Monday, December 15, 2008

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

A little late on the post, but Lauryn and ventured back to the Charm City during Thanksgiving week and made a stop at M&T Bank Stadium for some good ol fashioned Ravens stuffing - stuffing the run that is - against the Philadelphia Eagles.

We started the day in familiar surroundings as we walked the field during pre-game, making stops to see coaches, security guards, front office executives and RaveTV crew members that we had spent many a season with. We also had Lauryn's parents with us this time around and we made sure to pose for a quick picture before heading up to the stands to fans!

The pre-game introducts were still as pyrotechnic as ever, complete with a Nelly-soundtracked entrence for #52. The game itself breezed buy, with little offense in the first half, but a whole lot of purple and black on D, enough to kick Donovoan McNabb to the curb in the 2nd half. Lauryn and I were in the control room as the 3rd quarter began and we all were shocked to see that #5 was hiding in a winter coat on the sidelines. Of course his replacement, Kevin Kolb, did not fare so well against Ray, Reed and T-Sizzle so the game did not prove to be the end of the DNabb era, but Baltimore did win big to give us at least something to be thankful for.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Chef?

The sport blog godfather himself, Bill Simmons, gave a nod to the Ravens in his Friday column and the topic was a suggested nickname for #5. I can't argue with his choice (see below) but I'd like to submit a few suggestions myself: Flacc Jacket, Flaccido Domingo, Joe-Fla, or my personal favorite, FlaccJacks. What do you think

Here's Simmons' take:

You know, I enjoyed Joe Flacco's work last week -- his teammates responded to him and so did the fans. But he needs a nickname. Joe Flacco makes him sound too much like a chef. Couldn't you see him starring in "Cooking with Joe Flacco" or "Joe Flacco's Barbecue Extravaganza" on the Food Network? So that got me thinking … couldn't his nickname be "The Chef?" For one thing, again, he sounds like a chef. As far as I can tell, nobody in sports has ever had the nickname "Chef" before, and it kinda makes sense for a quarterback since he's the one who has to cook all the ingredients, so to speak. Plus, we've only had one other "Chef" -- the Chef from "South Park" -- and that couldn't have worked out any better. So that's my vote: The Chef, Joe Flacco. But I'm willing to hear any and all suggestions.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Speechless (+ golf clap)

I don't know whether to applaud or not.

Monday, September 08, 2008


We were spoiled.

Lauryn and I may have moved from the National Football League to the National Pastime this summer, but our passion for the men in purple came with us. For the first time since we moved to California, the NFL was in full swing on Sunday and we took in the action on SIRIUS Satellite Radio in the car, at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood,and on in my office. And when the game ended just as Clayton Kershaw was throwing his first pitch, we came to realize a few things about the Ravens:

1. "Let's Go Flac-co" is not going anywhere anytime soon
2. Ray Rice is lucky that fumble didn't cost Joe and Coach Harbaugh their first victories
3. The defense still can dominate and sure has fun doing it
4. Carson Palmer was not a good fantasy football selection (I passed on D-Nabb to take him!)
5. The terms, 'naked bootleg' and 'double reverse' had to be dusted off the shelves at the Baltimore Sun
6. Nothing can compare to watching the game from the sidelines

So although Lauryn and I now spend our gamedays at Dodger Stadium, we'll still be rooting for the Ravens this season, pinning our hopes on the former Delaware Blue Hen. We may be 3,000 miles away, but the Flacco fan club has a Los Angeles affiliate that I'd like to officially name "Flacctopia" -- t-shirts coming soon to a blog near you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ray Didn't Even Visit Us

Apparently Ray Lewis was in Los Angeles recently, and he didn't even look Lauryn and I up. Turns out, he was only a few minutes away as he tried to get into a club with Ray Allen. Unfortunately for #52, the Celtic sharp-shooter isn't that popular in SoCal these days after Boston took out the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The result? They both got denied from a club called "One Sunset".

Here's the 'story'.

Here's the club.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh Really...

The Lukin's leave for LA and all of a sudden there's a chance Brett Favre could join the purple and black, putting them in prime contention for a Super Bowl run. Oh really...although with Peyton and Brady in his way, Favre may opt for the welterweight division and try to stay in the NFC. Even so, the Ravens, in contrast to the odds for SBXLIII listed in my last post, have an 8-1 shot of landing the legend (according to ESPN). Only the Bucs and Panthers apparently appear to be better fits. Oh really!!!!

8-1 Baltimore Ravens: This could be a real possibility if Favre really wants to play this season. Baltimore is a decent team in need of a quarterback. Sure, the Ravens took Delaware QB Joe Flacco in the first round of the April draft. But no one would blame the Ravens for holding off on the Flacco era in favor of Favre for a year or two. If Favre wants to come back, Baltimore could be a place to consider.

Not so fast, however. Favre may be the type to hold grudges. And I'm sure this memory won't help any. Not only that, Aaron Rodgers actually saw some playing time towards the end of that game will Brett stewed on the sidelines. Bet you didn't think you'd see Favre and Boller share the masthead again. To be continued...

Friday, July 11, 2008

75-1? announced their odds of winning Super Bowl XLIII and the Ravens are considered a 75-1 longshot at flying home from Tampa with the Lombardi Trophy. That's the same odds as the Rams and just slightly better than the Lions?!!? (Sorry Mike) But the real quesiton is how the Cardinals and Raiders could be given a better chance? Is it really going to be that long of a season?


Arizona Cardinals * 50 - 1
Atlanta Falcons * 100 - 1
Baltimore Ravens * 75 - 1
Buffalo Bills * 50 - 1
Carolina Panthers * 40 - 1
Chicago Bears * 35 - 1
Cincinnati Bengals * 60 - 1
Cleveland Browns * 25 - 1
Dallas Cowboys * 6 - 1
Denver Broncos * 50 - 1
Detroit Lions * 80 - 1
Green Bay Packers * 25 - 1
Houston Texans * 60 - 1
Indianapolis Colts * 7 - 1
Jacksonville Jaguars * 12 - 1
Kansas City Chiefs * 100 - 1
Miami Dolphins * 90 - 1
Minnesota Vikings * 18 - 1
New England Patriots * 7 - 2
New Orleans Saints * 20 - 1
New York Giants * 15 - 1
New York Jets * 35 - 1
Oakland Raiders * 50 - 1
Philadelphia Eagles * 20 - 1
Pittsburgh Steelers * 14 - 1
Saint Louis Rams * 75 - 1
San Diego Chargers * 7 - 1
San Francisco 49ers * 80 - 1
Seattle Seahawks * 25 - 1
Tampa Bay Buccanneers * 40 - 1
Tennessee Titans * 40 - 1
Washington Redskins * 50 - 1

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Great Divide

There is an unwritten rule among those in the sports media that is universally accepted from Syracuse to San Francisco, Biloxi to Baltimore. A code of conduct that has not only dictated the coverage of both collegiate and professional athletics, but one that has managed to create a gaping hole in ideology between the two main constituencies of sport. The mandate, which has spawned both books and blog postings of the same title, reads something like this (remember, it is unwritten): no cheering in the press box.

