10 Things that Ravens fans need to realize.
I suffer from two of the most frustrating problems in the world of sports fandom.
One- My favorite team is not very good.
Two- I live in a state far, far away from that team.
In my case, that team is the Oakland Raiders, and that state is Maryland.
Now, as even the Amish have undoubtedly heard by now, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl this past season.
Now I rooted for the Ravens against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. I wanted to see my friends happy, and I wanted to see Ray Lewis go out on top.
I accepted that the Ravens would get more credit than they deserved and that the fans would have big heads for a while.
I was completely fine with that. If hell ever froze over and my Raiders won the ship again, you bet I'd be letting you hear about it.
I was actually thrilled in a way. See, the biggest problem with most sports fans, but seemingly specifically Ravens fans is... They're spoiled.
I was hoping a Super Bowl ring would finally silence some of Joe Flacco's critics... It didn't.
I was hoping a Super Bowl banner would encourage the fans to believe in GM Ozzie Newsome. It didn't.
I was hoping that a Super. Bowl. Championship. would be enough to convince fans of the team that hey, maybe John Harbaugh knows what he's doing.
Instead, I find that they've gotten worse. Instead of being satisfied with a ring, the Ravens fan-base has developed a bigger appetite.
Here are the 10 things I WISH the flock would realize.
1. Madden Ratings don't indicate real talent.
Far too often, we, the fans focus on players who are "hot". We care more about the big names and fat contracts than the actual talent or contribution to the team. We love guys like Darrelle Revis and Justin Tuck and don't know much about Tim Jennings or Lamarr Houston. And that's not necessarily our fault, we don't watch every single team play every week. I can tell you about all 53 active Raider players at the drop of a hat, but I don't know who the third defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals is. We watch our teams week in, and week out, and all we see of other teams are the highlights. So. Don't feel too bad about not knowing everything about other teams... However...
On your own team? You should know who the ballers are.
Ngata? Definitely a baller. Nobody should be that big and still be that fast. It's freaky.
Flacco? Cannon of an arm, decent mobility, and a Super Bowl ring. That's a baller.
Pitta? Extremely underrated player. Exceptional speed, good hands.
Oh, what about the big guys, Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice?
Not at all.
"B-b-but Ryan! Th-"
But nothing. I don't care about Madden. Let me break it down.
Ray Rice? Well... Lets take a step back first. In the modern NFL, the runningback position is becoming less and less important. You can find an undrafted guy with a good 40 time and put him in the right system and he will prosper. In todays day and age, there are really only two special backs, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. But can you honestly say if you could pick a team from everyone in the NFL, and you had three backs, would one of them be Ray Rice? This year, Peterson, Lynch, Washington's Alfred Morris, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, Tampa Bay's Doug Martin (Who wasn't even the starter when the season began), Houston's Arian Foster, New England's Stevan Ridley, Buffalo's C.J. Spiller, Tennessee's Chris Johnson, and San Francisco's Frank Gore all had more rushing yards than Rice this season. And don't give me the whole "Well, the Ravens were a passing team" speech, because the Patriots have Tom Brady and they had more rushing yards. He's more of a receiving back? Three other running backs and one fullback had more yards than Rice. But the real killer? Rice made 17 million dollars this year. Nobody else on that list made 17 million this year, not even MVP Adrian Peterson. All said and done, he's a good player, but not a great player, and shouldn't be compared to Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, or even Jamaal Lewis.
That probably didn't bother you as much as the whole Terrell Suggs comment huh?
I know his stats look good. He's got a fierce reputation, a defensive player of the year award, and might be the ugliest human being I've ever seen. But... pull back the curtain and the wiz of sizzle isn't all it seems to be. I did the math, looking at his game logs for every game in his "illustrious" career.
The NFL website claims that Suggs has 84 career sacks. After paging through game after game, the stats come out like this.
33 of his sacks have come from division games. That seems impressive until you remember they play in the AFC North, home to the immobile Carson Palmer, a vast array of failures for Cleveland, and Ben Roethlisberger.
"But Ryan! Big Ben has TWO SUPER BOWL WINS!!"
He also has been sacked over 300 times in his career. He holds on to the ball too long, has played with a bad offensive line, and scrambles without speed. Unimpressed.
I've got a better stat for you.
