The Baltimore Ravens face an important off-season coming off of its second Super Bowl championship. There are numerous questions that need to be answered over the next few months and the most important centers around Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
Flacco’s future and that of his team will be linked together regardless of what his current status may be. It’s not even worth speculating. Either the Ravens and Flacco will hammer out a long term deal or he’ll play under the exclusive franchise tag. There can be no other way considering how the quarterback silenced his critics with an epic playoff run that culminated in a Lombardi trophy that had his name mentioned next to Joe Montana due to his touchdown production. After years of sifting through everyone from Jeff Blake to Stoney Casey the Ravens have their quarterback. They may also have their next face of the franchise.
Since Ray Lewis made his announcement in January that it would be his last in a uniform his storyline has been the dominant thread among the national media. It shouldn’t come as any surprise as Lewis has become a part of the shared identity of the city and its team. That has been a mixed blessing on the national scene. Lewis is a complicated figure who many outside of Baltimore associate with murder and criminal behavior instead of his superior playing ability on the field. He’s attempted to remake himself over his career as a man of faith and as a sponsor of various charities throughout Baltimore. Fans of the Ravens have been more forgiving of Lewis’ mistakes but as we found out over the past few weeks many others refuse to change their mind on him.
Now that the farewell celebration has concluded is it safe to say that Joe Flacco is ready to take Lewis’ place on the national stage?
Flacco was put on display over the past week as he completed his MVP duties as the guest of honor in Disney World and his appearance on Letterman’s Late Show. He performed as expected, showing a dry sense of humor and a more workmanlike demeanor than his soon to be superstar contract would indicate. Flacco’s personality is a huge departure from the demonstrative Lewis and it will be interesting to see how the perception of the Ravens may change with a new image to attach to the team.
Although it stands to wonder if any one person can really replace a larger than life individual such as Ray Lewis. Flacco may now be captain of the offense but maybe Terrell Suggs instead takes over as the voice of the defense. Either way it’s another example of the long lasting imprint that Lewis has put on this team and how his retirement will be viewed as the Ravens move into uncharted territory – life without him.