It is this underlying law that has proceeded to divide those that cover the games, and those that consume them. It is this philosophy, I believe, that has helped give rise to the battle between bloggers and beat writers and one that was clearly prevalent in a recent media report on the new Ravens regime under new head coach, John Harbaugh. The story correctly pointed out the changes instilled by Harbaugh during his first few months in office and the writer seemed to appreciate the disciplinary tone Harbaugh has brought to the table. However, the divide between the media and the Ravens fan base was made abundantly clear in the following statement:

“I applauded when Harbaugh canned the TV show, Ravens Wired. The only thing more contrived and scripted was pro wrestling.”

Full disclosure. I am not only a contributing blogger for, but I have worked as a production assistant for the RaveTV crew that produces Wired and my wife is the lead editor and a producer for the show. That being said, I contest that not only does the report shine on a light on the great divide, but the statement is just not true.

First of all, Wired was not scripted. I spent more than 30 games listening from the players’ perspectives and have never seen any member of the Ravens organization or RaveTV crew hand a script to a player. Nor have any players written a script prior to their appearance. It is unscripted drama at its finest: every snap a chance to score, every man on a mission. And the microphone gives fans a chance to watch it all unfold as if they were lined up behind center. It must be a decent idea considering every Sunday Night and Monday Night telecast now features at least one wired player, while the NFL Network has even broadcast entire games with as many as 12 men on the field wearing the mic.

I will concede that a player knows when he will be wired and may be prone to talking more, or less as they case may be, when he is being recorded. But the beauty of Wired was the ability to give fans, not the press, an otherwise unknown glimpse into the action on the field. A show for the fans that this columnist apparently ‘applauded’ when he learned of its cancellation. Is he hoping fans become less engaged with a team that went 5-11 last year? Did he think that Wired was causing fans to become too attached to a particular player? Did he forget that just about every telecast already has about a dozen cameras and microphones covering the game for the network and NFL Films ensuring the players’ words and actions are being seen by millions? Does he really think the extra 50,000 Baltimore fans listening in would force a player to lose focus?

Why should the media be allowed to hear what the players have to say after the game, but fans should be banned from listening to what was said during the game itself? I contest that the reactionary quotes during post-game press conferences are far more ‘scripted’ than the sound bytes recorded during the game when players know that their statements are being recorded by at least a dozen voice recorders and a handful of cameras. How else to explain the fact that when a coach actually goes ‘off-script’ after a game, he not only ends up on YouTube, but a Coors Light commercial awaits him in the future.

It may sound like I am pulling a sentence out of context and portraying the statement as if it were the headline. Sound familiar? But know that I am not writing this story to convince or even suggest that Coach Harbaugh bring the show back. This is his team and his prerogative. What I will say is that the reporter’s take on the subject sheds a light on the long-standing gap between the media and the masses. Wired is a show for the fans. A show that has not only received praise from those who support the purple and black, but from those that award such work. The RaveTV team was awarded an Emmy for an episode of Wired from the 2006 season, which presented a game from Jonathan Ogden’s point of view. Subsequently, they were nominated for another Emmy this year for a 2007 episode that focused on former Ravens head coach, Brian Billick (Emmy’s to be awarded in June). In essence, the reporters’ peers have continued to honor the show, while he fires empty ammunition.

I even have some, albeit brief experience on the matter. I offer two anecdotes related to the rule that will leave you in no doubt as to why I blog rather than cover a beat. The first occurred during my sophomore year at Syracuse University. As a second year staff writer for The Daily Orange, I earned a chance to report on the big boys on campus (i.e. the football team) after spending my first year toiling away on the track and field beat. I was assigned a profile story on one of the Orangemen and was asked to watch the game from the press box, before venturing into the locker room after the game to get a few interviews for my piece. During the first quarter of play, the Orange got on the board with a long scoring play. I did what any sports fan would do – I clapped. Blasphemy! I received a few stares and gawking glances before my Sports Editor calmly informed me that clapping (i.e. cheering) was frowned upon in the press box.

Cut to 2006. As previously mentioned, I have worked with the RaveTV crew for the past two seasons and during an early season trip to Cleveland, I found myself on the field as Matt Stover lined up to kick a game-winning field goal. I was perched in the end zone as the ball flied through the up-rights, at which point I proceeded to lift my arms up in victory, fist pumping during my sprint back to the bench to catch the reaction shots from the team.

Now, how would you react? If you are reading this, I can only assume you are a fan of the Ravens and would have joined me in my jubilation. In addition, I bet you would have loved to hear what our wired Raven that week, Todd Heap, would have said to Stover upon his return to the bench. Come to think of it, I bet the media would too.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Flacco Drops Back to Pass

Well it didn't take long for Joe Flacco to take the reigns of the Ravens quarterback position, at least according to the techies at EA Sports. With Leather has screen shots from Madden '09 of many of the top draft picks from this weekend's draft. Among the photos is a shot of Flacco calmly dropping back to pass at M&T Bank Stadium and perhaps a sign of things to come, a preview of the Cincinnati Bengal's top pick, Keith Rivers, sacking Kyle Boller in the snow. Unless the Charm City receives some unseasonably cold weather week 1, this would have to be a prediction for their November 30th match-up in Cinncy. Which begs the question, is Joe Flacco truly the QB of the future (i.e. 2009)?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Refresh Your Memory

Memories are not written in pencil. They cannot be erased.

They can be ignored. Selectively misremembered. And over time, even forgotten. But just four months removed from the final snaps of 2007, the memories of a 5-11 season should still have been fresh in the minds of RavensNation: the Phil Dawson double-doink; the Patriots 4th and forever; the Dolphin disaster. All marquee moments for all the wrong reasons that should have been stewing and simmering in their subconscious all winter long. But judging by the thousands of Ravens faithful that made their way to M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday for the 11th Annual Spring Football Festival, I have a feeling they forgot. Or maybe misremembered.

From the moment the gates opened at 2:00, fans of all ages raced through the concourse, seemingly sprinting away from all of the perils the men in purple faced last year, reaching out for what lies ahead for the Ravens in 2008. Children ran towards the field for a rare chance to punt, pass and kick on the same surface they now shared with their gridiron heroes. Adults ran towards the various autograph areas to be the first in line to meet the men they root for; not only to have them sign their memorabilia, but in many cases, to simply shake their hand and wish them luck this year.

As a Spring Football Festival Volunteer, I had the honor of escorting one of the Ravens in attendance to his various appearances and autograph sessions. I choose to chauffer Adam Terry, a fellow Orange alum, who was scheduled to sign and make a stop in to see those fans giving blood as part of a blood drive for the Red Cross. Luckily for me, Terry arrived early and we had some time to relax. And if you had the choice of anywhere in the stadium to kick up your feet for a few minutes, where would you choose? The owner’s suite of course.

The players were granted access to Steve Biscotti’s suite on Saturday and when I arrived, I found myself watching the NFL Draft coverage with a few guys who knew a thing or two about being drafted on day one: Todd Heap and Willis McGahee. Of course Matt Stover was there too and he jokingly told Heap and McGahee that he was just three picks short of earning the title, Mr. Irrelevant, given to the guy drafted last each year. I think Matt turned out okay for a 12th rounder.

