Just 367 days ago, an unknown special teams coach from the Philidelphia Eagles, whose only known connection to the Ravens was his brother’s playing days, was introduced as Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens. When I saw the news on Sportscenter that night, and read more about him, he seemed unexperienced, but still could become a solid coach. I liked that he was young, and had already gotten an NFL Coordinator job. Even with all the pros, I thought, ehh, 7-9, it’ll be a rebuilding year. But John Harbaugh wouldn’t buy into that.
Harbaugh, whose name no one knew how to say until the preseason, gave this team new life. He ran the toughest camp that every player on the roster had participated in in their lives. He knew the names, but didn’t have them on practice jerseys. He assigned everyone a number different from their actual number. Willis McGahee was caught off his feet when he came to camp out of shape and because of it, suffered an injury hampering him throughout the season that ended up costing him his starting job.
The preseason was scary. Harbaugh looked uneasy with challenges, didn’t say much on the sidelines as far as the casual fan could see, and no one recognized half the team’s players. Joe Flacco was, I’ll say it, horrible in his first appearance against an NFL defense. Sure it was the Patriots, sure there were o-line injuries, but boy did our future Golden Boy QB look scared. Flacco had to start and play more, because of health issues that ended Kyle Boller’s season and kept Troy Smith out for an extended period. He improved, and the team started to take shape.
The season got off to a hot start, even with having to waste a perfect week 9 bye and sit at home during week 2. Starting out 2-0 against division rivals was fulfilling, but losing in Pittsburgh to the Stinkers started a 3-game slide capped off by a horrible 31-3 loss to the Colts. Now 2-3, everything turned around. They won their next 4, and Joe Flacco led the #1 scoring offense in the NFL for 3 weeks. He started to make great passes, and got huge contributions from unexpected people, like Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice, and Jim Leohnard on defense.
The Purple Birds finoshed out the year 11-5, and with Super Bowl buzz. Flacco, Reed, & Co. took down the Dolphins easily, played their hearts out and let Matt Stover win a game against the rival Titans, and one game stood between them and the Super Bowl. I don’t wanna talk about what happened after that.
This offseason poses challenges, like the imminent release of All-Pro cornerback Chris McAllister and the hole he leaves. With their top reciever aging but still strong, the team might need to solidify their pass-catchers, and 3 of the best defensive players in the league have expiring contracts, one being the face of the franchise. Despite these, the Ravens could be early Super Bowl favorites, and are returning to their days of excellence. With a real quarterback.
Alot better than 7-9, huh?