Unfinished business. Is this phrase pure rhetoric? Probably. Is it just a cliché? Most likely.
All 31 teams that don’t hoist the Lombardi trophy the previous season feel like there is unfinished business the following season. In fact, with quarterback Tom Brady’s four game suspension and the Deflategate controversy still swirling, last year’s Super Bowl winner the New England Patriots probably feel as though there is unfinished business.
So yes, this is mostly rhetoric.
That being said, even before reading these quotes, this upcoming season for the Ravens was starting to feel familiar.
That offseason, the start of the 2011 season, the Ravens made several changes to the team through the draft and free agency (that year’s lockout certainly caused a fury of moves just before the opening of training camp). In April, the Ravens use an early draft pick on a speedy wide receiver with questionable hands, Torrey Smith. This set the stage for the eventual cut of veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason.
The Ravens were not finished on offense. The team went on to cut lifelong Raven and huge fan favorite, tight end Todd Heap. Injuries had caused Heap’s game to deteriorate and he was a shell of his former self. The Ravens had also prepared for this move the year before (2010 offseason) by drafting not one, but two tight ends—Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.
As the lockout ended, the Ravens continued to make a fury of moves. The defense was not immune to change. The team parted with veteran defensive lineman Kelly Gregg.
In the summer of 2011, the Ravens were still smarting from that Steelers playoff defeat and it seemed to fuel them. On opening day of the 2011 season, the Ravens destroyed the Steelers, 35-7. Haloti Ngata crushed Rashard Mendenhall. Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns, Ray Rice ran for over 100 yards, and the defense forced seven turnovers. Oh, and Jarret Johnson managed to get a clean lick on hated Steeler Hines Ward. The demons were exorcised.
The 2011 season was a banner season for the Ravens. Though they lost to three inferior teams on the road (Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Seattle Seahawks) and endured a drubbing on national television to the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens swept the division en route to winning the AFC North (including a dramatic come-from-behind win in Pittsburgh) and securing the first home playoff game since 2007.
Now, this season didn’t have a happy ending. But I what I remember is that team was relentless in its pursuit of redemption. In fact, RELENTLESS was the team’s slogan for the 2011 season. The team was focused, poised, and seemed to have great resolve in forging past where their season ended the previous year. In fact, this attitude continued the following year when the team won Super Bowl XLVII.
And here we sit in 2015.
The Ravens are fresh off a 2014 divisional playoff defeat to the New England Patriots. Like the 2010 Steelers’ playoff game, the Ravens blew a 14 point game. Only this time, the Ravens blew two 14 point leads.
This offseason has brought change again; some of it may sound familiar. The Ravens parted ways with the-now-veteran wide receiver, Torrey Smith, which set the stage for the team drafting a wide receiver with questionable hands, Breshad Perriman.
The team traded veteran defensive lineman and lifelong Raven, Haloti Ngata.
With injuries causing uncertainty to the career of tight end Dennis Pitta, the Ravens prepared for life after Pitta by drafting not one, but two tight ends in this year’s draft—Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle.
There are some interesting parallels to the 2010 and 2014 seasons. Let’s hope that these current changes lead to kind of success that followed the 2010 season—two AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl championship.
Either way, it is good to have football back in 2015. I can’t wait for the ride.