Once the Ravens in the room realized the Ravens in Owings Mills were going to trade down from their 8th pick, Terry and I headed to the autograph zone where he was joined by Lee Vickers. Terry, an offensive lineman, joked to Vickers, a back-up tight end, “You’ll get three fans, I’ll get six.” As it turns out, they both signed more than a hundred signatures in varying shades of sharpie on items ranging from helmets and footballs to license plates, pennants and even t-shirts people were still wearing. A few fans also had jerseys for the guys to sign, although surprisingly none were their jerseys. The collection included a vintage Vinny Testaverde, a purple Kelly Gregg and even a pink Todd Heap.

The fans filing through also had time to take photos and talk it up with the guys behind the table. Among the conversations Terry tackled was one with a young boy who had Terry sign his football, only to ask, “Who’s that?” as he pointed at the freshly minted signature in black sharpie. Terry responded, “That’s Adam Terry right there. You don’t know who he is.” Terry added with a smile, “But you will.”

Speaking of guys you may not know (yet), Saturday’s festivities revolved around another cause for renewed optimism as the Draft was in full swing as fans roamed the stadium. The topic of the day appeared to be the potential of a new quarterback coming to the Charm City. And in a conversation I overheard while waiting in line for hot dogs confirmed, Ravens fans have a way with moving on:

Hot Dog Line Guy #1 – “Looks like [Matt] Ryan’s going to Atlanta.”
Hot Dog Line Guy #2 – “Is that confirmed?”
Hot Dog Line Guy #1 – “It’s what they’re reporting.”
Hot Dog Line Guy #2 – “ Okay…[Joe] Flacco then, right?”
Hot Dog Line Guy #1 – “Yea, you don’t want to pay that much money to a quarterback anyway.”

Just like that. It took 3 ellipses (…) to forget about one potential face of the franchise and start rooting for a slightly taller one, with some logic thrown in. Of course Ryan would be taken by Atlanta with the 3rd pick in the draft, evoking a chorus of “Boos!” and “No’s!” on the club level, and eventually Flacco was picked by Baltimore, which received cheers across the stadium and most likely made the hot dog guys feel pretty good too.

Although the draft dominated the SmartVision video, additional performers on Saturday included Baltimore’s Marching Ravens, the Ravens Cheerleading squad and the Ravens Playmakers, all of whom drew their fair share of crowds and onlookers. It’s worth noting that the fans who flocked to meet and greet the women who root for the Ravens included men, women and most of all, children.

The kids out on the field, however, provided their own entertainment. At one drill, kids practiced passing routes: out-routes, curls and apparently, ‘twists’. This was typically the result of a boy or girl running too fast for their own feet as they routinely performed full 360-degree rotations when they tried to stop themselves and turn to catch the ball. Another tactic that proved entertaining, if not effective, was performed by one boy who was no taller than the waist of the SFF Volunteer throwing the passes. The boy sprinted to a spot downfield, turned and almost begging for the ball, held up his outstretched arms. The problem, unfortunately, was when the ball flew towards him, the arms stayed straight, resulting in a bounce off the chest, up in the air, and down to the ground. But fitting for a Ravens fan, even a young one, the memory faded fast as he sprinted back to the sideline with a smile.

For RavensNation, the dawn of spring allows us to not only refresh our memories, but to replace them. Let’s hope this year’s are written in sharpie.

2008 NFL Draft Blog - Live

Okay, I'm a little late to the party as I spent all of day 1 of the 2008 NFL Draft working for the Ravens at their 11th Annual Spring Football Festival. I may have missed the chance to blog the big picks live, but I did get to watch some of the coverage in Steve Biscotti's suite alongside Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, Matt Stover and Adam Terry. So don't feel too bad for me. (Editor's Note: My SFF recap will be posted in the next day or two.)

I'll recap the first two picks quick and I'll try to add links and video throughout the day:

1. Joe Flacco - QB, Delaware (Rd 1, No. 18)
The Ravens rumors went back and forth as the draft began, with Sal Pal reporting that Baltimore was looking to trade up to #2 to get Matt Ryan. Apparently the Rams wanted too much and the Ravens decided to move down the line instead, trading with the Jaguars and settling into the 26 slot. But that wasn't enough as the Ravens brass in the war room wanted to make sure they got their guy, so after trading back up to 18 with the Texans, the Ravens made a Blue Hen the new face of the Baltimore franchise.

2. Ray Rice - RB, Rutgers (Rd 2, No. 55)
Finally, Ray Rice is on my team. Let me explain. Four years ago, Rice had committed to play his college football in Central New York at my alma mater, Syracuse University. But the 'Cuse fired their head coach before what would have been Rice's frosh season, Paul Pasqualoni, after years of mediocrity. Rice reversed course and chose Rutgers, leading the Scarlet Knights to national prominence for the first time in 30 years.

Now on to day 2 and after all their maneuvering on the first day of the draft, the Ravens have 9 picks today. 9! It's time to build a team.

3. Tavares Gooden - LB, Miami (Rd 3, No. 71)
Another #52 from Miami. Could lighting strike twice? The ESPN crew pointed out that most of the Ravens current linebacking core are entering the final contract year and Gooden is a good bet to add depth and possibly start in his sophomore season.

4. Tom Zbikowski - S, Notre Dame (Rd 3, No. 86)
The boxer! Zbikowski is actually an amateur boxer, but he was also the heart and soul of Notre Dame the last few years, regardless of the team's record. His all out hustle and hard hits made him a man to avoid if you were playing against the Irish.

5. Oniel Cousins - G, UTEP (Rd 3, No. 99)
I've never heard of this guy. But how many guards do you really know in the NFL Draft? In fact, how many guards do you know who are actually in the NFL and not on your favorite team. It's a lackluster position, but the NFL Network guys describe Cousins as "mean" and another "Harbaugh guy". Well, I couldn't find any YouTube clips for Cousins, but here are some 2007 UTEP highlights - I'm sure he played a role in some of those runs.

6. Marcus Smith - WR, New Mexico (Rd 4, No. 106)
A tough wide receiver who also excels on special teams sounds about right for Harbaugh and for the Ravens. Although Mason, Clayton and Williams comprise a sound triumvirate of wide outs, the one knock on all of them have been their ability to go up and catch the tough pass in traffic. This guy is strong and finished among the top ten in the bench press among wide receivers at the 2008 Combine. No video on Smith either, but here is some soothing footage of the 2006 Albuquerque International Balloon Festival.

7. **TRADE** The Ravens traded their 2nd pick of the 4th round (No. 125 overall) to the Oakland Radiers for CB Fabian Washington.

8. David Hale - OT, Weber State (Rd 4, No. 133)
Another offensive lineman, another name you and I didn't know until now. But take a look at his profile photo on - can you say Tony Pashos 2.0?

9. Haruki Nakamura - FS, Cincinnati (Rd 6, No. 206)

It took a while, but after watching 72 guys go off the board, the Ravens finally had a chance to make another selection. Their choice? Haruki Nakamura, another hard-hitting safety with a nose for the ball and work-ethic worthy of a special teams slot for Coach Harbaugh.

