Injuries turned out to be the biggest factor in the Baltimore Ravens' 2021 season ending the way it did. But there was one mistake Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta freely admits to making at the start of it.
Speaking to the media on Friday, DeCosta admitted that the team invested too much into the hope that All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley would be fully healthy for the season. He said that believing Stanley was ready to go was his mistake and turned out to be a big setback.
“It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit and it’s probably my mistake,” DeCosta said, via ProFootballTalk. “I don’t want to use assuming, but expecting that Ronnie would come back this year full strength. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. There’s probably a lot of blame to go around. Ultimately, I’m the guy who has to talk to the various doctors and trainers and make a decision and determination at that position. My understanding and belief was that Ronnie would come back this year and play really good football for us, and be healthy and be strong and be ready to go and he wasn’t. That was a big setback.”
Stanley played every snap in the Ravens' Week 1 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders but aggravated the ankle injury that cost him the 2020 season. He got ankle surgery a few weeks later and did not play another game this season.
If it's any consolation for Eric DeCosta it should be that Ronnie Stanley's injury was far from the only major injury the team endured in 2021.
The Ravens lost their top four running backs before the season even started. They wound up having to sign players off the street and starting them with no training camp time.
But thanks to Lamar Jackson, the Ravens still finished the season with a top five rushing attack. Unfortunately, Jackson's injury at the end of the season cost them a trip to the playoffs. They finished fourth in the AFC North with an 8-9 record.
We'll see if Eric DeCosta uses this experience to avoid making mistakes like this in the future. But it wasn't the mistake that decided the entire season.