By Samuel Njoku
What a difference a year makes for the Baltimore Ravens. Around this time last season, the Ravens were preparing for a postseason run that resulted in a Super Bowl championship. But now, Baltimore heads home without a chance to truly defend the title they earned back in February. Gone were the miracle plays on fourth and 29 that shook the foundation of the NFL. Gone were the talks of destiny that had even the most skeptical of pundits believing in the purple and black. Instead, the 2013 NFL season ended with a thud. As bland as the 8-8 record itself, the Baltimore Ravens were an average team at best.
The Super Bowl curse, a term used to define a team whose rise to the mountain top is immediately followed by a crash down to earth, was not a culprit in the demise of this season. The curse is as real as the Easter Bunny and may be twice as ridiculous. The reality of the Ravens situation is much more convoluted.
Baltimore, fresh off one of the most spectacular championship runs in recent history, faced a serious dilemma that could not be taken lightly by the front office. Should the Ravens take another shot at greatness, or take a step back to open up the opportunity for multiple championships down the road? The Ravens made their decision rather quickly.
“We will not repeat what we did in 2001,” stated Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome days after winning his second title in Baltimore. “We are trying to build where we can win Super Bowls more than just one more time.”
And so the Ravens did what few champions do during their reign. They removed pieces – essential pieces. Ray Lewis walked off into the sunset with Matt Birk close behind. Ed Reed wasn’t brought back and Bernard Pollard was kicked out. Ozzie Newsome practically gave Anquan Boldin away while Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe sought greener pastures in the form of the all mighty dollar.
When it was all said and done, only one man remained. The one who got them to the promised land in the first place. Joe Flacco would be the man to get the job done, whether he liked it or not. But surrounding the $120 million dollar quarterback were holes. Self inflicted wounds that littered the Ravens roster. Baltimore would be forced to patch the holes and the workmanship was shoddy at best. The Ravens acquired some gems in Marlon Brown and Daryl Smith. But they were overshadowed by duds like Michael Huff and Marcus Spears.
If the Ravens were trying to win a championship in 2013, they failed miserably. But that wasn’t the case for this football team. Baltimore was clearly a team looking to take one step back in order to take three steps forward. That’s not to say the Ravens weren’t disappointed. This is an organization that prides itself on winning. And both fans and personnel didn’t like what they saw.
The Ravens will have to make a few more moves this off-season before truly propelling themselves back to prominence. It all begins with their offensive line, which played so awful this year that it looked like they were playing for the other team at times. The cosmetic changes will be drastic to both player and coaching personnel – as they should. And while the Ravens are pleased with the progress of Torrey Smith, they’re still searching for that top 10 wide receiver to help take Flacco’s game to the next level.
The aforementioned moves will cost money and that may force Ravens fans to witness a few prominent players wearing different colored attire in 2014. But every move made by Baltimore will be for the greater good of the football team. It’s why they won a championship last season, and it’s why they’ll almost certainly win another one in the future. The Ravens took the necessary steps in 2013, even if those steps were backwards.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.