10. Justin Harper - WR, Virgina Tech (Rd 7, No. 215)
Another wide receiver for the Ravens whose height, 6'4" was probably the most important stat to focus on in the war room. On the same team as Eddie Royal, its only fitting that his most memorable play in college was caused by Royal in the 2008 Orange Bowl:

11. Allen Patrick - RB, Oklahoma (Rd 7, No. 240)
The final pick for the Ravens in the 2008 NFL Draft was the back-up at OU to the breakout start of the 2007 Draft, Adrian Peterson. Patrick split time with AD in '06 and served as the featured back for the Sooners in '07. One can only hope he still keeps Peterson on speed dial to get some advice on how to handle defensive fronts in the NFL.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

McNair to Retire

A 1pm press conference has been scheduled for today to announce the retirement of Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Steve McNair. Earlier this year, new Ravens Head Coach, Jon Harbaugh, announced that McNair would enter training camp as the starter. Now what?

With just quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Troy Smith on the roster, it seems likely that Baltimore will be scouting for a new signal caller next weekend during the NFL Draft. Matt Ryan is the #1QB in the field, but if he's not around when the Ravens are put on the clock to make the 8th pick of the day, the most likely scenario would be that Baltimore would use their 2nd round pick to solidify the position. The candidates would then include Louisville's Brian Brohm, Delaware's Joe Flacco (Yes, Delaware), and maybe even Michigan's Chad Henne or University of San Diego's Josh Johnson.

Of course Harbaugh could be on the phone with his friends from Philly right now asking about D-Nabb - this Orange alum could only dream - but today certainly signifies a changing of the guard for the purple and black. We'll miss you Steve. High five! (see below)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Any Given Sunday, Plus One Saturday and a Monday

Good thing we finished last.

The 2008 NFL schedules were released on Tuesday and the line-up did not offer too many surprises for the Ravens as their opponents for the upcoming season were set on New Year’s Eve. And although we are lined up against two of the most competitive divisions in the league, the AFC South and NFC East, not to mention the internal battles in the AFC North, it could have been worse. Just ask the Steelers, whose Division Champion hats and t-shirts also included a free trip to New England and a visit from the Chargers in 2008. Not the most appealing parting gifts.

And don’t expect the Dawg Pound’s frowning faces to change much after seeing that their first 10-win season since re-entering the NFL earned them a Thursday night battle with the Broncos, along with a trip to Buffalo in November for a Monday Night game. That’s ‘night’ as in no sun and abundance of chill in the air.

As for the Ravens, their last place finish resulted in a return trip to Miami along with a visit from the Raiders. The mantra of the NFL is ‘Any Given Sunday’ but spending an October afternoon under the Florida sunshine sounds slightly more attractive than a night fight fought within the swirling winds off Lake Erie. Apparently the Bills don’t love the weather at the Ralph all that much either as they will play a home game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto for their first of five regular season games to be played at the home of the CFL’s Argonauts. Appropriately, they will take on the Dolphins, who inaugurated the NFL’s London experiment last season. (The Chargers and Saints will play across the pond on October 26th this year.)

Among the marquee match-ups for the men in purple and black this season is a pre-Thanksgiving squabble with Coach Harbaugh’s former flock from Philly. The Eagles come to the Charm City on November 23rd, just one week after the Ravens battle the Super Bowl Champion Giants in New York. The NFC East tour is completed with a battle of the beltway’s played in Baltimore on December 7th against the Redskins and a Saturday Night prime-time match up with the Dallas Cowboys in what will be the last regular season game played in Texas Stadium (Fitting, considering the Ravens are the only current NFL team never to have played there). Regardless of how the Ravens fare during the first nine weeks of the season, they will be sure to play a role in the fortunes of at least one division as they take on all NFC East foes after week 10.

The Ravens are also scheduled to make at least one more appearance with a national audience watching as they once again travel to play Pittsburgh under the lights on a Monday night. Last year, the Steelers stung quick, scoring 5 touchdowns in a swampy first half that ended in a 38-7 defeat. But unlike 2007, the Men of Steel wont have their 75th Anniversary team looking on as they did last November. Seeing Jerome Bettis, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann outside the locker room before the game sure made me nervous.

The Ravens will close out the regular season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It should be a competitive game with former Ravens defensive coach Jack Del Rio bringing his surging Jags to town; however, the day will belong to a few other former Baltimore footballers as December 28th will mark the 50th Anniversary of The Greatest Game Ever Played. The 1958 NFL Title Game was played in Yankee Stadium and saw Johnny Unitas lead the Baltimore Colts over the New York Giants to win the Championship. The magnitude of the game was amplified by the fact that the title tilt was the first football championship to be nationally televised, the after-effects of which are still evident today with games across the border and across the Atlantic.

On the surface, the 2008 Ravens schedule appears competitive, yet balanced, with only one pair of back-to-back away games (Indianapolis – 10/12 and Miami – 10/19) and based on last year’s records, an easier first-half to ease our way into the season. Of course that was the prominent sentiment among fans and the media last spring as well. So back to the NFL mantra, on Any Given Day, defeat is just a bounce off the crossbar away. This year, let’s just hope the bounces go our way.

2008 Ravens Schedule
1 Sept. 7 Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m.
2 Sept. 14 at Houston Texans 4:15 p.m.
3 Sept. 21 Cleveland Browns 4:15 p.m.
4 Sept. 29 (Mon.) at Pittsburgh Steelers 8:30 p.m.
5 Oct. 5 Tennessee Titans 1 p.m.
6 Oct. 12 at Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m.
7 Oct. 19 at Miami Dolphins 1 p.m.
8 Oct. 26 Oakland Raiders 1 p.m.
9 Nov. 2 at Cleveland Browns 1 p.m.
10 Nov. 9 Bye
11 Nov. 16 at New York Giants 1 p.m.
12 Nov. 23 Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m.
13 Nov. 30 at Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m.
14 Dec. 7 Washington Redskins 1 p.m.
15 Dec. 14 Pittsburgh Steelers 1 p.m.
16 Dec. 20 (Sat.) at Dallas Cowboys 8:15 p.m.
17 Dec. 28 Jacksonville Jaguars 1 p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ghost of Draft Day's Past

Who am I?

While reviewing the Baltimore's Sun's photo archives from all 12 Ravens draft classes, I came upon this photo of a wide-eyed gun-slinger from the Pacific Northwest. He seems harmless enough, with a cockeyed grin and numberless jersey. But the 6th round pick would come back to haunt Baltimore football fans, and the rest of the NFL, as he played his way into an improbable Pro Bowl nod and a new $26 million contract. Oh, what could have been...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Next Brother Up

You may have read the stellar career statistics for our newest Baltimore Raven, Brendon Ayanbadejo: 124 special teams tackles; 4 forced fumbles; 2 fumble recoveries. You may also be aware that he was named to his second straight Pro Bowl in 2007 as a special teams ace. But what you probably haven’t heard is that Brendon was recently a guest security guard on The Jerry Springer Show; shaves his chest; teaches kids football on his day’s off; has better looking toes than his brother Obafemi; and can do a scary impersonation of Serena Williams.

