Finishing just a game out of the playoffs a year after a dismal 5-11 season is not good enough for Ravens fans.
"The pitchforks are out," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told reporters on Tuesday, via the team's official site.
However, he doesn't think mass firings are the right way to pacify his fan base.
"I didn't get to where I was by just firing people," he said. "I think it's a bad model, especially in this business."
The team's end-of-season news conference felt a little strange, with president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh all answering questions at the same time. Clearly, reporters talk to Harbaugh all the time and so they went to the owner for tough evaluations of the club. Bisciotti did not want to seem complacent, which also meant challenging a coaching staff that won a Super Bowl just a few seasons ago.
"I want fans to know I think John can coach better, I think Ozzie and Eric (DeCosta) can draft better, I think Joe (Flacco) can play better," Bisciotti said. "If you get improvement from quality people, then I believe they can collectively bring this team back to prominence.
"When talking about Harbaugh, I guarantee you that if I fired John, a lot of people would be happy, except me and Ozzie and Dick. ... I'd have so many people saying, 'You chicken, you just threw John under the bus.'"
Awkward as it might have been, Bisciotti is right and hopefully did not seriously mull firing Harbaugh and/or Newsome. Both would have been snapped up immediately by other teams looking to get better. The problem with the Ravens might have been that they tried for too long to pacify their fan base and never went into a true rebuild after the Super Bowl XLVII victory. Since the Super Bowl win, the team has gone 8-8, 10-6 with a loss in the divisional round, 5-11 in a season without Flacco and 8-8, barely missing the playoffs after a Christmas night loss to the Steelers. It is not a dominant stretch by any measure, but there is no reason to believe Baltimore won't be in contention a year from now and no reason to believe that Harbaugh forgot how to coach in that time.
The pitchforks may be out, but that doesn't mean the people holding them are always right.