Sixteen is an important number in the NFL. There are (still) sixteen games in a regular season and sixteen teams in each conference. Yesterday, the Ravens sadly finished their sixteenth season in the NFL, and this provides an excellent opportunity to review the Ravens over the course of their lifetime.
While there were only 30 teams in the NFL when the Ravens came to Baltimore, This was quickly changed as the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 and the Texans in 2002. To look at how the Ravens have performed over that time, compare them to how the 16 AFC teams are guaranteed to perform in any one season.
One AFC team will represent the conference in the Superbowl every season. The Ravens have done so once and won that game.
In addition one AFC team will make it to the AFC conference championship and lose. The Ravens have lost the AFC conference championship twice.
Four teams will win their division title and thus host a playoff game. The Ravens have won 3 division titles, and have also hosted a fourth playoff game when there were only 3 division winners.
Six teams will make the playoffs, where the Ravens have made the playoffs 8 times.
Not including the Superbowl, there will be five playoff wins in the AFC. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have won 5 playoff games in their first four seasons. Brian Billick won four more playoff games (other than the Superbowl) bringing the total to 9 playoff victories.
What is remarkable about this is that this all happened over the previous 12 seasons. The struggling team that came from Cleveland to become the Baltimore Ravens was quite terrible for their first several seasons. Ozzie Newsome and Brian Billick molded the team into something quite good, and John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have come to work with Newsome and Eric DaCosta to turn the Ravens into something remarkable. It's hard to feel like the Ravens are remarkable right now, but consider this... No other NFL team has made the playoffs the past four seasons. The Ravens have not only made the playoffs in each of those seasons, they have won a playoff game in each of those seasons. The Ravens haven't just been considerably above average over their first sixteen seasons, they have consistently gotten better.
For these reasons, I am already looking forward to a 17th season for the Ravens, a 17th season for Ray Lewis, and one that hopefully makes the team even better than this year, where they were one drop from the Superbowl.