Watching Ray Lewis as a new analyst on ESPN made me excited to see the Hall of Fame Raven back on the big screen. For his first interview, he was asked a huge question towards the end of his interview (you can watch the full interview here): who is the leader in the Ravens locker room right now?
State Of The Ravens (via ESPN)
Ray took a second, paused, and calmly said, "I don't know who the leader is." Watching Ray answer was quite the scene, as the former General and eccentric locker room leader could not say who had the torch; who was pinned on as the new four star general. Before the Denver postseason game, Ray said he told Quarterback Joe Flacco that he was now "the general" and the Ravens were "his team". However, now that Ray is officially retired, he did not claim Flacco as the sure fired leader of the team, rather, he acted confused and uncertain.
I raise this issue because the Ravens, as I stated in my earlier post "In Ozzie we Trust: The Realities of the Boldin trade and Ozzie's Crystal Ball to the Future", the Ravens are rebuilding. The champion team Ozzie Newsome built took a solid 4-5 years to mold, and this is what happens. Players contracts expire and they run to the money. Their contracts become too rich and because of the salary cap, the team is forced to make moves based on sheer business, not emotion. Newsome loves the draft, he exceeds at finding talent deep in a player that other GM's and coaches don't find. This talent isn't just on the field, but in the locker room. Electric leaders such as Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Todd Heap helped unite a team at crucial points in Ravens history.
Now the team faces losing Ed Reed, who most say had already been stepping up in the locker room before Ray left. Terrell Suggs is exciting, but lacks the maturity to take on such a role. Flacco is known as a cool, calm individual and for this team, it requires fire, emotion, and rage, to get ready for game day. With Reed visiting a Houston Texans team that flopped late last season, he could be enticed into a short, lucrative contract with a team on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl. Those old school veteran leaders all Ravens fans adored could be gone next season. Now is the time for the next General to take the helm.
Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, and Joe Flacco are those long term leaders the team needs to take the next step, not as a talent, but as a leader. The team obviously has shifted its focus to a pure offensive entity, but has neglected key defensive players almost to a fault. I have had many say I am negating key pieces of the defense. I recognize that Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown are corners on the team...yet neither would start number 1 or 2 in my eyes. Corey Graham is older, still solid, but older, and the team will lack depth at Safety if Reed leaves. Inside and middle linebacker are void and a solid nose tackle still lacks.
All of these holes were the leaders of the team. Now the Ravens new identity requires new leadership. Lewis cannot find the next General to take the torch and quite frankly nor can I. A mature locker room presence has always been key to this team and now I see a lot of followers rather than a "follow me!" leader.