On December 10th, 2000, in the wake of cold, rainy afternoon that featured the Ravens dominating the San Diego Chargers for a 24-3, playoff clinching victory, head coach Brian Billick gathered his team for a post-game speech. For Ravens fans, this NFL Films clip is burned into our collective memory: 

“Men, the time is here…..it’s time to go to a Super Bowl.” 

With those words, the Baltimore Ravens set off on a magic carpet ride to the first World Championship in franchise history.  

Just about 8 years later, on New Year’s Eve of 2007, Brian Billick’s tenure with Baltimore would come to an end. Thus, paving the way for an unheralded special teams coach to take the reigns as the 3rd head coach in Ravens’ history. John Harbaugh was the way less famous Harbaugh brother and he was also owner Steve Bisciotti’s 2nd choice for his 1st official head coach hire. The organization had given the full court press to Cowboy’s offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, only to be left at the altar by Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones quasi adopted son. What a fortuitous rejection that was. 

What was supposed to be a transitional season for the Ravens, ended up being one of their most memorable. Baltimore rode a ferocious defense and a Division 1AA rookie quarterback with a unibrow to an AFC title game appearance.  

From 2008-2011, the Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs every year, won one division title and advanced to the AFC championship game two times. Along the way, there were plenty of highs that were juxtaposed by devastating lows.  

However, the pain of those devastating lows scarred and toughened the core of that roster. That mettle directly contributed to the Baltimore Ravens 2nd World Championship at the conclusion of the 2012 season. 

So, what can we learn from this condensed history lesson? I believe we can draw some parallels between the first 5 years of the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era, to the first 5 full years of the John Harbaugh/Lamar Jackson era. 

In Lamar Jackson’s first year as starter, much like Flacco’s first year as starter, the Ravens qualified for the playoffs. Jackson’s 2019 season also brought a unanimous MVP award, a 14-2 record and a 1st round bye. So while the 2019 Ravens enjoyed a more successful regular season than the 2008 Ravens, 2008 brought more post-season success. With that said, both teams ultimately suffered bitter playoff exits. 

Over the course of the Lamar Jackson era thus far, there have also been plenty of highs, juxtaposed by devastating lows; much like there was through the beginning of the Joe Flacco era. Albeit, in Jackson’s tenure, injuries have been a part of the narrative and perhaps the biggest contributing factor to those devastating lows.  

There was Jackson being forced to leave in the 3rd quarter of a Divisional Round loss in Buffalo in January 2021 due to a concussion. Or, seeing the 2021 season go off the rails as a result of bone bruise that Jackson suffered in Week 12. Lastly, there was the sprained PCL that befell Jackson in Week 13 that was originally supposed to be 2 week or so injury but ended up lingering into the off-season. In the interim, the Ravens saw their season end on Wild Card weekend against division rival Cincinnati, despite a valiant but flawed effort from backup quarterback Tyler Huntley. 

While the roster has evolved over the course of the last 5 years, John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson remain at the helm. The leadership of this organization has clearly set the tone over the last month or so. The jubilant, playful celebrations that were prevalent down the stretch in 2019 are nowhere to be found in 2023. This is not to say that the 2023 Ravens aren’t enjoying their accomplishments thus far but it’s clear that Jackson has learned and grown since his MVP campaign of 2019. His level of focus right now is unwavering. 

Many throughout the NFL universe of talking heads and fans can only look at Lamar’s relative lack of post-season triumphs in his career to date. Whether this is entirely fair to Jackson or not, his 1-3 playoff record is his story so far. What lies ahead in a little more than 2 weeks is a golden opportunity for Lamar Jackson to tear up the script and re-write his story. There’s even a potential plot twist in this unfolding narrative, as there is a very realistic possibility that Joe Flacco may return to M and T Bank this January as the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. 

Regardless of who lines up opposite the Baltimore Ravens on the 3rd weekend of January, the organization can collectively look at the experiences of the last 5 years, how they’ve been calloused by the heartache of unexpected playoff exits and opportunities lost and carry that wisdom, those lessons learned, that toughness gained with them to this year’s divisional round match up with a foe yet to be determined.

Jamie Sieck
Jamie Sieck

Jamie has been a Baltimore sports fan since he can remember. He grew up in Gwynn Oak and currently resides in Hampstead with his wife and 2 kids. He graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He’s currently employed at Verizon Communications in Hunt Valley.