I couldn’t make that stuff up and if you don’t believe me, there’s proof. That’s because Brendon and his big brother Femi - who also happened to be on the Ravens 2000 Super Bowl squad - star in their own reality TV show, airing right now at

The website is home to more than a dozen episodes showcasing the life and times of Brendon and Femi Ayanbadejo, brothers who have both played in the NFL. But don’t expect any Wired clips or highlight reels; the shows are strictly a window into their worlds off the field. The opening credits confirm it as they read, “These are the Adventures…Of Two Brothers in the NFL…Off the Field. Brother Up.”

The phrase ‘Brother Up’ sounds kind of cool if you don’t think about the grammar for too long, however, the show was originally called Bears Brothers, but things didn’t quite work out as the brothers planned. The show began in the Summer of 2007 when Femi arrived in Chicago with plans to join Brendon as a member of the Chicago Bears. But as revealed in the episode appropriately entitled, “The Cut”, Femi was released by the Bears before the duo could do any damage together on the field.

Fortunately, fans were treated to fresh footage of the Windy City siblings away from the game with plot lines equal parts Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. For those without HBO, basically the brothers would find themselves in situations ranging from fashion shows to comparing each other’s feet. From Halloween parties to playing HORSE at the gym. Throughout it all, however, the cameras provided a unique insight into not only the life and times of the second Ayanbadejo to wear Baltimore black and purple; but even more telling, a candid portrayal of professional athletes in their personal time.

So what can Ravens fans learn about the newest member of the flock? Other than the chest shaving, Brendon does like to take care of himself, or as he says, “Maintain my sexy.” The maintenance program includes manicures, pedicures and the occasional botox treatment, but as seen in the episode, “Who’s the Man?”, he also feels right at home in the weight room. Especially when he’s competing against Femi. (Note: Brendon won the BrotherUp bench-press/pull-up/basketball triathlon.)

Of course there’s also plenty of VIP parties, diamond studded watches and designer sunglasses, but the most prominent personality traits on display for the public is Brendon’s pride. He takes pride in his Nigerian heritage; he takes pride in teaching the kids of Hamlin Park the game he loves; he takes pride in the journey he and his brother have taken from the projects to the pros; and he takes pride in the accomplishments that he has worked so hard to achieve.

In a rarely witnessed moment that athletes of all ages can relate to, the first episode in the series follows Brendon to a local convenient store. His shopping list includes Chapstick for his brother and a few copies of the Chicago Tribune. Okay, more than a few. That’s because the sports section featured a photo of B.A. that practically filled the front page. His reaction resembled the same smiles you would see on the faces of high school kids who find their stats in a box score or a highlight on the local news. And even after ten seasons of soul searching in football leagues around the globe, Brendon still beams when he sees his name in print. It’s affirmation of great achievement and perseverance. A reminder of all that he has endured to get to this point. But the best news for Baltimore fans – he’s not satisfied with a lead story in the Sunday paper. “When it’s all said and done,” says Ayanbadejo, “I’m trying to be the most notorious special teams player in the NFL.”

The adventure continues in the Charm City this season.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ayanbadejo is Ours!

The Ravens made their first free agent signing today with the announcement that former Bears linebacker, Brendon Ayanbadejo. For those unfamiliar with the Pro Bowler, here's a helpful tool to help you tell your friends:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lions, Irish and Zips, Oh My!

Syracuse released their 2008 football schedule today and among the big names making the trip to Central New York this year are the Penn State Nitanny Lions and the Akron Zips. I'll be happy just splitting those games because later on down the road, the brain trust at SU decided it would be a good idea to visit Notre Dame. I know they sucked last year, but so did we. Should be quite the ratings spike for NBC.

Here is the complete run-down:

August 30 at Northwestern
September 6 AKRON
September 13 PENN STATE
September 27 PITTSBURGH
October 4 Open
October 11 at West Virginia
October 18 at South Florida
October 25 Open
November 8 at Rutgers
November 22 at Notre Dame 2:30 p.m. NBC
November 29 at Cincinnati

With 12 games, I suppose we have a chance at becoming bowl eligible, but other than Akron and Northeastern, I'm not sure where we'll find those wins. At least opening day is on my birthday. Let's go Orange!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Climbing the Mountain

72. 1174. 12. 4.59.

The numbers above belong to former Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham. The first three were amassed during his junior year as a Wolverine: 72 catches, 1,174 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. An All-Big Ten season that would seem to propel him straight to the top of the 2008 NFL Draft. But wait, there’s one more number to consider. The smallest stat on the list, 4.59, is also the most important. That’s because the 4.59 seconds it took him to run the 40-yard dash on Sunday was slower then some expected. What does it mean? Could twelve one hundredths of a second (a 4.47 would put him in the top ten amongst wide outs) really negate twelve touchdowns?

Now I might be over simplifying the process. Scouts, coaches and talent evaluators around the league are paid to do more than just review the numbers posted by the 300 prospects who are being poked and prodded by the NFL in Indianapolis this weekend. Game film, all-star games, interviews and even further work out sessions held at individual colleges and universities around the country will all be entered into the equation. But the NFL Combine has become a measuring stick by which all other evaluations are compared to. The event is now televised on the NFL Network (allowing this blogger to do his job from the comfort of his own couch) and every year, players’ stocks rise and fall based on how fast they finish the 40.

Sometimes, the BMOCs (Big Men On Campus) become the BMAC’s (Big Men At the Combine). One such superstar that apparently lived up to the hype this weekend was Arkansas’ Darren McFadden. The two-time Heisman runner-up paired his prolific college career with the second fastest 40-time among running backs with a 4.33. Not to be outdone, another projected first round runner, Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart, finished among the top ten RBs in not just the 40, but the bench press, vertical jump and broad jump, solidifying his star potential. But what about Carl Stewart? No, he’s not Jonathan’s brother and although he attended a big-time University (Auburn) he was a relative unknown heading into the weekend. But that’s why they play the game; rather, that’s why they participate at the Combine.

C. Stewart led all running backs with 30 bench press reps of 225 lbs, a 39” vertical jump and an 11’2” broad jump. Now I don’t remember many moments in which Willis McGahee or Jamal Lewis broad jumped into the end zone, but with those skills, a coach can find a way to utilize your talents. I would imagine being able to leap from the 10-yard line to the goal line would be useful.

Now Carl Stewart may have been relatively unknown, but a few Sunday participants actually were unknown just a few months ago. But after impressing scouts during the all-star games held after bowl season, they were invited to the Combine and can now begin considering what to wear on draft day. After all, those big and tall suits take time to tailor.

One such prospect should actually come as no surprise considering the shocker his team pulled against Mario’s Michigan Wolverines way back in September. Dexter Jackson of Appalachian State, who scored two touchdowns in the Mountaineers triumphant upset, triumphed once again in the 40-yard dash, posting a 4.37 on Sunday. The speed placed him at the top of the wide-out list alongside high profile pass catchers like DeSean Jackson of Cal and Andre Caldwell of Florida. As the NFL Network crew alluded to during their coverage, that kind of speed should earn Jackson the nickname ‘The Yodeler’ after the Price is Right game in which a mountain man climbs the board towards greater glory. Yodel on Dex.

