The big question in the offseason was whether or not the Ravens would be able to replace what they lost.
Media and fans questioned whether the Ravens had enough of a core to continue being one of the best organizations in football. Questions abound about losing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and how they would replace their attributes on and off the field.
The questions and criticism got louder after the Ravens were blown out in the second half against Denver.
Leadership crisis on!
But, in just two weeks, everything changed. The Ravens won two games in a row without allowing a touchdown. Ray Lewis’ replacement even scored a touchdown while Lewis was on the sideline.
Leadership crisis off!
But an off-field issue brought things back to square one. Most pundits laughed at Sweet Pea and really didn’t have a whole lot to say about the incident other than harkening back to Bryant McKinnie’s days on the high seas. One pundit, however, did not laugh it off.
That person was Ray Lewis.
Lewis questioned the team’s leadership and implied there was something going on in the locker room. This brought some negative press to the Ravens, but in the end this is the best thing that could have happened.
The best thing that could happen to this team is to create distance between themselves and Lewis. Not forever, but just for now. The Ravens are still too close to the Super Bowl to have Ray as part of the "leadership equation." As Torrey Smith put it, "Ray is a member of the media." If Lewis was a coach this would be a different story, but he isn’t. He is paid to talk about the NFL.
This type of "feud" between Ray and the team is a great thing for fans and players. This couldn’t have happened any better. I am not condoning what occurred in the Nation’s Capital on Sunday night/Monday morning, but it actually helped this team to move on.
In three weeks, the Ravens have celebrated the Super Bowl, had the Ray Lewis ceremony and the team and city have moved on from him for the time being. The haste in which this was done has helped fans and players look forward. Daryl Smith’s pick-six certainly helped as well.
The team was presented with a challenge by their former leader last Monday night. A challenge where it’s past and future clashed. The team handled it like every Ravens fan hoped that they would, they stuck together and became stronger.
Would you expect anything different from a John Harbaugh coached team? Lewis is someone who will always be a part of the organization as a whole. He embodied what it means to be a Raven, but this year and these guys need to move on and I think this is a good step. A team cannot let new leaders lead until the old leaders are out of the door.
Maybe Lewis made those comments about leadership to bring the team together. The scenario seems unlikely as Lewis did not back off his comments. Lewis was a guest on Mike & Mike in the morning and, for some reason, brought the entire league into it. Ray said he was talking about an NFL wide issue, continued to talk about the Ravens leadership and added some personal experiences.
He added that when he was 24 and 25, he would call Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson before he would go out. The two elder statesmen would either go with him or tell him not to go. I find this scenario incredibly hard to believe. 25-year-olds are that age for a reason. The Ravens have already moved on, but in the media world, I guess you are supposed to stir the pot at least one more time.
In the end, I don’t completely blame Lewis for this. ESPN is paying him a lot of money and if he can’t talk negatively about the Ravens in a negative situation, then he can’t be on TV.
Ray was put in an awkward spot and he couldn’t just brush it off as he was their teammate just months ago. To my memory, this is the first time someone this high profile has gone from the field right to ESPN. I know they have some Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, but not a face of the franchise type guy. Ray is still learning the ropes and hopefully he will learn to toe the line between former Raven and pundit.
All in all, I think this was a week full of progress. It started on Sunday with the Ravens retiring Ray Lewis into the Ring of Honor, which was a special moment. The week continued with a clash (in the media) between the current and former Ravens making the 2013 Ravens bond stronger.
It will end with yet another clash on the field. The best way for the Ravens to put this thing to bed is to beat Buffalo. John Harbaugh spoke all off-season about needing to move on from last season. Three weeks and I think they are already there.