The Baltimore Ravens are a NFL franchise that plays in the American Football Conference (AFC). The club, which is based in Baltimore, Maryland, plays in the AFC’s North Division. The Ravens were founded in 1996, when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell decided that he wanted to move his team to Baltimore. Although the league allowed Modell to do so, the NFL did so with the proviso that Cleveland retain the Brown’s name, colors and history, including all records. In search of a new name, the team settled upon the Ravens, as an homage to poet Edgar Allen Poe. The team chose the name of a carrion-eating bird as a reference to Poe’s famous poem, The Raven. Interestingly, Poe, who spent large portions of his life in Philadelphia and New York, did live for a time in Baltimore, as he moved to the city to marry his teenage cousin. Interesting namesake.
In practical terms, the Browns became the Ravens, and an expansion team was started in Cleveland. However, the agreement between Modell and the NFL stipulates that officially, and according to all records, the Ravens became a new team, founded in Baltimore, while the Browns history and records remain in Cleveland with the new Browns.
The Baltimore club has won two Division Championships (2003 and 2006), one Conference Championship (2000) and Super Bowl XXXV (2000). In April 2003, Modell sold 49-percent of the franchise to Steve Bisciotti. At the end of the season, Modell sold the remaining 51-percent to Bisciotti. Modell, who had spent over 40 years as an owner in the NFL, was no longer in control of a team. He was retained as a consultant to the Ravens and still has an office at the club’s headquarters located in Owings, Maryland.
In 2000, the Super Bowl year, the Ravens put two quarterbacks on the field—Tony Banks, formerly with the St. Louis Rams, and Trent Dilfer, who had been with Tampa Bay for six seasons. Both put up respectable statistics. Baltimore was also helped by rookie Jamal Lewis, who rushed for 1,364 yards and six touchdowns. But the defining aspect of the team’s championship season was the defense that was coached by Marvin Lewis. The defense, led by linebacker Ray Lewis, who was selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, helped keep the team on track as the offense often faltered. Two other defenders, Sam Adams and Rod Woodson, made the Pro Bowl that season. The Ravens qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
The team met the New York Giants in Tampa for Super Bowl XXXV, and won, 34-7. In the game, Baltimore forced five turnovers and notched four sacks. The were just the third Wild card team to win a Super Bowl.
After this lone Super Bowl year, the team went into something of a tail spin. Jamal Lewis was lost for a season because of a cocaine conviction. This, and inconsistency at the quarterback position because of coach Billick’s seeming inability to pick and keep a starter, led to the offense becoming a liability. At the same time, star linebacker Ray Lewis was involved in a murder. He was able to avoid prosecution by cooperating with authorities and testifying against his friends. Ray Lewis managed to keep his freedom, and his position with the team, but by this time, his skills were diminishing with age, and he had lost the respect of many fans and players.
By 2007, the aging veterans, though no longer an effective force on the field, had managed to win influence over the coach. Billick’s days were numbered as he lost control of the locker room, and the team’s performance suffered. By the end of the season, the writing was on the wall, Billick had lost his job, and a new era would begin in Baltimore.
2008 brought new coach Mike Harbaugh to the team. As a rookie coach, he saw his team make the playoff, where they won the wild-card round game against Miami. This earned them a return trip to Pittsburgh, against whom the Ravens had already lost twice in the season. In the AFC Championship game, the Ravens offensive flaws were exposed by a superior Steeler defensive unit. Though the aging Ravens defense held their own, they simply could not keep the Steelers offense in check, and the Ravens were down by two points before a Joe Flacco interception was returned 40 yards for a touchdown by Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu. In an interesting side story to the game, pitting the two best safeties in the league, Polamalu easily outshined his Baltimore counterpart Ed Reed by delivering several highlight reel plays, punctuated by the game-saving touchdown return.
2008 will perhaps be best remembered by Baltimore fans as the year the team lost THREE games to their rivals in Pittsburgh.
The Ravens played their first seasons at Memorial Stadium (1996-1997). They presently occupy M&T Bank Stadium (1998-present). The venue has been known by three other names—The NFL Stadium at Camden Yards (1998), PSINet Stadium (1999-2002) and Ravens Stadium (2002-2003). The club’s mascots are the Ravens, which are named Edgar, Allen and Poe.
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