my mind Joe is going to be better next year,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be healthier and he’s going to have an offense in place that we all believe in.”
It’s going to be a busy offseason for the Ravens, who have already identified the three top items on their list of needs.
“We need to add some depth in the secondary, improve the offensive line and find a complimentary receiver,” Newsome said.
And, in spite of the team’s struggle in recent years, Cass said the Ravens are “seriously considering a price increase” in 2017.
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