During the month of June, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will construct a Mount Rushmore for each team. For this series, we will only consider players. Today, the Baltimore Ravens are the focus.
Baltimore Ravens Mount Rushmore
Ray Lewis will be remembered as one of the greatest middle linebackers to ever play the game. Over his 17-year career in Baltimore, Lewis was voted to the Pro Bowl 13 times, he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003, he won two Super Bowls, and he was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP. Besides a stellar on-field career, Lewis was also a locker room leader who kept the younger players in line. He finished his dominating career with 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions, and 19 forced fumbles. He was the unquestioned leader of the 2000 Super Bowl championship team which has gone down in history as one of the most dominant defensive units of all-time.
While Lewis captained the linebackers on those infamous Ravens defensive units of the early 2000’s, Ed Reed was in charge of everything happening in the defensive backfield. The “ball hawk” finished his extraordinary career with 64 interceptions and volumes of Ravens franchise records, including most career interceptions, most interception return yards, most career interception return touchdowns, and most passes defended. Reed also holds the NFL records for most playoff interceptions (tie) and longest interception return for a touchdown. He was also the first person in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt, and fumble for a touchdown. Reed was voracious when it came to watching opposing team films and he was known around the league for his dedication and love of the game. He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, he was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and he helped win Super Bowl XVLII. Like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed is very likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest Ravens to ever play the game.
Jonathan Ogden was a mountain of a man both on the field among his contemporaries and in Ravens lore. He was voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times and he was named an All-Pro nine times. He was the first player ever drafted by the Ravens in their first draft in 1996. Ogden was a dominant tackle year-in and year-out, providing effective pass protection and spirited run blocking for backs like Jamal Lewis, who was able to reach the 2000-yard rushing plateau due to Ogden’s ability in the trenches. “J.O.” won a Super Bowl in 2001, he was voted to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 2000’s, and he holds the distinction of being the first Ravens player to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
I know, I know. I’m sure there are many of you out there wondering how the heck I can include Flacco on the Mount Rushmore of Ravens greats, but I believe that his statistics justify his inclusion. Since being drafted in 2008, Flacco has started every single game. He has led the Ravens to the postseason six of his seven years as a starter, possessing an impressive playoff record of 10-5. He owns just about all of the Ravens quarterback records, he won a Super Bowl during the magical 2012 postseason. During that postseason, he tied Joe Montana and Kurt Warner with an amazing 12-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and he was named the Super Bowl MVP.
Besides his impressive numbers on the field, Flacco brings much-needed stability to the organization. From their inception in 1996 through the 2007 season, the Ravens went through a ridiculous 15 starting quarterbacks. Since being drafted, Flacco has been the one and only starter, as he never missed a game. He brings such a calming presence to the Baltimore sideline that it’s hard to not like the guy. After inking a blockbuster deal after the Super Bowl victory in 2012, my money is on “Joe Cool” being around for many more NFL postseasons.