Ravens Are Not an Elite NFL Franchise

January 17, 2008 |

There’s a perception in Baltimore, certain media members included, that the Ravens head coaching position is among the “elite” jobs in the NFL and therefore should be much coveted.  It’s not.  I realize I’m setting myself up for nasty comments about my loyalty to the city, my intelligence and my sheer existence but I think we have to put Jason Garrett’s decision to forego the job in proper perspective.

Sometime in the next two or three years, Garrett is going to get the head coaching job in Dallas.  This is the team for which he played many years. He lived there.  He and his family know Dallas well.  And it’s an organization that, like it or not, is among the tops in the league.  From Tom Landry, through Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells, the Cowboys are synonymous with legendary coaches and sustained excellence.    Not to mention, Jerry Jones has packages!  He’ll pay Garrett, a first year head coach, an enormous sum of money to coach “America’s Team”.  I would imagine this is the gig Garrett wanted all along.

When you speak of the NFL’s elite, you speak of Dallas, Green Bay, Chicago, Miami, the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Because of their size or historical antecedents, the stature of these teams seems to rise above the rest of the league. The New York Giants and Chicago Bears play in the two largest NFL cities in America and trace their lineage back to the dawn of pro football.  Green Bay, although a tiny place, gave us Lambeau field and Vince Lombardi.  The Miami Dolphins- a much younger franchise- still gave America Shula, the “Perfect season” and Dan Marino.  The Steelers have Chuck Knoll, the Seventies, Art Rooney and that whole “Steel Curtain” thing.  You might even add the Oakland Raiders to the list except they’re terrible and, lately, have been going through coaches the way Carla Bruni goes through men.  Other honorable mentions might include Minnesota, San Francisco, Denver, Washington and New England.

Baltimore’s second NFL franchise has only been in existence for 12 years and in that time the Ravens have managed one Super Bowl victory (an impressive achievement for sure) as well as a small handful of playoff appearances.  There’s no history in Baltimore these days and, sadly, Baltimore’s reign as an elite NFL city ended the day the Mayflower vans showed up in Owings Mills.  The good news is that the Indianapolis Colts are not an elite franchise either.  Both teams, along with the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals are almost perceived as expansion franchises and belong in the category with Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Carolina.

The Cleveland Browns were smart for building a new legacy through expansion.  Nothing’s tainted.  The rich tradition of football in Cleveland was merely stunted for a few years. This puts them a step above the teams I just mentioned.

Baltimore’s time will come.  But right now, with too many undisciplined players who never met a microphone they didn’t like and an owner who offered the previous coach a four year contract extension and then, one dismal season later, woke up and fired the guy, is this really the place to begin your head coaching career?  Jason Garrett didn’t think so.  He’d rather be in Dallas.

Now, with all that said, I hope Garrett goes 1-15 for three years straight and gets drummed out of the league.