Does Ray Lewis Retiring Signal Powerhouse Offenses in the NFL? (By: @BWMahoney213)
Linebacker Ray Lewis retires after the 2012 NFL season concludes. Just take that in for a second at how his absence will be felt. His Baltimore Ravens seek to reach Super Bowl 47, the first Super Bowl appearance for Baltimore since the 2000 season (Super Bowl 35). Whether or not the Ravens will overthrow the powerhouse New England Patriots is a question left open for debate until Sunday.
The bigger question is what will remain of the NFL when Ray Lewis—the poster boy of all defensive gladiators—is no longer with us?
The romance of shutdown, knock-you-in-the-mouth defenses in the NFL may be coming to an end.
Other defenders like Lewis unleashed their terror on opposing offenses in the 1980’s and 1990’s: Ronnie Lott, Steve Atwater, Reggie White, Junior Seau, John Randle, Brian Dawkins, and Kevin Greene. Nobody was safe on offense—quarterback, receiver, or running back. You might leave a Sunday game nursing some vertigo the next day.
That was about 15 years before Roger Goodell stepped into the NFL Commissioner role in September of 2006.
Now, in the year of 2013, the NFL remains an American spectacle above the rest—MLB, NBA, and NHL. Each sport has seemingly hit a trend in one time period or another. The MLB had a home run happy time back in the late 1990’s where Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds were all cracking 60 home runs or more, shattering records (and taking P.E.D.’s). The NHL revived their dry spell of low scores after the 2005 lockout and introduced more rules to aid the offenses. The current NBA has a blueprint to win big, which is to team superstars with other superstars (James/Wade, Bryant/Howard).
The NFL has entered a new trend of its own. Goodell has policed mild to intense hits against many defenders like LB James Harrison (reaching $125,000 in fines from 2010). There is a reason to Goodell’s fines—the quarterback. Tom Brady tore his ACL back in the 2008 season opener from a low hit by Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard. Now, the league is probing any or all hits that are detrimental to the health of any player. And for good reason. The emergence of head trauma and ailments to retired players goes to a higher level each year. The most note-worthy example was former linebacker Junior Seau’s suicide back in May of 2012.
Ray Lewis only has a handful of quarters remaining with this Baltimore teammates, but if they want to win the Super Bowl this year, it may require some borderline hits.
The Ravens opponents in the way? New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, and Atlanta Falcons. All of which are in the realm of high-flying offenses, experimental game planning, and do-it-all quarterbacks. This may seem deceptively familiar from years prior, teams are now copying other teams’ strategies.
Take the Philadelphia Eagles hiring of new head coach Chip Kelly. He ran a spread offense that would manipulate vulnerable college defensives into thinking the quarterback was sweeping it one way, while blindly letting a space open for running room the other way for a swift quarterback. If an experimental run isn’t in the books, then the quarterback would alter different shotgun sets (in no huddles) to launch passes to wide receivers or tight ends.