As the Mountaineer climbed the mountain, two passing prospects from the FCS (formerly 1-AA) were building their own buzz. A deep sleeper from San Diego, Josh Johnson threw for 43 touchdowns and just 1 interception in 2007. As Rich Eisen and Co. pointed out, that’s hard to do in your backyard, let alone in competitive collegiate football. But his stats are just the beginning as JJ posted the fastest 40-yard time for a quarterback (4.55) and the highest vertical jump (33.5”) to back up his big numbers. And for those who probably didn’t have the luxury of taking a trip to USD last fall, Johnson’s performance at the Combine will most likely encourage GMs and coaches to review some game tape of the 6’3” signal caller. Here’s a word of advice, take a look at the devastation he delivered to Davidson: 32 of 36, 428 passing yards, 6 touchdowns and 79 yards rushing. I know the Wildcats of Davidson don’t quite measure up to the Wildcats of a Kentucky or Arizona, but those are some cool numbers to comb over.

Of course the big name throwers were in attendance as well with Colt Brennan, Brian Brohm and Chade Henne all showing that they can heave the ball and throw it with heat; but one quarterback that literally stood out among them (he is 6’6”) was Delaware’s Joe Flacco. If Flacco had stuck it out at Pittsburgh, where he was originally enrolled, his story may not be such a story; but as a Blue Hen, his rise up the charts may be the most buzz-worthy of all. According to most scouts, Flacco had the strongest arm at the Combine and according to’s Mike Mayock, is now among the top-5 rated quarterbacks in the draft and is expected to go higher than Brennan. Even more impressive, unlike any of the other top QB’s, including the potential number one overall pick in the draft, Matt Ryan, his name is also his website – The page could use some work, but when you come from a small school, the World Wide Web is a valuable tool.

As the combine continues with the defensive stand-outs ready to take center stage on Monday and Tuesday, all eyes will be on ‘The Son of Howie’ (Chris Long of Virginia, son of NFL veteran Howie Long) but as Flacco, Johnson and Jackson have shown, it’s not always the most notable names that force coaches and scouts to take the most notes. As the last sporting event ever to be held at the RCA Dome concludes, watch out for the superstars, rising stars, falling stars and yodelers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coffee at the Track (a.k.a. Bud Light in the Bleachers)

Daytona Beach, FL -- 2/17/08.

I miss football. I'm sure you do to, but after spending a week in the heart of NASCAR Nation, I'm ready to return to the field and get away from the fumes.

The reason for my trip to the 50th Anniversary of The Great American Race was to once again promote safety at railroad crossings for my client, CSX Transportation. CSX brought me to Talladega last April and returned to the track last week along with our spokesman, Bobby Allison.

For those of you who are not familiar with the famous racing family, Bobby Allison is one of the all-time great drivers and won at Daytona 3 times. This year marked two anniversaries for Allison - the 30th anniversary of his 1st Daytona 500 win ('78) and the 20th anniversary of his 1-2 finish with his son, Davey ('88). The timing of our promotion worked out perfectly as news stations across the country were eager to talk to Bobby about his past, the present state of NASCAR, and of course, the message he was trying to impart on behalf of CSX and the Keep on Living campaign. We were up at the crack of dawn last Wednesday to begin a barage of interviews with Allison with news anchors across the country. My personal favorite (big surprise) was his conversation with Jay Crawford on ESPN's First Take:

After more than 25 interviews and a press conference later in the afternoon, Exit10 was ready to reach out to the fans of NASCAR at our promotional tent located between Chevy and Crocs (unfortunately we did not walk away with a free car or even a free pair of sandals). Four days later, we had handed out tens of thousands of promotional items promoting Keep on Living, with the biggest draw (other than Bobby Allison autographs) being our bright orange floppy hats.

Normally you would think a fluorescent orange hat would be frowned upon in public, but in the sea of logos making their way around the display area, they fit right in. It still amazes me that millions of fans flaunt corporate marks as if they were the Ravens or Redskins logos. Home Depot, Lowe's and the new kid on the block, Amp Energy Drink, dominate the wardrobes of fans and followers. And after four long days of fun in the sun, and not a whole lot of fun in the bleachers (even in person, the cars just go around in circles for 3 hours) I was ready to leave car-country and return to RavensNation. It's good to be home and back to the grind, er, gridiron. The NFL Combine starts tomorrow.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Games Galore

Paula Abdul performed during the pre-game. Richard Simmons was almost run over. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked the halftime. Shaq rode a horse to victory. Ray Lewis led the Under Armour revolution. And Gisele joined Jessica in the loser’s circle. But none of these storylines became headlines on Monday because the spotlight stayed on the field up until the last play of the game during Super Bowl XLII on Sunday.

In what will be called the greatest game of all time this week, one of the greatest games ever played during the off-season, and eventually settle in as perhaps the best Super Bowl battle we’ve ever seen, the Giants finally took care of those damn Patriots, 17-14. I know that doesn’t sound objective, probably because it’s not, but watching the clock run out on the undefeated season was a site for sore eyes. Or at least eyes that were witness to any of their previous 18 victories in person, such as, say, their nail biting win in Baltimore.

As a New Jersey native, I had many friends rooting for the Giants. I even spent the weekend in the shadow of the Meadowlands as I attended the wedding of my friend Jason who has known me long enough to appear in my Bar Mitzvah pictures (seriously, he’s in the photos, and he was taller and blonder than everyone else back then too). The moral of my trip down memory lane is that I had plenty of incentive to root for the G-Men, but the biggest of all was the burn left by New England on their way out of town that Monday Night in early December. I remember standing in the cold, listening to Rodney Harrison joke with Emmitt Smith and Steve Young about the ‘kiss’ he blew Brian Billick. And just like the rest of NFL-nation that night, who for a few hours were rooting for the men in purple, I had committed myself to cheering for the Pats opponent until they finally lost.

Of course that ‘L’ was proving quite elusive and I did not think that Eli Manning and David Tyree (Syracuse class of ’02 just like this blogger) were going to be the ones to hang the first loss of the season on Brady and Moss. But did you see the catch Tyree made? No, not the touchdown toss, but the latter end of the Manning scramble that will live on in Secaucus for years to come. It was a thing of beauty; especially since Harrison was the DB he ‘beat’ on the play. And in case you missed it, turn on ESPNEWS right now and I’m sure the replay will come on before the next break. They’re calling it the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. Who am I to argue?

I won’t begin to try to recap the game. There were 4,500 credentialed press at media day in Arizona and I’m sure the wire reports will have the play-by-play covered. But after seeing those “18-1” shirts pop-up behind the ESPN crew during their post-game reports (do you think the New York Post is making a commission already?), I thought I’d comment on the commercial game played on Sunday as well.

