The Baltimore Ravens may never get a better shot at the Super Bowl in the Lamar Jackson era than they had in 2023. Like so many others before them, the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes ended “what could have been” in devastating fashion on the way to their fourth Super Bowl in five years.
Jackson’s second MVP season coincided with several other factors to make Baltimore the league’s best team in the regular season. Armed with defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald – a premier coaching candidate and now the lead man of the Seattle Seahawks – and a cast of veterans that exceeded expectations, this was supposed to be the year.
“Supposed to” doesn’t win championships.
Legendary Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has seen this show before. In 2011, Lewis’ Ravens went 12-4 and hosted the AFC Championship Game. A Billy Cundiff missed field goal with 15 seconds remaining would send Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to yet another Super Bowl.
In what could have been Lewis’ last season, Baltimore fell short. He would ensure that wouldn’t be the case in his final season. Of course, Lewis and the Ravens returned to the playoffs the next year, eventually knocking off the San Francisco 49ers, sending a legend into the sunset with a Super Bowl ring on his finger.
It was Lewis’ second championship, capping off a Hall of Fame career.
Jackson is far from calling it curtains on an NFL career. He’s arguably at the top of his game as a passer and will be expected to return to the top of the AFC next season.
But without Macdonald, stretches of good fortune, and weakened quarterback play in the AFC North, there’s no guarantee the Ravens go this far again with Jackson under center.
Lewis spoke about being in the position Jackson finds himself in and what it means for Baltimore.
“It shows you that the bottom line is it’s hard to be the focus champion and it’s rewarding when you do lose and come back and do it,” Lewis said. “So the up and down of what makes this game so fabulous is just the fabric of what men chase after.”
Just because the odds may start to be stacked against them doesn’t mean they won’t bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore, just that it becomes less likely. Like so many franchise quarterbacks, championship windows are fleeting.
However, Jackson’s prowess and a growing connection with offensive coordinator Todd Monken sparks optimism. If the Ravens can muster up a product close to what Macdonald engineered on the other side of the ball, it will just be a matter of getting hot at the right time.
“Listen, you can only come back when you get this close,” Lewis continued. “I felt this pain. To feel that you got to understand there was something else I needed to finish. I went through that, 2011, and I told my team after that, ‘We will be back at the same place next year to finish this.’
“So that’s the mindset.”