About a month ago, Baltimore Raven fans were on top of the world. Their team had just gone on an improbable playoff run, with excitement and big plays happening in every game leading up the the Ravens showdown with the 49ers in Super Bowl 47.
When the clock hit zero with the Ravens leading 34-31, it was time to celebrate. Baltimore was able to send Ray Lewis into retirement as a winner. Torrey Smith, who tragically lost his brother in 2012, got to smile and enjoy the moment. Players embraced and made “snow angels” in the confetti. The Ravens had done it..they were the champions, the best team in football after a season that had times of struggle and uncertainty.
Fast forward a few weeks later, and all of those good feelings seem like a distant memory. When I say distant, I mean that Super Bowl win probably feels like it happened years ago for Raven fans, as they have endured a brutal offseason since.
It started off with Joe Flacco signing the biggest contract in NFL history. Some were worried that the Ravens and Flacco were in for a long, nasty negotiation, but many breathed a sigh of relief when the deal got done so quickly. Many fans will be quick to point out Flacco’s contract as to why the Ravens are losing so many players, but that’s not true as, Flacco taking this contract actually helped the Ravens save cap space this year. Still, despite winning the Superbowl and being the game’s MVP, a lot of fans criticized the contract, saying Flacco isn’t elite and that he got lucky. Ravens fans blew off the talk, but it will be interesting to see what kind o fresult the contract has on the team in a few years.
The 2013 offseason has been tough for fans of the Ravens. It started with the surprise trade of Anquan Boldin, whom the team sent to the 49ers for only a 6th round pick! This trade preceded the Raven’s 2012 season video the team made to celebrate its Super Bowl, in which Boldin made highlight reel catch after highlight reel catch. Flacco pointed out that Boldin was the reason the team made the Super Bowl, but now the Ravens best receiver and offensive leader is on the other side of the country.
Losing Boldin was just the beginning though. The team lost starting linebackers Paul Kruger (Browns) and Dannell Ellerbe (Dolphins). They have the potential to lose safety Ed Reed, a lifelong Raven and one of the best to play the games (he has been flirting with the Texans recently). Add in the retirements of Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk, and there are a lot of glaring holes the team suddenly has. Even more surprising was the release of hard hitting safety Bernard Pollard, who had the infamous hit on Patriots running back Stevan Ridley in the playoffs, forcing a key fumble. Ravens fans were wondering as to why Boldin was traded if the team knew Pollard would be cut, opening up some money for the team.
Now, the Ravens have a lot of holes to fill, but general Manager Ozzie Newsome deserves some credit. Give him the time and he will help shape the roster back together, either through the draft or adding smaller pieces in free agency. The Ravens are a team that consistently wins and has a chance every year, and despite having a brutal offseason, look for the Ravens to remain competitive in 2013.
However the changes are still big, and will play a role in how the 2013 season goes for Baltimore. Listening to Mike and Mike in the Morning the other day, Anquan Boldin was asked if the Ravens were losing to many players who played key roles in helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl. Boldin simply answered, “definitely.”
Raven fans got to be happy for a few days, but once the confetti was cleaned and the parades ended, it was right back to square one with the other 31 teams in the NFL, and that is getting to Superbowl 48. It truly is a quick turnaround for players and fans alike, as Super Bowl 47 is already in the rear view mirror. It is a shame fans can’t enjoy the big victory many fans dream of (like myself, a miserable Jets fan) for a long while. You win the Super Bowl, lose some players and it’s back to fans of other teams telling you that your team sucks again, despite being the champs. That is why winning the big game is bittersweet, as you get to enjoy greatness, but also all of the hardships greatness brings.