The Coffeeonthe50 Super Bowl Advertising Report

Favorite Commercials of Super Bowl XLII

1. Diet Pepsi Max – “What is Love”
We’ve all had our heads snap back to life in the middle of a 3-hour biology class or a Monday morning lecture. This spot not only used a real-life reference with the head-bobbing routine, but a pop-culture reference in the choice of music (“What is Love?”) and celebrity (Chris Kattan), both courtesy (sort of) of A Night at the Roxbury. Not to mention the sound strategy tie-in. Not too hard to figure out; Diet Pepsi Max will keep you awake. Ta-da!

2. Coke – “It’s Mine”
This one was Lauryn’s favorite, or at least the only one she could remember. Stewie is always good for a smile and seeing Charlie Brown get the girl, er, Coke made everyone happy.

3. Tide to Go – “Talking Stain”
Here comes the ad nerd in me, but it was just a smart way to tell an old story. Stains divert attention and make you look bad, like if you were in an interview. The stain ‘talks over you’. Like I said, smart.

4. NFL – “Mr. Oboe”
The contest didn’t receive a great deal of attention, but turning an NFL player’s personal story into a Super Bowl spot seemed like a great idea. The winner was Ephraim Salaam of the Houston Texans who told the tale of Chester Pitts, whom Salaam convinced to put down his oboe and try the game of football, only to end up teammates in Houston (where Pitts was drafted ahead of Salaam!). For those wondering, I voted for Matt Hasselbeck’s story about receiving his first piece of fan mail while a back-up in Green Bay, only to find out that the fan was asking for his help in obtaining an autograph of Brett Favre.

5. Bud Light/Semi-Pro – “Suck One”
As you’ll see below, I’m usually mystified at the purpose behind most Bud Light Super Bowl spots, but add Will Ferrell to the mix and you’ve got magic in a bottle (get It?). David Tyree may have made the catch of the night, but Ferrell delivered the best line as he only he can – “Bud Light. Suck one.”

Honorable Mention for Technical Skill - The scene from Angelina Jolie’s new movie, Wanted, in which a sharpshooter bends a bullet around someone standing in front of them to hit the target behind them. Very Matrix-y. Very cool.

Least Favorite Commercials of Super Bowl XLII

1. Planters Peanuts – “Perfume”
First, even if I buy the fact that men can’t resist the peanut smell, even on an unattractive woman, the viewing audience at home can’t smell a thing. So we’re stuck looking at this uni-brow for what seemed like an eternity. And wait, there’s no way I’m buying the fact that men can’t resist the smell of peanuts. Women shouldn’t smell like the snack bowls at the bar. Wrong and weird.

2. Sales Genie – “Panda Bear”
It was more believable that these commercials were suppose to run during a later time on a less important show than thinking that someone approved these to run during the biggest television event of the year. At least they spent some money on production this year.

3. Bud Light – “Cavemen”
Cavemen? Again? No one cares.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Future is Baltimore's

Ray Lewis at linebacker, Vernon Davis at tight end and Kimmie Meissner split to the right? A Baltimore sports spectacular made its debut during Super Bowl XLII in the form of the latest commercial from Charm City's own wonder-company, Under Armour.

Syracuse Grad Grabs Historic Catch

Before I begin my post Super Bowl blog, I wanted to pour a little praise on the only Orange alum to play in Super Bowl XLII. You didn't know his name before, but I bet you know it now...he's David Tyree (Class of '02, as is this blogger - thanks to Shermtank for the reminder).

Here's a look at his historic catch:

Patent Pending

There are now three reasons to root against the Patriots (for me):

1. The Ravens woulda-coulda-shoulda ended the undefeated talk on December 1st.

2. I'm a Jersey Boy, but I don't root for the G-Men. The reason I'm rooting for Big Blue this weekend? The Red Sox. Now being referred to as simply "The Nation" the arrogance from Beantown is brimming with Sawx fans, the very same sports fans that claim to have cared about the Pats prior to the arrival of Bill Parcells. I don't buy it and I don't wait to see Brady being Brady any more than I wanted to see Manny be Manny.

3. News started circulating yesterday that the Patriots had applied for a trademark on the term "19-0". Disgusting, I know. But the best part of the story is that the New York Post has countered with an attempt to trademark the term "18-1" According to the post, "“Our application, No. 77385477, is pending.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pro Bowling

Willis McGahee is a damn good bowler. After all, he beat both Magic Johnson and Ed Reed during Ray Lewis' celebrity bowling tournament last summer. But Willis was hoping for bigger and better things in 2007, and although the Ravens didn't make it to Arizona, McGahee will get to make a trip west this February as he was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster today.

Willis rushed for 1,207 yards this season and scored eight touchdowns en route to his first appearance in the Aloha State. He was a second alternate at first, but an injury to Willie Parker, followed by today's announcement that Ladanian Tomlinson had decided to not to play, forced McGahee to make some last minute travel plans.

Damn it Feels Good to be a...


At least that's what Rex Ryan is saying after being retained as Defense Coordinator for the purple and black, not to mention a new title - Assistant Head Coach. In his press conference, Ryan told reporters, "Man, it's great to be a Raven. That head coaching stuff, I was just kidding about that."

I don't think he was kidding, but I'm glad the Falcons and Dolphins were just kidding about hiring him a their head coach. With the addition of John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and newly appointed Special Teams Coordinator, Jerry Rosburg, the Ravens appear reloaded for a successful 2008. Damn that feels good.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

True or False?

Ray Ray is clearly looking for all the media exposure he can get these days. Why else would he submit to a lie detector test on The Best Damn Sports Show Period. In any event, #52 was wired and ready for the onslaught. The result? Apologies to Trent Dilfer...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Six Degrees of RavensNation

Last Thursday, Cam Cameron was hired as the Ravens offensive coordinator, the first major move from new head coach John Harbaugh. As a result, Cam will be sure to have a profound effect on the Ravens fortunes on offense and their overall success during the 2008 season. What may not be as obvious, however, is that although Cam will play a role in determining the Ravens’ future, he has also had a hand in determining much of the Ravens’ past. In the spirit of Kevin Bacon, I present the Six Degrees of Separation between Cam Cameron and RavensNation.

6. Kevin Bacon
First of all, to validate my premise…
  • Cam Cameron played basketball at Indiana University for legendary Coach Bobby Knight.
  • Bobby Knight coached All-American Isaiah Thomas during their 1981 NCAA Championship season.
  • Isaiah Thomas won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons, on the same team as Dennis Rodman.
  • Dennis Rodman won an NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, on the same team as Michael Jordan.
  • Michael Jordan appeared in a Hanes commercial with Kevin Bacon.

There you go, and in just 5 degrees. Now on to the relevant information.

5. Jim Harbaugh
Cam Cameron coached the other Harbaugh at the University of Michigan during one of the most prolific offensive years in Wolverine history. The 1985 team posted a 10-1-1 record, beat Nebraska 27-23 in the Fiesta Bowl, and finished #2 in the final polls. Harbaugh’s success in Ann Arbor would result in a first round selection in the 1987 draft by the Chicago Bears. Eleven years later Harbaugh would land in Baltimore and for better or worse, the team’s lack of success contributed to the departure of Ted Marchibroda and the arrival of Brian Billick. Two years later, the Ravens were World Champions.

