When you think about the short history of the Baltimore Ravens, and weigh that against the long-standing relationship the City of Baltimore has with professional football, it’s reasonable to say that this season means everything to the direction and future of this franchise.
That’s not to say that the Ravens should or could go to the Super Bowl, but they shouldn’t be far from it. This is a team in flux at its most important position. It is a team that has seen its first Hall of Famer in Jonathan Ogden retire, with Ray Lewis’ big goodbye soon to come.
The Ravens are a team with a new direction in coaching, which owner Steve Bisciotti has promised is a direction to be taken on a long, steady path. This is a team with defensive identity, mirroring the blue collar essence of its fans, but not quite out of the shadow of its AFC North rival in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
And its a fan base that thirsts for more.
It’s do or die time for the Ravens. Either the franchise determines its quarterback of the present and future, or it will face wavering support from the city. Either they get an offense good enough to keep close, or face blowout defeats courtesy of injured and aging superstars.
Its easy to remember 2000, that magical year of the Ravens Super Bowl run. But since then, the squad has won one playoff game in three appearances. It’s easy to remember Steve McNair’s first season and the 13-3 record, but it’s often forgotten that the 2006 season was only the Ravens second winning season in the last four years, and only the fifth winning season in the team’s 12-years history.
The Ravens are unique, in that they are straddling a fence between league obscurity and national prominence. A generation of fans have grown up knowing names like Ogden, Lewis and Todd Heap. The Pro Bowls speak for the individual accolades, but they haven’t translated into annual contention for the Super Bowl. Perhaps you can thank Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for that, or you can blame the Ravens’ lackluster effort to take their place among the elite.
Everything depends on this season for the Ravens. And for a team to have everything depending on one season, you have to wonder about the body of work created by the other 11.