Please welcome the next edition of "Ravens' History". This installment talks about football returning to Baltimore after it was stripped away by Bob Irsay. I hope you all enjoy this edition and learn a little bit more about this very history-rich city.
(More after the "Jump")
The people of Baltimore originally wanted to rename the newly acquired franchised the "Baltimore Colts" but this act would violate legal copyrights placed around the franchise's name. So, Art Modell decided to hold a poll, giving the people of Maryland over 200 options of what could be the team's new name. In a fan contest, the people of Maryland unanimously decided to rename the new team the "Baltimore Ravens". The name of the team originates from Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven". Poe spent many of his last years of life in Baltimore, and is also buried here. The Baltimore Ravens would begin playing at the beginning of the 1996 regular NFL season.
The Ravens adopted old Memorial Stadium for its first two years as a franchise, but poor conditions of the stadium led to the eventual construction of what is now M&T Bank Stadium. In the 1996 NFL Draft, the Ravens had two picks in the first round, and with those two picks, they picked two players that went on to have Hall of Fame worthy careers. They drafted offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden 4th overall, and linebacker Ray Lewis at #26 overall.
In 1996, the Baltimore Ravens won their opening game against the Oakland Raiders 19-14. However, they would not maintain winning for long, as they finished the season with a 4-12 record. The 1997 season would bring another disappointing season, with a 6-9-1 record. But this season was a sign that the Ravens were improving, two games, but an improvement nonetheless. The 1998 season looked promising, the Ravens brought in Rod Woodson, the best cornerback in the league at the time, and for the first time in 15 years, the Indianapolis Colts and owner Jim Irsay would return to Baltimore for a home game against the Ravens. The Ravens beat the much hated Colts 38-31, but flopped the rest of the season by finishing 6-10.
After three straight losing seasons under head coach Ted Marchibroda, the Ravens were determined to become better. The aggravated Ravens fired Marchibroda, and brought in the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator, Brian Billick to be their new head coach. He had a 85-67 record in nine seasons with the Vikings, going 5-3 in the playoff. But his winning resume was not the only reason this was good for the Ravens, because they has a poor offense, and they brought in the coach that led the #1 offense Vikings for the previous two seasons. This meant that the Ravens now had the ability to open up their offense.
The Ravens struggled early in the 1999 season, starting 3-6, but managed to win six of the next eight games, finishing with an 8-8 record. Due to a financial drought, the NFL urged Modell sell his franchise. On March 27, 2000, NFL owners approved the sale of 49% of the Ravens to Baltimore-native Steve Bisciotti. This move kept the struggling Ravens franchise alive.
It now seemed as if the Ravens would never win. And made fans wonder if the Ravens could be a team they invest their love in as they previously did with the Colts. That would soon change.
(More to follow in "Ravens' History: Part 6")