Life is good for Baltimore sports fans right now. The Orioles are leaders in the wild card race and the Ravens season – likely a successful one – is right around the corner. It’s easy to live in the ‘now’ and look towards the future, but just imagine what could have been and that will make you appreciate the current state of Baltimore sports even more.
The year was 2008 and the Ravens had fired their most successful coach in the history of the franchise and the franchise was at a cross roads. Do they bring in another successful coordinator with no head coaching experience, do they bring in a big name head coach or do they promote from within? Throughout the search their two candidates who everyone believed were the best, and also the ones the fans wanted the most, were Rex Ryan and Jason Garrett. Both had been extremely successful coordinators and few believed they wouldn’t succeed as head coaches. The Ravens had interest in Garrett but were turned down by him which seemed to mean Ryan was a shoe-in for the job. After all, he had the respect of the players, a brash personality and was a fan favorite. Why wouldn’t he be the next choice?
The Ravens had other ideas and instead of hiring Ryan they hired a special teams coach from the Eagles named John Harbaugh who nobody had heard of. The choice was vastly unpopular among the fans but the Ravens brass believed in their choice and man… and nobody is questioning that now. Four years later, four playoff trips and two championship game loses later, John Harbaugh has become one of the most successful coaches in football while Garrett and Ryan are the leaders of teams more known for off-the-field headlines than their success on the field.
Just imagine where the Ravens would be had Garrett left Owings Mills with a contract or had Ozzie Newsome listened to the Ravens fans and hired Rex Ryan. Just think what could have been?
Ever since Davey Johnson, the Orioles manager position was a revolving door that seemed to be career suicide for whoever had the position. Mike Hargrove was a successful manager – until he got to Baltimore. Lee Mazzilli was an up-and-comer and many thought he would be a great manager – he wasn’t. Nobody seemed to want the O’s manager job or to succeed in the position and the Orioles seemed determine to change that.
After firing Dave Trembley, they made it a point to go out, make a big splash and hire a big name manager. The Orioles number one candidate was the brash Bobby Valentine, who was a successful manager in Japan but, outside of one World Series with the Mets, had not had much success as a major league manager. By all accounts Valentine would be a “slam dunk hire” who would turn the Orioles around. However, Valentine had other ideas as he turned down the Orioles and even had some choice words after turning down the job. Once again it looked like the Orioles would be forced to bring in someone they didn’t want, who likely wouldn’t be big name and someone who probably would be fired in a couple years. Certainly if a big name like Valentine wouldn’t take the job then there’s no way Buck Showalter would right? Wrong. The Orioles hired Showalter and that certainly looks to have been the right choice.
Bad decisions by management are the most devastating thing that can happen to a franchise and often can’t be overcome for years. This could have definitely been a reality had the Orioles and Ravens’ first choices for manager and coach not turned them down.
Instead the Ravens have been one of the model franchises in the NFL over the last four years and the Orioles and Showalter are on the cusp of the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 1997.
Meanwhile Valentine, Garrett and Ryan are left dealing with off-field drama, disgruntled players and not much success.
Just think what could have been… and be glad it didn’t happen!