Neither the Baltimore Ravens nor Washington’s NFL team will take part in Super Bowl LXII this weekend. The impact of both franchises, however, will nevertheless be felt when the big game kicks off in Minneapolis.
Both teams have made questionable personnel decisions in the past few years, costing them talented players who contributed to their limited success over the last half decade. Their plethora of castoffs will be important cogs for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles as these teams vie for the chance to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy and visit Disney World.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was the special teams coach for the Eagles before taking the reins in Charm City, will be in attendance as a guest analyst for NBC as three of his former players try to bring the City of Brotherly Love its first NFL championship since 1960.
Receiver Torrey Smith, a University of Maryland grad, was a key player during the Ravens’ 2012 playoff run. Despite averaging 21.2 yards per catch and jump-starting their comeback victory in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against Denver with a 59-yard touchdown catch, he was branded as a player who couldn’t run discipline pass routes and the Ravens chose not to re-sign him. Baltimore has lacked a deep threat since Smith’s departure and their offense has been pedestrian at best, coinciding with the team missing the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. Smith also caught a 41-yard touchdown pass during the Eagles’ rout of the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s NFC championship game.
A pair of former Baltimore defenders will line up for the Eagles as well. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbee was acquired by Philadelphia in November after Jordan Hicks and Joe Walker were lost to season ending injuries. Ellerbee was the Eagles’ third middle linebacker this season but brings championship savvy to their defense after being a key reserve for the Ravens in 2012 Super Bowl XLVII.
Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan was drafted by the Ravens to be the heir apparent to Haloti Ngata at nose tackle. Jernigan was ultimately miscast in the middle of Baltimore’s 3-4 defensive front, but found a home in Philadelphia as part of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme. The Ravens chose not to re-sign their 2012 second round pick and the Eagles rewarded him with a four-year extension through 2021.
Baltimore was the essence of consistency through 2012, when they beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. But once Ray Lewis and Ed Reed retired and the Ravens opened the Brinks truck to pay Joe Flacco, the team has underachieved.
Washington tried to address their subpar pass rush this year by bringing in Eagles defensive end Chris Long in for a workout, but he couldn’t pass a team-administered physical. The son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and a member of the Patriots championship team last year, Long, now a member of the Eagles, finished the regular season with five sacks and caused four fumbles while donating his entire salary to the city of Charlottesville, Virginia after the September riots.
Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois was released by Washington in March, and was then released twice by the Packers and once by the Patriots this season before finally re-joining the Patriots on Dec. 13. He’s been a major contributor to New England’s defensive improvement with five tackles against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game and a sack in the divisional playoff win over the Tennessee Titans.
Washington’s last Super Bowl victory came in Minneapolis in 1991. At that time, they were one of the NFL’s elite franchises because they made a habit of finding contributors during the season, players like Jean-Francois. These days, they are having difficulty just finding the postseason.