I'll start off by saying this is not a defense of this year's team. I believe that the coaches need to be replaced, and I am beginning to accept the notion that Ponder is never going to put it together. But I've come to these conclusions not only because we started 0-3, but because of the overall performance of the team for the last 2 years.
A lot of people are up in arms over yesterday's performance, and want decisions to be made that reflect the sick feeling we all have over this team right now. But the truth about this team, is they are pretty much the same as last year's team that we felt so good about. Sure, the offensive line is playing worse, and the linebackers don't have the talent we had last year at the position. But other than that, we're not THAT different. Here's why:
This Year: Lost home opener to Cleveland, a team that many thought were tanking on purpose, on a touchdown with 55 seconds left. Cleveland converted 3 3rd downs on the drive, including on the touchdown.
Last Year: Home opener against Jacksonville (a team that finished 2-14). Jacksonville scored a touchdown with 27 seconds left to take a 23-20 lead. Jacksonville converted 3 3rd downs, including on the touchdown. Almost the same exact situation. Last year, a 55 yard Blair Walsh field goal with 7 seconds left tied it up and we won on the first possession is overtime. This year.....if we had been down by 3 and not 4, Blair Walsh would have attempted a 52 yard field goal with 10 seconds left to tie the game. Eerily similar as last year...home opener against a horrible team that gets a go ahead touchdown against us in the last minute. Only difference is we were down by 4 and not 3.
This Year: Lost at the Bears 31-30 on a last minute touchdown.
Last Year: Lost at the Bears 28-10 in a game we were never in. We were down 25-3 at halftime.
0-3. 81 points scored, 96 points against. -15 point differential.
Weeks 6-8: 1-2, 64 points scored, 88 points against. -24 point differential.
Weeks 9-12: 1-2, 64 points scored, 82 points against. -18 point differential.
We had a number of 3 game stretches last year where we performed at or near what we've done in the 3 games this year, including a near identical home opener performance against arguably the worst team in the league. Last year we had a few close calls that went our way, and we outperformed our true talent level. This year, close calls have not gone our way, and we have underperformed our true talent level. The fact is we are one defensive stop on 3rd down away from being 1-2, and 2 defensive stops on 3rd down away from being 2-1. If either of these scenarios were the case, we would all be much more rosy feeling about the future of the team, despite the product on the field being almost exactly the same.
In baseball, the luck that a team has is a defined element, and is quantifiable over the course of 162 games by looking at the team's record in 1 run games. By looking at the history of record in 1 run games, it is proven that this record is not repeatable from one year to the next, and is thus chalked up to luck. Last year, the Baltimore Orioles had a +7 run differential and an expected record of 82-80 (based on run differential). But they went 29-9 in 1 run games, and finished 93-69 and in the playoffs. This year? Expected record of 86-76 (even better than last year's expectation!). But they have gone 17-29 in 1 run games, and currently sit 4.5 games out of a wild card spot with 7 games to play. It ain't gonna happen for them, despite making the playoffs last year, and having a better team this year (based on run differential). Why? They experienced a lot less luck.
In baseball, there are 162 games. In football, there are 16. Each close loss stings a heck of a lot more. Seeing the team give up last minute go ahead touchdowns 2 weeks in a row leads to a depressed fan base that wants rash decisions made about the team based on these games. I don't think decisions should be made on such a small sample size. They SHOULD be made about the team over the last year and 3 games.
I am not arguing that this year will turn out okay. We are 0-3. The damage is done, we aren't making the playoffs. But to say that going into the season, you thought this team upgraded a little bit from last year's 10-6 team, and now the wheels have fallen off and the team is MUCH worse than you could ever imagine, is just plain wrong.
0-3 stings. 2 losses in the last few seconds stings. But we're not THAT different of a team from last year.