It is going too far to say the Ravens face impossible odds in their quest to win a second straight Vince Lombardi Trophy. Four times in the last quarter-century, the Super Bowl champion has repeated. That's 16 percent of the time … a long way from never.
On the other hand, the champion has failed to repeat 84 percent of the time, a daunting number that illustrates the Ravens' challenge. Quite simply, the odds are against them.
There's no telling what might happen, as this year's improbable Super Bowl run indicates. The illogical is becoming commonplace in NFL postseason play. The last three winners were seeded fourth, fourth and sixth in their respective conference fields. Go figure.
But Ravenstown should be encouraged after listening to the front office outline its philosophy and plans in a year-end session with reporters Thursday. It was clear that, no matter how the Ravens fare, they're approaching the task the right way, with sober pragmatism rather than fluttering heartstrings.
It takes discipline and maturity to celebrate a Super Bowl win and then basically just shake it off, clear your throat and calculate only an uncertain future without taking the glorious past into account, but the Ravens have that discipline and maturity.
"We're not going to get caught up in the moment … and make decisions in the euphoria of winning," Owner Steve Bisciotti said Thursday.
Really, it's not fair for the fans to ask for one iota more. Their team has its head on straight, as straight as a ribbon of desert highway. There's little doubt a good-faith effort lies ahead, incorporating the same decision-making values that produced the championship team. It might produce a repeat performance, or it might not, perhaps only because the vagaries that worked for them this year might work against them next year.
The Ravens entirely understand that and acknowledged Thursday that they know their Super Bowl triumph doesn't mean they should stand pat.
"That's fools gold," Bisciotti said, "because we're not the favorite to win next year. We're not even in the top four teams favored to win next year."
The alternative would be to try to sustain the magical ride and keep this year's team together. Other champions have tried. Shoot, the Ravens tried after they won the Super Bowl in 2000. They loaded up on their salary cap credit card in an effort to repeat, fell short and had to tear up their roster and start over. They wound up missing the playoffs three times in the next four years.
That experience has haunted General Manager Ozzie Newsome, and he is clearly going to handle things differently this time. That means maintain his long-range perspective.
No doubt, it's going to lead to some sadness in the short run as the team surveys its salary cap situation and parts ways with players who were integral to the title run. This season's memories are so fresh that no one wants to see any players go, but get ready, it's going to happen.
The reality is there's no choice. A steady stream of change is inevitable in today's NFL, for the winners as well as the losers. The salary cap rules. Sorry, no exceptions.
Knowing how they plan to proceed, and how they operate, the Ravens are probably as prepared as any champion to try to repeat. Their defense is in transition, but there is talent in that pipeline, and with
Frankly, I could do without the whole "what's next" conversation for at least a little while. The team just won the Super Bowl last weekend, for crying out loud. There should be a mandatory waiting period when you just enjoy the present without having to evaluate the future.
But I guess if the Ravens themselves have to turn the page, the rest of us do, too. Oh, well, that's the world we live in, the one with the short attention span. Onward we go, and maybe upward … or maybe not. But no matter what happens going forward, the Ravens did win the Super Bowl. Yes, they did.