Happy Super Bowl Weekend! I know this is a bittersweet holiday for Ravens loyalists, who in their hearts know the Ravens outplayed the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game...but lost in the end.
Still, I think getting that close beats not getting that far at all... as 28 other teams and their fan bases would attest. 49ers and Ravens fans, hold your heads high this weekend.
Of course, many of you know I come from Philadelphia, so I am well familiar with getting close and somehow not closing the deal.
Enter the great Baltimore writer John Eisenberg, who now does a weekly blog for BaltimoreRavens.com.
Eisenberg addresses the elephant in the room in Baltimore these days: Are the Ravens becoming the Andy Reid-era Philadelphia Eagles?
Here's John in his own write:
"If I had a nickel for every radio show appearance I have made since the Ravens’ loss in New England, I could afford to put extra-rich sour cream in my Super Bowl dip this Sunday. The Ravens’ "Agony of Defeat” moment must have really grabbed people in the gut, because from West Coast to East, in markets big and small, I have gone on the air to take questions about it.
"One time, I had to rank what Baltimore fans were most upset about: a) Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal, b) Lee Evans’ dropped (or whatever) pass, c) the lack of a replay on the Evans play, d) Scoreboard-gate. (I answered "a, b, c, d,” with the caveat that it is a free country and some people feel differently.)
"Most of the questions were typical "crime scene” queries about what happened and why, but one really stopped me. I can’t remember if it was the guy in Burlington, Vt., Seattle, or somewhere else who asked it, but I knew it would raise eyebrows in Baltimore.
"Is it possible the Ravens are destined to be the Philadelphia Eagles of the AFC … the team that’s really good but never gets over the hump?” he asked.
"Whew, tough one.
I knew where that idea was coming from. The Ravens are on quite a roll, having gone 44-20, won a playoff game every year and reached the AFC title game twice since John Harbaugh arrived four years ago. But they haven’t made the Super Bowl, and good times only last so long.
"It was a question that, I knew, would hit close to home at the Ravens’ headquarters. When the team plucked Harbaugh from Eagles coach Andy Reid’s staff in 2008, it held up the Philadelphia model as one to be admired. The Eagles are consistent contenders under Reid, who is still on the job after 13 years, having experienced just two losing seasons. They’re always a tough out, always in the hunt, yet they’ve only reached the Super Bowl once in those 13 years, and they didn’t win.
"Harbaugh came aboard with a mandate to recast the Ravens as something similar, perennial contenders, eliminating the inconsistency that marked Brian Billick’s final years. But while Harbaugh has impressively accomplished that goal, the other half of the Philly model – playoff frustration – has tagged along.
"When the guy asked if the Ravens might be the Eagles, here’s what I said: I can’t see the future. And I understand that years of playoff frustrations can have a withering effect on a franchise. But I don’t see scars on the Ravens, even after New England. And they’re doing a lot of things right – enough to get over the hump one day.
"There’s no reason to think they can’t.
"Their record in the draft ranks with the best in the league, suggesting a continual infusion of youth. Their general manager’s track record speaks for itself. Their physical playing style is clearly articulated, as is their organizational philosophy. They aren’t drama queens. They prefer continuity to "grass is greener” knee-jerk change.
"Some fans don’t like that they brought Cam Cameron back as offensive coordinator, but his offense ranked 10th in the league in rushing, 11th in time of possession and 12th in scoring this season, with a majority of its starters under 30. The organization decided it was smarter to tweak the unit, let it continue to evolve, rather than start over. It’s the right call.
"Sure, the specter of a Philly-style shortfall is undeniable. "I know it seems like for the Ravens right now (it’s) always the bridesmaid and never a bride,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said last week.
"But you have to step back and view the big picture. From where they were four years ago, the Ravens have sped up and pulled alongside the Steelers and Patriots in the AFC. They reside in the elite class now, with the requisite talent to continually contend and possibly go all the way.
"So, offering no promises but plenty of promise, they just keep hammering away and believing their time could come, as it did once before."