Here's a stat that makes us very proud, but does surprise me every time I see it: Dating back to the 2000 season, the Ravens have the league's 2nd-best home record (tied with Denver). Only the Patriots, led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, can claim a better home mark in that time. And, New England is just one game better than Baltimore in the last 8-plus years.
Take at look at these stats for best regular season home records since 2000:
- New England 49-17 .742
*2. Baltimore 48-18 .727
*Denver 48-18 .727
- Indianapolis 47-19 .712
- Pittsburgh 47-18-1 .712
Four of 5 of the above teams have won a Super Bowl during this tenure, with the Patriots winning 3 times. (The Broncos have not, but they have earned the playoffs 3 times since '00.) The Colts, of course, have a Hall of Fame QB with Peyton Manning. And, it sure looks like the Steelers hit the "great quarterback" target with Big Ben, who already earned a Super Bowl ring as the Pittsburgh starter.
The Cleveland Browns, under Art Modell, lost the 1st 17 times they played at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. Now, that's a real home field advantage. During this run, the Browns had some pretty good teams featuring great players like Ozzie Newsome, Paul Warfield, Mike and Greg Pruitt, Clay Matthews and Hanford Dixon. Mr. Modell tried everything to change his team's luck in Pittsburgh. The team stayed at different hotels. They took busses to the Iron City, they changed airlines for charters and altered the time of day they traveled. Obviously, nothing worked for a long time.
Sam Rutigliano, the Browns' head coach from 1978-84, hit the nail on the head when he said this about the losing streak: "It's not the hotels, the planes, the water at Three Rivers, or the shape of the lockers. It's about Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mean Joe [Green], Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and all those other good players they have."
True, if you have more good players, you usually win. But, there is something to the home field advantage. And, it's less about the travel and the stadium and much more about you – the fans.
Ravens fans give us a huge edge. The noise and enthusiasm you create at every game at M&T Bank Stadium is special. You've heard visiting players, coaches and national media talk about it. Teams have had to use timeouts because they couldn't get the play called. Motion penalties against opposing offenses have been common, because players can't hear a snap count. And, our offense can change plays at or near the line of scrimmage because of the lack of noise when we have the ball. It's great to see the fans so enthusiastically involved with helping us win.
For Ravens home games, the raucous display starts with the introduction of our team. No stadium group responds to the intros better than Ravens fans. Our players hear you, and they respond accordingly.
This Sunday, prior to the Titans' game, we will introduce our starting defense. Four-time Pro Bowler Trevor Pryce will be the first Ravens out of the tunnel. We'll end with 9-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis.
While you're making your noise and stomping your feet in celebration of the Ravens taking the field, watch the visiting bench. It's always fascinating to see the visiting players gazing at our intros. Only one team has ever not watched – Jeff Fisher's Titans. Coach Fisher took his team to the opposite end of the field prior to the playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on Jan. 3, 2004. There, they went through some football drills until Ray finished his dance. It will be interesting to see if the Titans do that again Sunday.
Often in our business we say the phrase, "It is what it is." It's part of the don't-blink philosophy football teams carry around. Don't have Kelly Gregg, Samari Rolle and Dawan Landry for some games? "It is what it is." Next man steps up. Mention to any of our coaches about the tough schedule we're playing, and you will either hear, "It is what it is," or, you get what I call the "It-is-what-it-is" look.
That said, we're in the midst of a pretty tough schedule right now. We played at Pittsburgh on a Monday night, losing in overtime to a team that has now won 14 consecutive Monday night games at home. Sunday, we play the Titans, one of 3 remaining undefeated NFL teams. Next Sunday, Oct. 12, we begin a 6-game stretch with 5 road games, starting with a visit to the Colts, who have earned the playoffs 6 consecutive seasons – winning the Super Bowl 2 years ago.
In back-to-back weeks, we are facing long-time veteran coaches with Jeff Fisher and Tony Dungy, along with 15-year NFL vet Kerry Collins and Peyton Manning at quarterback. We've got 1st-year head coach John Harbaugh and a rookie QB who will be playing his 4th NFL game this week. Hey, but you know what? It is what it is. And, we'll be ready.
Last Tuesday, prior to his press conference and weekly radio show, I ventured into Coach Harbaugh's office to offer some advice regarding the message he might want to deliver after our tough loss to the Steelers the night before. I reminded him that he's not just talking to reporters in the press conference, but to the fans through the media. I also mentioned that he would talk directly to the fans on his show, and, that with the players off that day, he'd be delivering a message to some of our team members, who could be watching or listening.
I also offered some suggestions: "You might want to talk about a great effort, but sometimes great efforts don't get it done… That we have to find ways to get better… That we weren't quite good enough last night… That losing is never acceptable, but those were two tough, tough teams going at it in Pittsburgh."
It was right about then that John gave me the "It-is-what-it-is" look. I stopped. Not unpleasantly, but certainly with firmness, he said: "Yeah, thanks. There's only one message I think I should have and that's the one I'll deliver: 'We have to get ready for Tennessee. That's our focus now.' It is always about the team we're playing, not the team we played."
He's right. It is all about the Titans right now. And, so much for my expert advice.
It's great to see Dawan Landry with the cervical collar off. Saw Dawan lifting weights on Friday. He's wearing a big smile these days and is looking forward to getting back on the field.
Kyle Boller was back in the building this week after recuperating in California following his shoulder surgery. Who knows, Kyle could have been the starting quarterback getting ready for the Titans. His injury took him out of the competition. Instead, he's hosting friends and family members who made plans to be in Baltimore when the schedule came out last April.
How about tight end Daniel Wilcox, who battled foot injuries for over a year, catching that touchdown pass against the Steelers? After a brief celebration, in which he had given up the ball, we saw Daniel scrambling to get it back. What did he do with it? He gave it to Joe Flacco – it was the rookie's 1st NFL touchdown throw. "I really wanted to keep it, but then thought it would be pretty big for Joe. So, I gave it to him," Wilcox said.
The greatest Olympian of all time, Baltimore's Michael Phelps, will be our guest and honorary captain this Sunday. Imagine what the crowd's response will be when he's introduced just prior to kickoff. Michael, who made us so proud when he declared his devotion to the Ravens after winning one of his gold medals, had all of us watching him win when we were at training camp in August. The players will be very excited to see him on the sideline prior to the start of the game.
WHICH REMINDS ME
Baseball has a very cool tradition with the way they allow special guests to throw the "first pitch" before games. The Orioles were very gracious this season when they had John Harbaugh, Steve McNair (after his retirement announcement), Willis McGahee and Ravens president Dick Cass throw the ceremonial pitch at 4 different games.
There was a time when Art Modell owned the Cleveland Browns, and he was feuding with the then-mayor, Michael White, about a variety of issues concerning the condition of Cleveland Stadium. A reporter covering the team told Modell that the Cleveland Indians had Mayor White throw out the first pitch in their brand new stadium.
Art's response was classic: "I'm thinking about doing something similar. We're going to ask Mayor White to return the opening kickoff when we play the Steelers."
Talk to you next week.
Kevin Byrne is the Ravens' Senior Vice President – Public and Community Relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis, Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.