32 of those 84 sacks? Have come against teams with losing records. I'm not talking about average QBs or decent teams, but 32 of them have come against teams like the Bills, Raiders, Dolphins, and the NFC West.
So that leaves 9 sacks. 9 sacks against teams that aren't in the AFC North, and have winning records. And against "elite" quarterbacks? Against the big boys?
Two. He sacked Tom Brady once and Drew Brees once. That's it.
This is the best defensive player in the league? Ha! He's not the best linebacker on the roster.
2. The Ravens are not a defensive team anymore.
I'll keep it short. Guys, we all spent the better part of the last ten years calling the Ravens a "tough defensive team", with a weak offense. As strange as it sounds. It's just not true anymore. This Ravens team didn't depend on Ray Lewis or Ed Reed or Rod Woodson or Tony Siragusa to win them games. They let the offense do the work. Not the run game or Shannon Sharpe, but Cool Joe Flacco slingin' the ball around to explosive speedster Jacoby Jones and deep threat Torrey Smith. A vertical offense that finally flourished when offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron was fired, and Joe Flacco was given full control of the offense. This is how the Ravens will win games from now on in. Ray Lewis is gone, and even when he was there... It wasn't exactly 2005. These corners aren't dominant anymore, the line isn't killing the QB as often as they used to. The defense will get some stops, but... Face it guys. The days of 13-3 wins have been replaced by 32-21 wins.
3. NFL Players care about money.
It's always funny to see people react to this. While it is true that professional athletes are severely overpaid, it should be noted that we love watching them compete, and they put their bodies and mind at risk in a very dangerous environment. If you work at say... Walgreens, you don't have to worry about concussions, ripped tendons, or broken bones. If it does happen to you, you can get compensation, take a nice vacation and come back when you're ready. Football players? If you get hurt, you can be released and left penniless, often with a broken body and no hope of returning to work. These guys do risk a little more, so they get compensated. The reason I bring this up, is because going into the next off-season, the Ravens are a little strapped for cash annnnd the Ravens fans just can't seem to find out where to point the blame. But most of them are pointing the finger at Joe Flacco...
WHY?! The kid just won you a Super Bowl! He doesn't deserve it? Didn't he just throw 11 TDs to 0 INTs in the post-season during his Super Bowl run? That's not good enough for you, but you're alright with Ray Rice being average for 17 million in one season? You're alright with the 60 million contract a "good" linebacker got? But GOD FORBID, you keep your QB. How quickly the Ravens fan have forgotten what it was like to start Kyle Boller.
As for the Anquan Boldin situation. It's simple.
The Ravens needed cap space to try and retain McKinnie, Ellerbe, Ed Reed, as well as signing their draft picks. Anquan Boldin was an old, slow receiver who was going to be 6 million against the cap.
The Ravens said "We need you to take less money so we can help our team or we'll cut you", and Boldin basically said, "I've earned this contract, I'm not gonna take less than I deserve".
The Ravens then traded Boldin to San Fran. The 49ers get a tough slot receiver, Boldin gets his 6 million, and Baltimore gets cap space and a 6th round pick.
You blame the Ravens? Why? Boldin wasn't gonna be that big of a game-breaker, and isn't getting any younger. They got a draft pick for him. Great job by Ozzie.
You blame Anquan Boldin? Why? If I go to your job and ask you to take a pay cut so we could give your co-worker a raise, would you smile and say "yes sir?". Heck no. Great move by Q.
The NFL is a business. These guys may be rich, but they're thinking about their family, their health, and their legacy, just like everyone else.
4. Ozzie Newsome is the best GM in the NFL.
Look at who he's drafted. Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Jamaal Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, I mean, the guy is great at finding talent. He's brought in some great free agents, guys like Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders, Derrick Mason, these guys have all contributed to some good teams. Despite coaching changes and a revolving door at the defensive coordinator spot, his teams always seem to look the same. Players rarely leave Baltimore and remain successful, meaning he can analyze talent and how much gas somebody has left in the tank. He's never lead you guys astray, and he's always made the right moves. He's easily the best GM and you should trust that he has the teams best interests in mind.
5. Safety is the least important position on defense.
The Ravens are used to having Ed Reed watching over the defense. I know. He's been great. Not a very good tackler, but perhaps the best ballhawking safety of all time. He's made a lot of big plays for Baltimore over the years, and I can understand why fans are so desperate to fill that void. But... Look at how defense works.