4. Elvis Grbac
While roaming the sidelines alongside Bo Schembechler, Cameron guided Grbac to two Rose Bowl appearances, earning Elvis a chance to make it in the NFL. After a Pro Bowl season in Kansas City, Grbac arrived in Baltimore in 2001 amidst criticism and controversy. The Ravens had just won Super Bowl XXXV and both the fans and the media were less than thrilled with the change at quarterback. Elvis would eventually ‘leave the building’, and the NFL after that season, setting in motion a signal-calling carousel that is still spinning.

3. Philip Rivers
Of course, before the end of Billick’s reign there was one remarkable run in 2006, resulting in a 13-3 record and an AFC North title for the Ravens. There were many memorable moments that year, however, one game on the first day of October may have given the team the confidence it needed to make their march into the post-season. The battle in question was against Cam Cameron’s San Diego Chargers, who would go on to earn the #1 seed in the AFC that season. However, the Chargers weren’t really Cam’s, he just ran the offense, and he had a veteran head coach calling the shots. Marty Schottenheimer made his mark that Sunday, giving new life to the term ‘Marty Ball’ as he and Cameron kept their quarterback, Philip Rivers, under wraps for most of the second half as Rivers threw just 8 passes in the final 30 minutes. Todd Heap’s leap towards the end zone would prove to be the game winner, but the offensive shut down by San Diego played a large part in propelling Baltimore to a bye week of its own.

It’s worth noting that Marty and Cam let Rivers loose during the remainder of the season, resulting in a 14-2 record due in large part to the team’s scoring success. That offensive onslaught was enough to earn Cam the head coaching spot in Miami the following season.

2. Greg Camarillo
The end of the Billick era may have been sealed with a slant route to Greg Camarillo. Camarillo caught a Cleo Lemon strike in overtime and sprinted sixty-four yards to give Cam’s Dolphins their only win of the 2007 season. Of course the one win wasn’t enough to secure his position for 2008, thus making him available to travel north to Baltimore, but the embarrassing loss may have been the nail in the coffin for Coach Billick’s time in the Charm City. Cameron’s ‘Fins did everything they could to allow the Ravens to escape South Florida with a victory, but after opting for OT, Matt Stover missed a field goal attempt which led to Camarillo running Brian out of Baltimore.

1. John Harbaugh
The last link in the chain is a direct connection between Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh. Harbaugh coached under Cam at Indiana in 1997, a forgettable season for both men as the Hoosiers posted a 2-9 record. Their last win together came against the University of Illinois as Harbaugh and the Indiana defense held the Illini to just two Neil Rackers’ field goals (yes, that Neil Rackers). More than ten years later, the two men are now reunited with a chance to plot a new course for the Ravens franchise, which shouldn’t be too hard. After all, Cam Cameron has been guiding the ship for years.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You're Hired! Now What?

In the words of newly named Head Coach John Harbaugh, “Let’s go baby.”

Harbaugh was appointed king of the castle last Saturday and before the ink had time to dry on his contract, the third leading man in Ravens franchise history appeared just as ready to move on to the 2008 season as his new flock of fans as he told Ravens President Dick Cass, “Can’t wait to get started,” followed by a moment of honest enthusiasm as he quipped, “Let’s go baby.”

And who could blame him? After spending 21 years on the sidelines, he has finally been handed the reigns to run things as he sees fit. He will get to pick his own coaching staff. Pick his own plays. Pick which players play for him, rather those relegated to special teams. And he will probably be allowed to pick the meals on our team flights (Note to coach: please keep the crab claws and warm cookies on the menu, but feel free to add cheese steaks to make you feel more at home).

Other than slightly higher cholesterol levels amongst Ravens employees, what can Ravens fans expect now that the Harbaugh era has begun? No one knows. Consider Brian Billick’s offensive prowess before donning the purple and black. Consider Marvin Lewis’ legendary defensive distinction before becoming a head coach himself. And now, with Harbaugh, even the most speculative spectators have only special teams tapes to scour. So, if we can’t predict the brand of product scheduled for release this fall, what can we expect from the company’s new spokesman?

First of all, he can handle the pressure. And not just from the throng of media members that awaited him at his first press conference as a Raven. Before he was thrown to the wolves, Harbaugh showed his resolve under fire while signing his contract in triplicate. About to make his life long dream official, the pen he was using failed him, or as he remarked, ran out of “juice”. Not to worry; calm, cool and collected, Harbaugh took a second offering from Mr. Cass and finished the job in black ink.

Second, not only does John come across as genuine, but his relationships with his parents appear as common as those amongst the Barone’s on Everybody Loves Raymond. When John first saw his mother and father on signing day, his first words to his Mom Jackie summoned the mama’s boy inside all of us as he asked, “Still disappointed I’m not a lawyer?” The joke evoked laughter from all of the men in the room, including Steve Biscotti and Ozzie Newsome. To complete the too-good-to-be-true circle of life, John greeted his father with two strong man-to-man hugs and whispered sincerely as he pulled away from his dad, “Because of you. Because of you.”

Third, he’s a sports fan. A loyal sports fan. As Jim was introduced to Art Modell, he unabashedly informed him that he was a Browns fan. He didn’t say, “I grew up a Browns fan,” or, “I used to be a Browns fan.” No, his first words after taking a seat in Mr. Modell’s office was, “I’m a Browns fan.” He went on to recall memorable moments in Browns history under Modell, including a near victory over the Dolphins’ during Miami’s 1972 undefeated season. Not to worry Ravens fans, John certainly knows which color he’ll be wearing come September, but his commitment to his hometown team, and the passion he displayed while discussing days gone by, should prove positive for those in purple.

Fourth, he’s got connections. Not only did his father Jack coach for 41-years, but John’s brother Jim is the current head football coach at Stanford. John made reference to the fact that Jim was on a recruiting trip over the weekend and gave a little encouragement to the high schooler in question to head west to join the Cardinal. Maybe Jim will return the favor by promoting the Ravens to the Pac-10’s most promising players. John also has connections with the Big East, albeit on the hardwood. His brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is the head basketball coach at Marquette. Not only do the Golden Eagles now play up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but they also represent the alma mater of Kevin Byrne, the Ravens VP of Public Relations. Although considering Marquette does not have a football program, I think the best use of those connections would be to help this blogger’s alma mater pick up an extra win or two this season (after witnessing first-hand Monday night’s nail-biting loss to Georgetown in overtime, Syracuse could use it).

Fifth, no matter how you analyze, dissect, scrutinize, study, or review him, John Harbaugh is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Consider that less than 30 minutes into his first press conference, Harbaugh was asked about the Ravens struggles on offense. Remember that he not only coached the two other phases of the game while in Philadelphia, but when he thinks Ravens QB, his first thought is still probably his brother, circa 1996. Of course, this is Baltimore. These are our Ravens. And we haven’t had a consistent quarterback from Harbaugh to, well, Harbaugh. So he’ll have to excuse our eagerness and inquiry. RavensNation is equal parts distressed and delighted. Fearful and fired up. Petrified and passionate. But we must be patient. “The process begins today.” said Harbaugh during his press conference and then later on WBAL, “The euphoria wears off quickly. You realize it’s time to go to work.”

Let’s go.