OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — When you reach the playoffs in five straight seasons and take home a Super Bowl trophy to cap the run, it’s difficult to stay at home in January while a dozen other teams are still playing football.
That is why Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti labeled his team’s 2013 season “a failure,” even though the defending NFL champions finished one victory short of earning a playoff berth.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s a failure because our goal is to be one of the top 12,” Bisciotti said in a news conference Wednesday.
Baltimore went 8-8 and fell out of contention with a 34-17 loss to Cincinnati in the season finale. It wasn’t a disaster of a season, but it certainly wasn’t what the Ravens were looking for coming off the second Super Bowl win in franchise history.
“There’s bigger failures out there. There are teams that are a whole lot more disappointed,” Bisciotti said. “If we found ourselves at 3-13 like the Falcons, I think they’re sitting there thinking we’ve got to make a lot of major changes, and I really don’t think we do. If 8-8 is a failure, I hope it’s a long time before I feel worse than this.”
Baltimore’s biggest problem was a running attack that ranked 30th in the 32-team league. Ray Rice ran for only 660 yards and the Ravens averaged a mere 3.1 yards per carry.
“The history of this franchise has been our ability to run the football,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “That’s one of the things that we’ve already started to work on. We talked to the guys that were personally involved in the run game. Everybody understands that in 2014 we will do everything we can to make us a better run team because it will make us a better football team.”
The ground woes made a target of Juan Castillo, who had the title of run game coordinator in his first full season with Baltimore.
“I can understand why Juan is a lightning rod right now because of the way that was set up and structured,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Then we go into the season and have our worst season running the ball and he’s got that title. That’s on me. When we added Juan, the idea was to add another great coach into the mix. Juan functioned as the offensive line coach. That was his job.”
And that will be his title in 2014.
“Juan will be the offensive line coach next year,” Harbaugh said. “The rest of it’s a little bit in flux right now.”
The Ravens and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery have already parted ways, and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is in the midst of interviewing with several teams looking for a new head coach.
“As all this NFL coaching drama goes on, some of our guys are involved in that,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to see how it shakes out.”
Newsome will spend the months ahead working to retain several unrestricted free agents — including wide receiver Jacoby Jones, tight end Dennis Pitta defensive lineman Arthur Jones — and improving an offense that ranked 28th overall.
“The numbers that are so striking to me is to find yourself in the bottom five of every offensive category,” Bisciotti said.
Newsome will have to determine what to do with tackles Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher, and whether he needs to upgrade at center and guard.
“I think we’ve got to get bigger in the interior of our offensive line,” Newsome said. “I think we need to have a more athletic safety in the defense. We need to get a receiver that can make a third-and-7, third-and-8 catch and to be able to run after the catch. Those are some areas that we can add some. I have no doubt that the players we retain on this team will get better.”
Although offense was the most glaring shortcoming, the defense had it low points, too. Of the 352 points the Ravens allowed, 134 came in the fourth quarter.
“Not having the ability to get off the field maybe cost us three or four games this year,” Newsome said.
Newsome said he will not restructure contracts, but would be willing to extend pacts to get under the salary cap. Linebacker Terrell Suggs led the team with 10 sacks and ranked third in tackles, but his contract comes with a lofty salary cap number. Which means he could be in line for a new deal, like it or not.
“Terrell is a real good football player,” Newsome said. “That being said … I have no aversion to letting good football players walk out the door. We’ll look at every aspect of it and see what’s best for the 2014 and 2015 and 2016 Ravens and make that decision once we get to it.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)