Defensive line? Disrupt the offensive line, help stop the run, pressure the QB. Huge to every defense.
Linebacking corps? Shut down the run, pressure the QB, help in coverage.
Cornerbacks? Take out the receivers, assist in the run, blitz occasionally.
Safeties? Support the run, assist with tight ends, provide safety net for corners.
Honestly, there are a few guys who are special back there, like Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Rodney Harrison, Ronnie Lott. But most of the time, you can throw anybody with a good 40 back there and they'll pass as decent. For me, watching how the Ravens play, the corners come first, then the dline, then the backers, and THEN the safeties. The corners slow down the receivers, the big boy Ngata and company clog the lanes, an outside backer rushes, and often the safety just takes advantage of all the work. It's kinda like the fullback of defense.
6. John Harbaugh is better than all but 4 of the 32 Head Coaches in the NFL.
Seriously. Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Tom Coughlin, and Mike Tomlin are the only guys I'd rather have leading my team than John Harbaugh.
It's simple. The guy is smart, tough, charismatic. I love him. More than my own coach, Dennis Allen. And this isn't a permanent thing. If Harbs wins another ring, I'd bump him up to number three behind Belichick and Coughlin. I'd put him higher now, but those guys have continued success and more head wins, especially in the midst of controversy, I.E. Big Ben's legal trouble, Spygate, and bountygate.
7. You don't need a vocal leader in the huddle.
I know that everyone loves Ray Lewis' big speeches, but Big Talk doesn't equal leadership. I've never heard Peyton Manning give a big speech, I've never heard Aaron Rodgers fire anybody up, but those two are leaders. Flacco doesn't need personality, he can lead with his play, and the men will follow. That's all there is.
8. There is no "Raven Nation".
This is personal. In the NFL universe, there has only ever been one "Nation". In 1978, Al Davis infamously dubbed the Raider faithful as the "Raider Nation". We literally have a league trademark on it. You guys can come up with some bird-related group if you want, something purple, I don't care. But if Rolando McClain came out doing "the squirrel" and pretended he invented the dance, you'd be pissed too. Until you guys get smart, the "Terrible Towel" is still a better nickname. Yeah, another way you guys are losing to Pittsburgh.
9. The Colts rivalry is stupid.
I know that Pittsburgh vs Baltimore makes for great TV, and there have been some classics but... That's only because they've both been good. Kansas City and Oakland? A far better rivalry, I'd even say that Oakland vs Pittsburgh has a bigger punch historically. Look at the NFC East! Every team has a serious rivalry with every team in that division. The Bears and the Packers? Much better. Stop calling it the greatest rivalry of all time. But I'll level, I understand. That's your division foe, that's the Joker to your Batman, I get it. That's fine.
But please, SHUT UP ABOUT THE COLTS.
I can't count the members of the Indianapolis Colts who were with the squad when they were in Baltimore. Know why? Because there aren't any. Nobody left in the Colts organization ever donned the lucky horseshoe in Baltimore as the home team. It was 30 years ago. Most real Ravens fans weren't alive or socially conscious back then. If you're my age and you hate the Colts, you aren't actually bitter, you just want to have a vendetta so you can feel big and bad. If the Colts left and football never came back to Baltimore, I'd understand. But...
You got the Ravens...
You got Ray Lewis.
You got two freakin' Super Bowls.
Why isn't that enough!
You guys are like the guy who gets dumped in high school and compares his college girlfriend to her all the time. Stop it. They moved on, why can't you. WHY CAN'T YOU?!
And guys, uh, gut check, wanna know where the Ravens came from? How they got there?
Art Modell stole the Browns from Cleveland. No, it wasn't in the middle of the night, but... Honestly I'm scared driving through Baltimore in broad daylight, and nobody there even knows me.
10. You have the best team in your division, and will for a while.
Look, the Steelers are getting old and falling apart. I love Mike Tomlin as a head coach, but he inherited a good team and he's gonna have to really start getting some pieces if they want to contend. Cincy will never get over the hump, and A.J. Green can only do so much by himself. And the Browns will always just be the Browns. I can't take a team seriously if they're starting Brandon Weeden, the ageless blunder (I came up with that) starting at QB. Baltimore has a good core and a great QB, so chill the F out, you're fine, and will be for a while.