The Baltimore Ravens have become a model of consistency in the NFL in the John Harbaugh era. The team is not just staying competitive, they are becoming elite. They are the only team to make the playoffs in each of the last four seasons and they are getting better each year.
Not all the credit should go to Harbaugh though. The Ravens were a good team before he got here. A team that, for the most part, was competitive on a consistent basis. However the loss of key players in free agency would derail them every few years. This constant rebuilding has got to be a nightmare for a teams front office. Well, the Ravens front office seems to have found a way to combat the problem. Now the Ravens have managed to continue to develop into a better team while losing many key veteran players. Players that were once thought to be the "core" of the team on offense.
Baltimore has not had a really "bad" team in a very long while. Even before John Harbaugh became the head coach and they were in the downward spiral of the Brian Billick Era they always were competitive. Usually just because the defense was so good.
Other franchises have to "rebuild" every so often after having some competitive season but not the Ravens. The Ravens "reload" as they go. The front office is constantly bringing in new young talent. Sure there have been some duds along the way just like anywhere else but the good has far outweighed the bad. Recently it has been young players like Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Cody and Pernell McPhee. Before that it was Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and company.
The greatest thing about it is that they have managed to keep the really good ones because players truly enjoy playing here in Baltimore.
During this time there have been two main constants within the organization, Ozzie Newsome and Ray Lewis. Ozzie has done a masterful job of surrounding himself with smart, quality people in the front office and now they have the coach they want in John Harbaugh. He is perfect for this organization.
On the other end, in the locker room, you have Ray Lewis. The guy Ozzie entrusts to guide his young recruits through the process of becoming a Raven. To these men being a Raven means greatness. It means accountability. It's about part of being something special and Ray makes sure they all know that.
There is not too many more beneficial places to land in the sporting world as a rookie than the Ravens locker room. as a fan it is great to know that, most of the time, our team will find a way to get the best out of our players. Every year it makes the draft just that much more exciting knowing that chances are we will be seeing a lot of the guys we are drafting that year.
As fans we need to enjoy this time for what it is. Things will not be this way forever. One day Ray will retire and they may hang on to his inspiration for a few more years but somewhere along the line the message will get lost. Play like a Raven will not mean the same as it does now. Or at least it just wont be that special for young guys coming in and they will never learn to love the organization like we all have.
Ray Lewis is one of those people that when he is gone, the world will seem a little less special.