The history of the Baltimore Ravens is unique because the NFL plays a cute little game with them. That game is called "Let's Forget the Fact that the Ravens Actually Existed Before Moving to Baltimore."
Anyway. A team that wasn't the Ravens also existed in Baltimore. Founded in 1953, the Baltimore Colts won the 1958 NFL Championship, one of the most important games in NFL history and the first nationally televised title game. They went back and won it again the following year, and during the era they fielded Johnny Unitas, possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. The Colts were immediately ranked among the NFL elite, and they proceeded to dominate through the 1960's, visiting the Championship in 1964 (they lost to Cleveland) and 1968 (defeating Cleveland, but losing the newly-created Super Bowl to the newly-formed New York Jets). In 1970, they returned to the Super Bowl and beat the Dallas Cowboys. In 1972, they were initiated into the frustrating world of football irrelevance and, despite a great pure passer named Bert Jones at quarterback, kept piling on losses. They won AFC East titles in 1976 and 1977, but everything went downhill from there. The Colts never compiled another winning season in Baltimore. In fact, they hit rock bottom in 1981, when they went 2-14 and let opponents pile up a record 533 points against them, and in the strike-shorted 1982 season, they went 0-8-1. In 1983 they said they were going to draft John Elway, but Elway was traded upon saying he would never play for the Colts. In 1984, the Colts famously moved to Indianapolis by throwing all their gear into a fleet of Mayflower trucks in the dead of night.
Baltimore was back in the hunt for a new team by 1995, and Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell brought them his team, a classic NFL franchise which had won a total of eight titles; four in the pre-AAFC merger and the other four after the merger. Modell couldn't get a new stadium in Cleveland. Cleveland put up a hell of a fight to keep them, though, and so the NFL struck a very unique deal with Cleveland which allowed the city to hold the team name, colors, and history of the Browns. I'll go into more detail in my impending reviews of the Colts and Browns. But all you need to know for the purposes of the Ravens is that despite a new name, new colors, and a history dating only back to 1996, the Ravens were treated like an old team that moved because they weren't given an expansion draft. Their name is an allusion to The Raven, a classic American poem written by Baltimore native Edgar Allen Poe. Since the Browns were royally sucking at the time of the move, they did experience those typical new team bumps despite not really being a new team. (Don't you just love NFL politics?)
The Ravens went 4-12 in 1996. But there was a highlight that year: It was the rookie season of a young linebacker named Ray Lewis, who is still in the league, still the face and identity of the Ravens, and now firmly established as one of the very few linebackers in NFL history who might be better than Lawrence Taylor. The Ravens gradually improved over the next couple of seasons. In 1997, they went 6-9-1, and 6-10 the following year before breaking with an even 8-8 in 1999, with the help of quarterback Tony Banks and wide receiver Qadry Ismail.
In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens broke through and defined themselves forever. This team had no real offense; Tony Banks alternated duties with Trent Dilfer, and running back Jamal Lewis put up strong numbers, and the team still had Ismail and tight end Shannon Sharpe. But the Ravens struggled on offense, at one going going five straight games without scoring a single offensive touchdown. So their defense picked up the slack! The 2000 Ravens defense, nicknamed "Ravenous," is rightly considered one of the greatest defenses in league history. They allowed only 165 points against them, which is a record for a 16-game season. They shut out four teams and only allowed five of their opponents to score more than ten points. In a Super Bowl that was never really in doubt, the Ravens played against the New York Giants, and never let the Giants advance beyond their 29-yard line. The Giants turned the ball over five times. The only points the Giants were able to score in the game came on a kickoff return touchdown in the third quarter, as the Ravens stomped them to a final score of 34-7.
That whole season pretty much characterizes the Ravens. They've been extremely powerful on defense, and with players like Lewis, Sam Adams, Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, Peter Boulware, and Terrell Suggs, their defense has been their calling card and one of the NFL's premier attractions. On offense, they can't seem to be especially good even when they've got all the right pieces in place. Look at their quarterbacks: Aside from Banks and Dilfer - both terrible - they've also started Elvis Grbac, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, and Joe Flacco. That's not exactly the top catches of the NFL Quarterback Club. The one A-list quarterback they did have was Steve McNair, who was playing out the end of his career by the time he was signed in 2006. He did provide a huge boost on offense, throwing for 3050 yards and 16 touchdowns while guiding the Ravens to a spectacular 13-3 record, but was injured the following season and only started six games. A year later, he retired. Jamal Lewis joined the 2000-yard rushing club in 2003 when he ran for 2066 yards, but even so, the Ravens have been pretty bad on offense.
Being almost completely unable to score points puts a team at a disadvantage, and so despite their all-word defense, the Ravens have had a few bad seasons. In 2002, they went 7-9 after going 10-6 in 2001. In 2005, they went 6-10. In 2007, they went 5-11. They had good seasons and playoff appearances in between, though. In their first year with McNair, they went 13-3, a team best. In 2010 and 2011, they went 12-4. They even went to the AFC Championship in 2011, but lost to New England in the last minute when the field goal attempt that would have sent the game into overtime was missed.
As a new entity, the Ravens have had three Hall of Famers on their roster, none of whom are in it as Ravens. Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe, and Deion Sanders, who was playing a brief post-retirement stint with the team in 2004 and 2005. Mike Singletary, the legendary Chicago Bears linebacker, coached Baltimore's linebackers in 2003 and 2004.
The Ravens play in the AFC North, which means the slug it out with their fellow defensive brothers-in-arms, the Pittsburgh Steelers, twice a season, along with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens and Steelers are clearly above and beyond the competition in the division, even though the Bengals managed to take a couple of titles and even the Browns have managed to field a good team a couple of times. But due to the weird moving circumstances, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Indianapolis all have a reserve share of hate saved up for each other. Indianapolis doesn't even play in the same division as Baltimore and Cleveland, but it did instigate the move of the Colts, and that still strikes a raw nerve in the collective of Baltimore football fans. The same situation exists between Cleveland and Baltimore. Both moves are fairly recent on the NFL history timeline, the Colts having left Baltimore in the 80's and the Browns having left Cleveland in the 90's.
One thing the Ravens have been great about is that they've been very differential to Baltimore's football past. The Ravens Ring of Honor honors a lot of Colt greats who are now in the Hall of Fame: Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Raymond Berry, and John Mackey are among them. The number 19, which Unitas wore, was only worn once - by Scott Mitchell in 1999 - before the organization decided to never let any more players wear it, even though 19 is not officially retired.
As the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens have an awesome history behind them. As the Baltimore Ravens, the Baltimore Ravens have an awesome history behind them. For such a new team, the Ravens already have an impressive history and roster behind them.
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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The Baltimore Ravens participate in the National Football League (NFL) and are based in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore plays its games in the North of the AFC. The Baltimore Ravens, founded in 1996, play home games at M&T Bank Stadium and have won one NFL Titles (2000).