The Baltimore Ravens are about to have their 25th season. Here is a look at how we got there:
In 1996 the city of Baltimore finally found a football team. Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore leaving the history, team name and colors in Ohio. Baltimore didn’t get an expansion team, yet they essentially started brand new. The team got their name from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven and now it’s hard to imagine a different name.
While Modell would be vilified for moving his football team to Baltimore, he would become a hero to Maryland. The Ravens filled the void from when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. While Cleveland would go through heartbreak, Baltimore had felt the same pain.
The Ravens got things started right in the 1996 NFL Draft. Their first ever draft selection was Jonathan Ogden. With the 26th overall selection they took Ray Lewis. The Ravens entered it’s first season in Baltimore with two players who would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jermaine Lewis was a very memorable fifth round pick in that draft class.
The Ravens won their first game in 1996. Ted Marchibroda was the head coach and Vinny Testeverde was the quarterback. A 4-12 inaugural season didn’t matter. Baltimore had football and Ozzie Newsome was building something special.
The Ravens drafted better than anybody in the following years. In 1997 the Ravens drafted Peter Boulware in the first round. Jamie Sharper and Kim Herring were second round picks. In 1998 the Ravens drafted Duane Starks. In 1999 the Ravens paired Starks with Chris McAlister, while finding Brandon Stokley and Edwin Mulitalo later on.
When Brian Billick took over as the head coach in 1999, the Ravens were getting things figured out. He had a team with a lot of young talent and was able to get the purple and black to an 8-8 record. Then came the season that would give Baltimore “Festivus Maximus.”
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Newsome had built a historically good defense. He had veteran talent on the defensive line that included Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. The linebacking trio of Lewis, Boulware and Sharper was incredible. Rod Woodson served as the veteran leader of the secondary that included Herring, McAlister and Starks.
The Ravens didn’t have the same kind of offense. After five touchdown free games, the Ravens benched Tony Banks for Trent Dilfer. Dilfer gave the Ravens just enough at the quarterback position. Led by an all-time great defense and the rookie running back, Jamal Lewis, the Ravens won 11 games in a row to win it all.
In Super Bowl XXXV the defense shutout the Giants. The only touchdown the Giants scored in the 34-7 contest came on a kick return. After that kickoff return score, Jermaine Lewis got the Ravens a kickoff return touchdown of their own.
In 2001 the Ravens parted with Dilfer. They went with Elvis Grbac. That didn’t go all that well. Jamal Lewis got hurt before the season got underway. Behind their great defense the Ravens were able to get to 10-6. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat them in the divisional playoff game.
2002 brought a rebuilding year to the Ravens. The best moment from the entire season is when Chris McAlister returned a missed field goal for a touchdown, getting blocks from Ray Lewis and a rookie Ed Reed. The rest of the season was forgettable but it was a scrappy 7-9 team.
You can’t skip over 2003 in Ravens history. Jamal Lewis had a 295 yard rushing performance against the Browns in the second game of the season. Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards that year. That season also included a 17 point comeback against the Seattle Seahawks that was a 44-41 win for the ages. The Ravens lost to the Titans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Things really didn’t get good again until 2006. Though Ed Reed did win Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. It was one of the three years he led the league in interceptions. Reed who went on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame put on a show for his entire career.
The Ravens defense in 2006 was ridiculously good. Steve McNair, who the Ravens got via a trade with their old rival, was the quarterback. The Ravens went 13-3. It was a great season. The Ravens lost in the playoffs to the Colts. In the greatest defensive performance possible in a loss, Peyton Manning was held without a touchdown. The Colts beat the Ravens with five field goals.
2007 was the end of the Billick era. It was just awful. The Dolphins got their only win of the season against the Ravens. It was that bad. Kyle Boller and Troy Smith played poorly. That along with injuries ruined the season.
The Ravens hired John Harbaugh and drafted Joe Flacco. Yeah, that worked out pretty well. The Ravens went on to the playoffs five years in a row and won Super Bowl XLVII. This is easily the best stretch Ravens football has ever known. Joe Flacco’s Ravens made it to the AFC Championship three times. The first time was a loss to Pittsburgh in Flacco’s rookie season.
In 2011 the Ravens were so close to Super Bowl glory. They went to New England and almost beat Tom Brady‘s Patriots. Lee Evans dropped the game winning touchdown pass from Flacco. Billy Cundiff missed the game tying field goal badly. The Ravens came back the next season and got revenge on their way to Super Bowl XLVII.
The 2012 season was a very interesting one. The Ravens started the season off 9-2. They lost three games in a row and it looked like things were slipping away. Harbaugh fired Cam Cameron as the offensive coordinator. The Ravens held on to win the AFC North with a 10-6 record. Joe Flacco got hot and had the best four games of his career to win it all.
Ray Lewis announced that it was his last season before the first playoff game that year. It gave the Ravens fuel for the most amazing playoff run in team history. The Ravens beat the Broncos in double overtime in what could have been the best game in NFL history. Flacco hit Jacoby Jones for a 70 yard touchdown that forced overtime. At that point, you just knew that somehow the Ravens would win it all.
The Ravens were crushing the 49ers in the Super Bowl before the lights went out. When the lights came back on, the 49ers changed the game. Baltimore still won but it took some heroics from Flacco and Anquan Boldin and a goal line stand from the Ravens defense to seal the deal.
The 2013 Ravens missed the playoffs. The most notable moment from that year was Justin Tucker‘s 61 yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions. In 2014, Gary Kubiak became the offensive coordinator. Joe Flacco had his best regular season performance and the Ravens dominated the Steelers in the playoffs. The Patriots ended a potential Super Bowl run because the Ravens injury depleted secondary struggled.
2015 was awful. Injury after injury ruined the Ravens season. 2016 had promise but Antonio Brown ruined it as well as dampening the mood on Christmas. 2017 saw Andy Dalton play spoiler in the most inexcusable moment in the history of Baltimore Ravens defense. A little after half way in the 2018 season things changed.
Lamar Jackson took over for an injured Flacco. The Ravens won the remainder of their games except for their battle against the Kansas City Chiefs. A C.J. Mosley interception against Baker Mayfield clinched the 2018 AFC North crown for the Ravens. The playoff game went poorly, but that’s fairly recent history. If you’re reading this you are a Ravens fan and I’m not going to make you relive that.
Eric DeCosta took over as general manager in 2019. So far he has made some impressive trades getting the Ravens Calais Campbell and Marcus Peters. DeCosta’s first draft pick was Marquise Brown.
The 2019 season was the best regular season the team ever had. The Ravens won 12 straight games to close the regular season with a 14-2 season. Jackson was crowned as the MVP. The Ravens laid an egg in the playoffs and that my friends, is the Ravens history in a nutshell.