Here’s the truth: Ray Lewis propped up the Ravens franchise for the better part of a dozen seasons. He wasn’t “his own man” until that first Ravens Super Bowl win in 2001, but from that point on, he was the de facto owner of the organization. He didn’t pay the bills, but he might as well have. Like most great companies, they only go as far as their leader can take them.
Do you honestly think Ed Reed would have been as good as he was without Ray Lewis around? Would Terrell Suggs be the same defensive force, if, say, he would have gone to the Eagles instead of the Ravens and never spent a day around No. 52? Do you believe “decent” players like Bart Scott, Jarret Johnson and Adalius Thomas would have rung the mid-career cash register if they started their respective careers in Arizona, St. Louis and Tampa Bay instead of Baltimore?
More truth: Ray Lewis made those players better than they would have been had they not wound up in purple.
Those Ravens teams in the mid 2000’s, with complete scrubs like Jeff Blake, Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright at the helm…they had zero business winning football games. They won because Ray Lewis made the other fifty players good enough to overcome the horrible quarterback play. Even when aging, brittle Steve McNair showed up in 2006, the Ravens, as a team, weren’t all that much better. The former Titans QB had a decent first season in ’06, then broke down like a ’79 Ford Pinto in game one of the ’07 campaign and that was the end of the road for him. Still, that ’06 club posted a 13-3 mark and looked poised for a title run until McNair laid an egg in the playoff loss to the Colts.
With virtually no high-standard quarterback play from 2002 until 2008, the Ravens somehow remained relevant because Ray Lewis made them that way.
He’s no longer around to do that kind of work and I don’t see anyone on the club worthy of occupying Ray’s role.
Leadership in sports, business and every day life is vastly underrated. There’s no textbook for it, no matter how many Self-Help books are out there to help you “better yourself”.
You’re either a leader or you’re not.
Ray Lewis wasn’t just any leader. He was the best in his sport since 1996. No one came close.
And that’s why I think this year’s Ravens team might hover around .500.
Ray Lewis the football player will be missed far, far less than Ray Lewis the man.
In fact, as the Ravens are going to sadly find out, Ray Lewis the man can not be replaced…and their record in 2013 is going to reflect that commentary.