Frankly, this was too easy.
There isn't much to see here. Not much to debate. Pretty difficult to artificially create much intrigue or mystery about the Franchise Five. It is what it is.
The Ravens are a relatively new franchise that has enjoyed great success and were propelled to prominence by their first draft in franchise history after moving from Cleveland. Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden became, arguably, the greatest to ever man their positions in the history of the game. A few years later they added Ed Reed, who many believe to be the greatest in the history of the game at his position. We're talking GOATS here, people. Not much to squabble about.
Some might want to argue a bit about the coach and quarterback that I selected … but I don't think they have much to stand on there, either. For the QB decision I solicited a lot of local opinions – and we discussed it at length over the air on my radio show in Baltimore and through online polls, and let's just say it ended up being a pretty lopsided result.
The only thing really up to question is how longtime GM Ozzie Newsome could not find a way to be on this Franchise Five, because the architect of it all certainly belongs in this group. My hands we're tied. Coaches only. But they say 'In Ozzie We Trust' around here for good reason, and even his final NFL draft, where he used his final first-round pick on Lamar Jackson, continues to cement his status as the key figure in the franchise's history to this point.
With that out of the way, let's get to the Baltimore Ravens (indisputable) Franchise Five:
Coach: John Harbaugh
Brian Billick did an amazing job of assembling coaching talent. His assistants, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, continually got poached by other organizations to lead their teams. The pipeline was beyond impressive. Billick did a masterful job with his messaging and with the media and was incredibly organized and a CEO type head coach. He led the franchise to its first Lombardi Trophy … But he was hired to construct a progressive offense as a QB guru type and the Ravens failed to develop any QBs or WRs of note throughout his tenure and won the way the Lombardi Packers did – power run game and impenetrable defense. John Harbaugh has changed the identity of his team several times already, including to cater to a 22-year old MVP QB. He also has a Lombardi, went to the playoffs his first five years, rapidly rebuilt the culture after Billick was fired and has the team primed to compete for Super Bowls for years to come. He is one of the best coaches on the planet. Period.
Quarterback: Lamar Jackson
Joe Flacco had one of the all-time greatest playoff runs in history, which was punctuated by earning the Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens captured their second title in 2012. He spent a decade in Baltimore and was a part of perennial playoff teams. But if you asked many in these parts to list the 10 best Ravens in franchise history, many if not most would not have Flacco among them. Flacco was never even on the periphery of an MVP discussion and never could come close to what Jackson did in 2019. Jackson had one of the most historically significant seasons in NFL history with a limited cast around him. He is a threat unlike anything we have seen before and has done nothing but win since taking over for Flacco midway through the 2018 season, saving the franchise by leading the 4-5 team to the playoffs. He is just scratching the surface and in a Twitter poll we did at my show, over 66 percent of respondents said they would put Jackson over Flacco on this Franchise Five. The people have spoken.
Do I really have to explain this one? Maybe the most impactful MLB in the history of the game. Under-sized entering the NFL, he quickly became one of the game's premier leaders and players, always at his best when it mattered the most. Went out with his second Lombardi, returning from what all believed would be a career-ending injury. His speed and motor carried him and he had the football IQ to match wits with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their primes. Got absolutely no help from the offense for much of his career and his defensive units carried the team anyway.
Ask Bill Belichick about the greatest football players he has ever seen and the smartest football players he has ever seen. Ditto Brady and Manning. Best ball-hawking safety ever. Nose for the ball. Big-time hitter. One of the greatest return men in the history of the NFL. Immediately went on the offensive with the ball in his hands and had a flair for the dramatic unlike anything we have ever seen from his position. He is also the Dos Equis guy in real life. Coolest dude to walk the planet. Like Lewis, we are talking potential starter on an all-time, 100 Year NFL Team.
A mountain of a man with the feet and dexterity of a ballerina. Played with some god awful QBs for most of his career on a team where everyone knew what was coming (Jamal Lewis or some other RB is going to run left behind JO about 25 times a weekend) and still could not stop it. Maybe the best pass protector of all time. Also truly dominant in the run game. An absolute pillar. He has to be on this team and you cannot put together a top five list of the greatest tackles ever without him on it.