I was listening to a local radio show (I'd tell you which one, but I'm not sure we can plug local stuff on here) and the host brought up the fact that not only are the Ravens currently 20-20 since Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed got brief paydays by other teams before retiring, they got rid of a lot of the people who were willing to be bloody-minded about everything.
Ray Lewis might have been the inspirational heart of the team, but after a certain point, probably when he began to decline in play in about 2010, he wasn't always the most vocal of antagonists when the team was doing something he didn't agree with. There have been conflicting reports about who was involved in the "mutiny" in 2012, but most point out both Reed and Pollard were vocal critics of both scheme and then-offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, along with Harbaugh's somewhat iron-fisted coaching. It was in general not seen as a coincidence that both of them, along with others who were not the most enthusiastic cooperators, were let go.
Harbaugh has never been shy about this---he's not a so-called "player's coach," the way Billick was and the way Rex Ryan is. Harbaugh gives a fantastic speech, but really he will always have the team in mind first, the players second. Realistically that's what we want in a coach.
And realistically Lewis and Reed weren't anywhere near their peaks. They were Hall-of-Fame caliber players, yes, but in their respective twilights, at perhaps 60% of their once dominant selves. That's much of why Reed wasn't brought back: he wanted to be paid too much to basically be a defensive backs coach who could run nickel safety if needed. Lewis was even worse off.
So this is not an article about that, about how we should have kept those guys. This is not an argument that, from the perspective of a responsible general manager, Ozzie did what he could following the Super Bowl. Even Anquan Boldin, who was infamously insular and uncooperative but also a very effective player and leader, was traded away that offseason, but because of that onerous cash guarantee on his contract.
Instead I want you to consider who we've brought in since. Name the players we've brought in and kept or whose contracts have been renewed who would be described as a stereotypical Raven maybe four or five years ago. It's not a long list.
Steve Smith, Sr.
It's not a coincidence they're both popular here. They're what Ravens are supposed to be: tough, almost crazy, and not afraid of jawing a bit.
Don't get me wrong: Suggs certainly trash-talks. But that's it. He doesn't openly argue with coaches often. He's not one to rock his million-dollar boat too much.
On the other hand: Smith has said he'll quit if traded, and has not exactly been a peaceful guy in the past. The man is currently playing with broken ribs because he wants to be out there. It is a very real possibility that the coaches are afraid to bench him, because he might harm them.
Yanda, on the other hand, is relatively quiet, but has played with a variety of injuries for years, yet is still unarguably the best guard in football. He is tough, and one of the few players in the league whose gone toe to toe with J.J. Watt and come out on top. He doesn't tell the coaches what to do, but will instruct the other linemen and quietly go about his business.
Which is what it comes down to: Reed and Pollard were the crazy, loud ones. Boldin was quiet, did not mince words. Yanda, on the other hand, will quietly point out issues. So will Forsett. So will Flacco. So will Daryl Smith.
We've only got one bloody mind on the team now. He's all that's dragging along what used to be the loudest, brashest bunch east of the Mississippi. We need our bloodlust back.